Cannes 2017: Media And Creative Agencies Vie For Programmatic Creative Control

Programmatic and data-driven creative will likely be a buzzworthy topic at the 2017 Cannes Lions festival.

Programmatic creative has progressed since last year, thanks to the maturation of machine learning and standards released by the IAB for dynamic content ads that makes it easier to customize ads for audiences and publisher sites.

But media and creative agencies don’t always agree who owns dynamic creative as a service for clients.

Dynamic creative emerged at media agencies because they had the skills to do audience-based targeting. But as the technology has evolved to use machine learning to deliver personalized messages to individuals, it will benefit from more creative thinking, said Diaz Nesamoney, CEO at Jivox.

For example, while a retailer might have a media target audience of women ages 25 to 45, there are so many ways to speak to each woman within that demo, given the products they’re looking for or the context they’re in while viewing an ad, Nesamoney said.

“Programmatic creative was really focusing more on the programmatic media driving creative,” he said. “That was kind of an oversimplified way of thinking about it.”

Creatives are starting to realize the opportunities in programmatic creative and the role they can play in making data-driven creative better, said Deacon Webster, chief creative officer at independent digital creative agency Walrus.

“Creatively, I think very few people have scratched the surface of programmatic,” he said. “The notion that you can have banners that know, to an extent, your likes and dislikes and web habits is a powerful thing. So far, I haven’t seen people really wrap their arms around that creatively.”

But some media agencies are keeping their grip on programmatic creative. Since programmatic creative is based on media-driven insights, media agencies should be heavily involved in the process, said Garrick Schmitt, global director of experience design at Essence. Essence creates dynamic creative tools in-house and deploys them for all of its clients.

“We’re melding media-driven insights with a unique understanding of technology and doing creative around that,” he said. “You need to have a healthy respect for creative guided by media.”

Vendors get a unique view of the agency-creative battle as they work to help both creative and media teams adopt their product.

Nesamoney thinks creatives have an important role. While his company started working primarily with media agencies (Xaxis has been a big partner), Jivox has signed on five creative shops in the past year.

“This tech should be well integrated in the creative process and not done as an afterthought, which unfortunately happened a lot in early days,” he said.

And creatives – with a little push from their clients – are waking up to the importance of how good programmatic creative can impact performance.

“Within the last six months, we’ve seen a tremendous amount of interest amongst creative agencies,” Nesamoney said. “Brands are pushing them, saying, ‘We want our creative to be dynamic and tied to programmatic media and data triggers.’”

But there’s a lot to learn. Creatives will have to re-engineer their processes and production protocols. They’ll have to redefine how they think about audiences. And they might not be financially incentivized to do that, said John Nardone, CEO at Flashtalking.

“There’s no methodology for a creative team to do the foundational concepting that enables a messaging strategy across different slices of the target audience,” he said. “When you start to walk them through this, they say, ‘The client isn’t paying me to do all that work.’”

As media and creative teams start working closer together, programmatic creative will likely be guided by people with a mix of creative and media skill sets, Schmitt said.

“In the future, it’s media plus creative,” he said. “It’s about having that granular data at your disposal, the ability to know what’s effective, and marrying that with a big brand idea for an individual.”

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