How Can Programmatic Inspire Audiences?

denisecolellaData-Driven Thinking” is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.

Today’s column is written by Denise Colella, CEO at Maxifier.

Programmatic ad tech has made the advertising process easier, faster and more efficient, but it cannot drive great advertising strategy alone. Insights gleaned from a massive volume of data will drive ever more precise targeting, bidding and performance measurement.

Even so, does programmatic inspire, entertain, or enlighten your audience?

No. Advertising still depends largely on the power of creativity.

In its Feel More 50 ranking of the most emotional ads of 2014, BrainJuicer gave a French toilet tissue ad the top billing. Imagine, toilet tissue topping an Emotion-into-Action ranking. Yet it’s the emotion in a fantastic ad that guides human decisions and drives long-lasting business benefits.

We know this: The importance of emotional appeal in advertising is proven by the very data on which ad tech relies, yet the two sides regularly duke it out for recognition and, more importantly, budget. How can the left and right brains in advertising function as a unified force for incredible engagement and content amplification?

Overreliance on performance metrics at the expense of creativity is a dangerous practice, yet it’s easy to do. Consider Nationwide Insurance’s catastrophic “Make Safe Happen” Super Bowl ad. The spot incited a firestorm of social ire, with negative sentiment tainting three-quarters of the comments around Nationwide.

Both the brand and their agency spoke out in defense of the spot, with a Nationwide rep saying in a statement, “The sole purpose of this message was to start a conversation, not sell insurance … thousands of people visited .…”

Are page views really still the best measurement of an advertisement’s success, regardless of sentiment?

Great ads are built on the foundation of creative ideas. This is what drives differentiation. An overemphasis on process at the expense of creativity and storytelling is just as damaging to a campaign as the converse: focusing so intently on creative that delivery, targeting and measurement suffer.

The Biggest And Brightest Advertising Ideas Are Rooted In Emotion

Ads need a big idea to make them stand out.

Budweiser is arguably not only the king of beers, but the king of great big ideas as well.

Its iconic Clydesdales have taken a backseat lately to a new generation of characters that pull on the heartstrings, most notably its adventurous pup. While the Clydesdales still made a cameo in Budweiser’s one-minute “Lost Dog” Super Bowl commercial, the pup took center stage and drove the spot to more than 26 million views on YouTube. The conversation continued on the #BestBuds hashtag, with more than 130,000 tweets.

It was another win for the brand that earned more than 22 million YouTube views with its one-minute #FriendsAreWaiting commercial in September, which again featured that adorable pup. A single native video tweet from the Budweiser account has earned more than 100,000 engagements and became the basis for a Twitter advertising case study.

Automation And Creativity Work Better Together

Creativity remains the backbone of advertising that works, compelling audiences to share, engage and ultimately buy. That’s not the whole story, though – not by a long shot. The automation element brings speed to market, amplification, precise targeting and efficiency. Budweiser is experiencing these massive wins thanks in part to its creative prowess, but also because it is killing it in multiscreen, cross-channel promotion.

Rather than arguing that one is more important than the other, creative absolutely must be integrated into the media process. This is the massive opportunity facing advertisers of all sizes today, and this is where Budweiser is getting it right on all counts. Allow creative to drive the format, rather than trying to massage it to fit into the format. Creative needs to dictate the direction of the programmatic.

I wrote recently about the programmatic tendency toward the overuse of acronyms and our need to better appeal to the primary beneficiary of our technology: the marketers. In a similar vein, while ad tech underpins online advertising, it’s a means to an end, not the end itself.

We can’t think only in terms of digital performance and programmatic. Nor can we rely on a great story alone. There are concessions to be made by both sides, but the massive wins inherent to truly integrated, creative cross-channel campaigns make a pretty compelling argument for the creative and the data-driven to sit down and figure it out.

Follow Denise Colella (@decolella), Maxifier (@maxifier) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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  1. Spot on: both creative and context count. Marketers have to craft a compelling message AND find the editorial environments where it’s going to be best-received (e.g. Superbowl, in your example). Simply using retargeting or buying demographics alone blunts the potential impact — and reach — of a well-crafted campaign.

  2. Great perspective. This art vs. science tension is real and indeed each side should learn from the other.

    It can indeed be true that creative “dictate the direction of the programmatic” but can it also be true that the science provides valuable insights into the effectiveness of the creative? Engagement metrics, performance data across various dimensions, brand awareness feedback and A/B testing of various flavors all have added fidelity in the programmatic context. It would be unfortunate if this data was not shared with the creative side of the brain to determine which of their iterations was evoking the desired impact. The optimal solution may be one where the feedback loops travel in both directions.

  3. Absolutely. Marketers are so caught up in the audience targeting that the creative is left behind or totally forgotten. It’s got to be relevant and have an emotional impact. Great piece. Thank you.

  4. Creative is ignored by the number pushing bean counters….because most often the number pushers are not creative…. and really….. have no idea what it is