Programmatic Media Buying 101: Programmatic Creative is the Future for Display Advertising

Digital advertising that includes both high quality creative and relevant messaging is increasingly a high priority for media buyers and marketers.  Advertisers see no reason why creative, rich media, and programmatic should be mutually exclusive –­ it’s the combination that achieves engagement and results with consumers. The combination of programmatic and engaging creative offers a wide range of new opportunities – using data to precisely tailor messages.

Marketing teams are moving away from click-centric strategies as the only way to measure engagement. With all the new high-touch, high-impact ad formats and the growing popularity of native ad placements, there is a whole new world opening up to advertisers in display ads, to provide a more robust user experience while still reaping the benefits of programmatic buying.

Creative has never been more crucial to display ads as it is today and agencies and marketing teams are paying attention because they realize that a display ad’s message or creative is just as important as the channel or medium through which it’s served.

What is Programmatic Creative?

Programmatic creative has the ability to use the data collected from a programmatic display campaign to create a more personalized experiences for consumers. Rather than displaying one generic creative, new technologies, like Dynamic Creative Optimization (DCO), mean that the ad creative can be tailored to the viewer in real-time, across multiple devices, according to their location, what they are doing, and the time of day – improving the overall user experience.
Where programmatic advertising matches users to ads on a one-to-one basis in real-time, DCO supports the matching of the best creative for that user during the programmatic advertising process.

Instead of marketers and advertisers having to figure out a one-size-fits-all, mass-market approach to their creative for a campaign, now they can create hyper-relevant ads that are relevant to individual users, while reaching a larger audience.  Using the sizable amount of data that is collected from each campaign, programmatic creative can enable automatically generated ads relevant to products or services that customers are viewing, helping to move customers towards the conversion path, and returning customers into repeat purchasers – building long-term loyalty and increasing returns for those campaigns.

Programmatic Advertising has Changed the Role of Display Ads

With programmatic taking the largest share of digital marketing budgets, the role of display advertising has been reborn and redefined.  More than four in five US digital display ad dollars, or $45.72 billion, will flow via programmatic means by 2019.
It’s no secret that different formats accomplish vastly different goals for marketers and media buyers. As the role of display advertising is redefined, and programmatic has dramatically changed the landscape, marketers need their display options to emphasize relevance for each consumer and define their experience as unique rather than obtrusive.
If campaigns are to remain relevant, marketers should be considering themselves not solely as advertisers, but as storytellers.  Marketers and publishers alike are turning to programmatic creative to enhance user experience and keep the customer at the center.

The Train Will Come: The Power of Anticipation in Digital Media

By Stephanie Lozito, SVP Client Solutions, Digilant

Coloring Within the Lines

Programmatic media buys via DSPs usually materialize as a checklist of targeting tactics and bidding parameters pushed through a platform using an algorithm.  When heralded as the power of machines over people, DSP-based programmatic buying can appear to be sterile and isolated from other channels of media delivery, such as search and social.  The “human element” of programmatic buying usually refers to optimizations and analysis, when in reality, it is how a campaign is serviced that also makes the process human.

Too often, marketing goals dictate media plans that rely on dated programmatic tools, tech, and thinking.  While there is a time and place for coloring within the lines and relying on those plans and approaches that have worked in the past, we need to sharpen our focus on creativity and experimentation and apply new data strategies within marketing plans.

The pre-planning process is not the only proper place for creativity!  Programmatic media professionals are also creative thinkers and explorers on the front lines of innovation.  How can we inject a new creative sensibility into programmatic?  By prioritizing the human element of media buying.  In short, we need to anticipate.

Laying the Tracks:  The Semmering Railway

The case study of the Semmering Railway offers us a roadmap for what I’ll call Anticipation-Driven Creativity.  Between 1848 and 1854, about 20,000 workers laid 41 kilometers of train tracks across the Semmering Pass in the Austrian Alps.a  This was not an easy feat, as the mountains held especially steep grades with challenging turns, making them uniquely difficult to traverse. Neither surveying tools nor locomotive design available at that time could accommodate travel on the newly-laid tracks.  In short, the Semmering Railway Project was laying tracks for a train that didn’t yet exist.  They built the tracks knowing that one day, the train would come.

A competition asked entrants to design trains that would achieve what had been previously impossible.  While none of the original four entrants were successful, “
trials for a suitable locomotive led to a number of developments in this field of engineering, and in the end resulted in the invention of the Engerth locomotive.”b  In this case, the “thing” that was anticipated (a train that could make this unprecedented trip) forced the process to create the very thing they were anticipating when they laid the tracks.

Solutions-Based Partnerships

Solutions-based partnerships ultimately fail without anticipation and human creativity.  In fact, creativity needs to take its place at the very center of programmatic buying – to anticipate where tech could potentially go, and help us get there.  To be better at what we do, we need to lay the metaphorical tracks, which will help us design the train fit to travel on them

First, we need to build a level of trust that offers us the freedom to not only present new ideas, but more importantly, present new ideas for which there is no currently established proof that the idea will work.  We need some leeway to be risk takers. Many will say, “What?  That sounds like you want to allocate client spending to a leap of faith!”  To which I would respond, “brands take risks in their creative processes all the time.”

Innovation is based on risk, but calculated, rooted in experience, information, and intelligence (should sound familiar to those working in the programmatic media buying space).  The proliferation of think tanks within brands, like Nike’s Innovation Kitchen, helps break through the innovation clutter.c  Additionally, the title “Chief Innovation Officer” within agencies and brands also indicates the value placed on calculated risk and innovation within the “creators” of media strategies and plans.  Let’s inject this same approach into the practice of programmatic!

To do that, we need to transform programmatic’s “test and learn” mentality into an incubation mentality.  Programmatic incubation fosters freer conversations about new capabilities and allows for greater risk in leading the technology where our clients’ marketing objectives need it to go.

Programmatic Think Tanks

If we were to generate programmatic “think tanks,” similar to our brand and agency colleagues and partners, we’d see a dramatic increase in programmatic innovation and creative thinking at the DSP-level.  Not all of our ideas will work as originally designed (much like the 4 locomotive entrants in the Semmering Trials), but having designed them will allow us to push our programmatic thinking forward.

Let’s avoid making programmatic a rote exercise.  We need to own programmatic creativity. We, as an industry, need to experiment more.   Digilant has made the shift toward a more custom offering that is unique to the buyer, uncovering new data and audiences they wouldn’t have know about.  The beauty of programmatic is its ability to make quick pivots; let’s use this to our advantage.

The Train Will Come

We, as an industry, should make anticipation a part of our daily approach to media buying.  To that end, we should activate programmatic think tanks to innovate as the “human layer” on top of the programmatic tech layer.  And with enough focused anticipation and experimental fearlessness, in every case, the train will come.

Sources: Unesco, and New World Encylopedia, Great Rail, and Fast Company 

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