Crossing The Creative Chasm In Real Time

CreativeMediaFor many product-pushing brands, investing in airtime simply makes sense to reach as wide an audience as possible. But as brands begin to apply real-time data to contextualize ad buys, demand and dollars will shift from TV budgets to digital video and mobile.

But creative challenges around dynamic creative will accompany this shift.

For brands that don’t operate their own stores, it’s difficult to understand where their products are sold in-store and how they’re performing across all distribution points. It’s a bigger challenge for their ad agency to tap that data to inform messaging. And the biggest challenge is dynamically serving an ad based on all that data.

Consider Procter & Gamble’s Swiffer – a product commonly appearing in TV placements – as a hypothetical example.

Perhaps a user sees a pre-roll video ad and they’re going shopping the next day; third-party retailers like Target could feasibly tailor a local ad for that viewer based on its availability and proximity. “Maybe we want to reach them on their mobile when they’re out and about,” said Matt Shevach, SVP of ad solutions at online-to-offline marketing platform Retailigence.“We’re moving toward integrating the advertising into the options for actually reserving the product, so that we can get that data back and quantify that.”

The critical connection point, in this instance, is marrying location and pricing data with the ad server. Retailigence did so by working with DataXu, PocketMath and HumanDemand, and recently hooked up with five more ad partners including Tremor Video and AdColony to fuse its data with ad-serving and dynamic creative optimization technology.

“A lot of people look at programmatic and think, ‘automation and efficiency,’ but the first thing that comes to my mind is data,” said Erin Kienast, SVP and director of mobility at media agency Starcom USA. “Historically, content buying had been associated with content alignment.” She’s referring to advertisers paying to place an ad by a specific piece of content.

But advertisers are beginning to look at data and audience first and the message second. “The content will be the message I deliver to that consumer based on knowing who he or she is, what they’re consuming, where they are and what my brand is,” she added.

Getting Budget, Finding Time

Here’s the problem: While brands chomp at the bit to become more data-driven to drive relevant cross-device messaging, there is a first mover’s challenge.

“A lot of large marketers use MMM (media mix modeling) and MMM is based on TV. When you get into the digital space, including mobility, where you can measure device-based transactions, yet you’re relying on MMM to spit out ROI data, there’s a disconnect,” Kienast said. “It is a push and pull I encounter every day with my clients where they are very excited to spend a large percentage of their advertising dollars on mobility, but then the question before sign off is, ‘We don’t have ROI so do we really want to go with these spend levels?’”

In addition to budgetary challenges, the greatest technical limitation to programmatic creative and media execution, according to Chris Cunningham, cofounder of Appssavvy, is speed and timing.

“In order to swap out the right creative and target the right user with the right ad, that requires making adjustments based on real-time data and that requires creative optimization,” he said. “When you are buying on a programmatic basis, you are sometimes bidding on available inventory in real time, [which does not] allow time to see what creative is working, adjust and then buy media.”

Issue Of Supply And Demand

In digital video, marketer’s say they want it, but aren’t ponying up. At this year’s Cannes Lions Festival, WPP chief Sir Martin Sorrell called out this discrepancy, particularly around mobile video.

Brands today just want to buy video inventory, regardless of where it is sometimes, said Ben Kartzman, cofounder and CEO of dynamic creative ad tech company Spongecell. Buying display inventory by contrast is more considered and strategic. “[There] is such a plethora of inventory that the targeting has become much more important,” he explained. “Naturally, it’s just a size and maturity of market and we know how fast video is growing, so it will get there. Creative will follow.”

But brand spend will only arrive when the right metrics are in place. Engagement, time spent and the extent to which the creative drove upper-funnel performance are all metrics brands want, Kartzman said.

Moreover, media and creative agencies need to be equipped to supply creative for a real-time media buy.

“The majority of money is being spent in TV, so that is where creative agencies are spending their time,” Kienast said. ”There needs to be a big pendulum shift where mobile needs to be the first screen because mobile and digital is where you’re heading from a programmatic standpoint, and there has to be a big step change or programmatic will never happen in a way that we foresee it becoming because the assets will not be available.”

The Future

Spongecell’s Kartzman agrees that agencies will lead the shift in spend and deployment of data-driven creative. But that’s not to say brands aren’t making the move, independently, either. “Some smaller brands we work with use this tool directly,” he noted.

Ad tech largely focuses on increasing media efficiencies. Demand and supply-side platforms are the most present examples. And these tools were first adopted and used by agency trading desks.

“The creative agencies have sort of been left out in the cold and the opportunity for data-driven creative and more control of that process [will come from] tools like ours and other dynamic creative technologies,” he said. “They can go in and make changes whenever they want….where they don’t need an offshore team, somebody in house is the expert, and it’s more efficient and you can pull more data in.”

Where programmatic gives the agency more access to direct-publisher audience guarantees, it also enables flexibility for the agency to, for example, “partner direct with The Weather Channel and a creative tool like Flite to build dynamic creative based on data inputs TWC is providing,” Kienast said. “I think you will see some big leaps, especially in the CPG space, in the next 12 months in programmatic creative.”


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1 Comment

  1. Kelly – I agree with all of the problems that you point out, like budget, speed, and timing. I would say that there is another issue, though: fragmentation with partners. You mention, “Retailigence did so by working with DataXu, PocketMath and HumanDemand, and recently hooked up with five more ad partners including Tremor Video and AdColony to fuse its data with ad-serving and dynamic creative optimization technology.” In this example, Retailigence is working with eight different partners to join data, ad-serving, and dynamic creative. Wouldn’t it be better for advertisers to get all of these services fully integrated into a single platform that meets all campaign needs, from planning, through creative development and media-buying, to ad-serving and analysis? This would streamline the budget, shorten the time-to-launch, and simplify the complexity caused by disjointed parties.