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Programmatic outcomes depend on smarter creativity

12 May 2020  |  Emanuela Recalcati 
Programmatic outcomes depend on smarter creativity

We need to extend our programmatic horizons to not only include creative, but also maximise it, writes Emanuela Recalcati

A decade of evolution has transformed media trading to the point where the golden rule of three — right person, time, and place — isn’t a goal anymore, it’s the required standard. But with coronavirus disrupting the global economy and industry norms, it may be time to question whether progress has gone far enough.

Digital ad buys can be refined to hit their mark, every time. But the best targeting in the world won’t achieve much if the creative is sub-optimal; in fact, research from Nielsen shows creative is the single most important factor in advertising success – at least for the CPG companies they studied.

Putting the creativity back into advertising

With varied inventory being traded automatically across emerging, traditional, omni, and direct channels, programmatic buyers are seen as the experts keeping on top of algorithms and complex targeting efforts. But while reaching specific audiences is key, this focus has become too restrictive.

The industry is recognising that creative is the first step to grabbing attention and enhancing influence, and media buying should aim to match advertising messages with real consumer behaviours, not just attributes. Looking beyond demographic characteristics to target messages based on a deep understanding of which creative attracts an individual’s attention — the ads they spend the most time with, click on, and share — is likely to drive better value all round.

What’s needed is an extension of programmatic horizons to not only include creative, but also maximise it; and that will require more collaboration and diversification. As well as working together from the beginning of the creative process, agencies, data scientists, and programmatic strategists must go beyond display to harness diverse digital media that drives better outcomes for audiences, and the bottom line.

Harnessing emerging formats

In today’s digital advertising world, there’s a wide variety of channels and ad formats available, meaning programmatic buying decisions must be made with several goals in mind — selecting formats for their capacity to engage consumers, achieve key business objectives, and facilitate data collection that fuels creative optimisation.

While this might seem like a tall order, formats are emerging that allow advertisers to cover multiple bases; and one current example is shoppable media. By enabling consumers to go straight from initial interest to further discovery in one click or swipe, shoppable ads streamline the path to purchase and meet consumers’ demand for greater speed, and convenience. But these are far from the only benefits they offer.

With shoppable ads, advertisers can reach consumers with tailored messages throughout their buying journey; and with every ad comes another opportunity for interaction and data gathering. Using the data generated by each isolated event, advertisers can track and enhance in-flight campaign performance, and gain valuable insight that informs programmatic activity across digital channels.

Keeping an eye on context

It’s important, however, not to assume that enhancing programmatic effectiveness is purely about creative dynamism. Getting messaging right also requires consideration of what will work for consumers in their current situation; whether that’s adjusting creative dimensions for different consumption patterns — such as watching YouTube video while on the move versus browsing Instagram at home — or moving to align with much broader contextual factors.

At the moment, for instance, that might mean leveraging creative formats that answer the need for connection and control. As consumers disrupted and isolated by COVID-19 look for greater meaning from brand relationships, advertisers would do well to step up their use of conversational media that puts consumers firmly in the driving seat and helps to forge lasting bonds. Not to mention the potential it offers for large-scale personalisation and further data collation to fuel greater programmatic precision, relevance, and impact.

Increased automation and sophistication have taken digital media trading to new heights of precision, but there is still room for improvement. The industry needs to ensure that when targeted advertising reaches audiences, through any number of channels, it’s with the most engaging and relevant messages possible; and doing so will mean prioritising creative from the very start.

By shifting focus to understanding and executing campaigns based on holistic goals — what matters for consumers, company objectives and media efficiency — ad creative can be optimised to drive greater responses, ROI, and outcomes for all.


Emanuela Recalcati is Director, Client Solutions, Xaxis EMEA


Join us on May 14 for the Future of Media Trading - a free streamed event that will discuss these issues in more detail.

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22 May 2020 

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