Creative: The Missing Link

kerelcoopersellsiderThe Sell-Sider” is a column written by the sell side of the digital media community.

Today’s column is written by Kerel Cooper, vice president of platform development at LiveIntent. He previously spent 15 years working for digital publishers running ad operations and platform-strategy teams. 

We’re living through a period of unprecedented focus on optimization, reporting and campaign performance. And that’s a good thing.

But this rise in the influence of media and measurement has neglected an essential component of advertising effectiveness: creative.

Over the last nine months, I’ve attended a number of conferences and meet-ups. I’ve asked people publicly and privately, and I cannot seem to find a good, consistent solution for the creative challenge. Creative always seems to be the last thing talked about – if it’s mentioned at all – when it should be one of the first.

The Creative Challenge

For clarity, when I talk about solving the creative challenge, I mean developing a process that incorporates creative development and messaging at the beginning of the media planning and buying stage. This includes messaging that works for desktop, mobile web, tablet, apps and email (different messaging for each platform, if needed). It also includes messaging that ties into or complements the advertiser’s strategies in other areas, like print, TV, radio, and billboards.

Creative, of course, also needs to be cognizant of the user experience. A user doesn’t expect to have the same experience with content across every device, and neither should they expect the same experience with the creative. Messaging needs to be different, interaction adjusted, calls to action tailored for each device. There is a strong need for more engaging and compelling ads, and sometimes this is hampered by ad standards and short turnaround times.

Telling the campaign story is key to success and to the renewal of business. And to help tell the story, it’s essential to pull together the right metrics (not all metrics, but the right metrics) from multiple sources into one report structure.

Lastly, how do we make this system scale and whose responsibility is it? It’s important to create good, compelling, and engaging ads for one campaign, but how do publishers do this consistently for more than 10,000 campaigns on a monthly basis? Is this the responsibility of the publisher or the advertiser or both?

A Path Forward

I don’t pretend to have all the answers to these challenges. But as an industry, we need to start having a much deeper conversation about how we are going to solve this.

The industry must open a discussion and act more effectively in several areas. For example, it’s crucial that creative be integrated early on in the process. Media buyers and sellers should bring in the creative teams early in the process. Doing so will give those teams a better understanding of who the advertiser is, the history of previous and current campaigns, and the goals they are trying to accomplish. Far too often, creative folks are given assets and told to build ads with little context or background.

The industry also needs to plan a creative strategy that engages the user at that point in time, whether it’s on the desktop, tablet, mobile web, or apps. Since users act differently on each device, messaging and engagement actions within an ad unit should be different across devices.

It is essential that creative teams have options and data. There are a number of rich media tools in the marketplace that can help creative teams build compelling ads. Some are stronger than others in certain areas, so allow the creative teams to have access to multiple platforms and set best practices on how to use them. On the reporting side, the industry tends to focus on the reporting that the advertiser needs, and rightfully so. With that said, though, more attention needs to be paid to providing reporting and feedback to creative teams on how the ads they built have performed. Reporting back on interactions, heat maps, attribution, and conversions will be valuable data that creative teams can use in the future.

Don’t forget about making time for development. Perhaps it’s my own experience in operations that makes me so strongly emphasize this, but short turnaround times and tight deadlines hamper creativity. The more lead time that creative folks are given, the more time they have to develop better ad treatments.

Publishers need to push their rich-media vendors to integrate with their data-management platform to create more dynamic creatives. Dynamic creative and optimization tools that work properly in standard and nonstandard formats could play a pivotal role in scaling for a publisher.

Much too often, creative is overlooked by buyers and publishers. We may have the right buying strategy, but if the creative sucks, the campaign will fail.

Follow Kerel Cooper (@kerel_cooper), LiveIntent (@LiveIntent), and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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