Don’t Blame Tech for Bad Creative, Blame the Siloes
Tech companies are constantly banging the drum about breaking down data siloes, trying to educate brands about why their first-, second- and third-party data need to be in one place to streamline ad spend and improve ROI. It’s an important point to labor, but it obscures the focus that digital advertising’s woes are about more than just data. Step back to get an industry-level view, and there are still clear lines of demarcation between ad tech companies, creative agencies, media agencies, data providers and publishers, as well as biases and stereotypes that come with those rigid roles.
Before the industry can break down the walls that restrict data, it needs to build bridges between the multiple businesses responsible for developing and delivering campaigns. Creative, media and technology need to work hand in hand, and truth be told, this isn’t happening to the degree it needs to in the industry right now, much to our detriment.
Conventional wisdom is that good creative agencies create ads that elicit an emotional response and media agencies, with the help of ad tech companies, deliver the ad to a precise segment of the brand’s target audience. This is an oversimplification, and while it’s based on truth, it also perpetuates a de facto separation of duties. In this scenario, media and creative are showing up to the dance separately. They’re supposed to have a great time together, but more often than not they stand on opposite ends of the gym, occasionally acknowledging each other, but mostly avoid contact. Data and creative need to be tied together from the start – that means renting the limo, matching outfits, and arriving on the scene together.
The rise of programmatic media buying has forced marketers to become more tech-orientated to survive in an increasingly digital savvy consumer sphere. As ad tech has evolved, some of the world’s biggest advertisers, have even brought the buying platforms in-house to gain maximum transparency and accountability. There’s growing conversation around in-house programmatic on the brand side, but rarely is there talk about creative agencies connecting directly with technology platforms.
There is little doubt that some agencies are embracing the opportunities for enhanced brand experiences – we see great work celebrated at Cannes every year. But cutting-edge work remains the exception, not the rule, and creative agencies largely seem hesitant to admit that ad tech can contribute to their vision and strategy at all.
It will always require brilliant creatives to drive concept ideation. But media, tech and data need to become part of that conceptualization process much sooner. Data generates better consumer insight, which opens the door for bespoke impactful brand messaging. Tools like data management platforms are instrumental for media planning and executing ad delivery. On the creative side, they should be seen as a tool capable of expanding the creative team’s capabilities, rather than restricting them. Creative designed and delivered using the full extent of technological capability lends the ad messages a disruptive quality. If the tech does its job with the targeting, refining insights on audience segments and then participating in the process to deliver the right story to the right users, then the audience will connect and engage with the ads on a deeper level, because the messages matter to them.
Consider dynamic creative optimization (DCO), an increasingly popular tool used by advertisers to deliver creative variants to different audiences. If a luxury fashion brand wishes to re-target visitors to its site, it may choose to group them by three different major cities, or product categories. Now, using the optimization tools, combined with a DMP’s potential, the campaign can automatically adjust the creative within the ad depending on which of these three audience buckets the consumer falls into. By simply utilizing different background images based on locale (showcasing the brand’s store in that city, or a local landmark), or providing the relevant product category to the user, the brand can deliver a custom experience that drives engagement and moves the consumer down a consideration path and marketing funnel.
DCO can further adjust the creative components of the ad unit based on other signals, such as browsing habits or purchase behavior. Online retail brands can additionally use those same data signals to deliver dynamic creative information, adjusting their site content in real-time to make the experience more relevant to the consumer on the page. These capabilities are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to leveraging a combination of tech, data, and media, but they illustrate how much planning and communication has to happen between the tech platform, the media agency, and the creative agency to execute meaningful stories that provide utility to the consumer.
The notion that tech is stifling creativity is dated and archaic. Data and automation are not the enemy of creativity, but tools that bring the possibility of precise, bespoke and personalized storytelling to consumers. At a time when the media landscape is fragmented and some consumers eschew traditional media like TV, it’s more important than ever for advertising to deliver an impact with as much efficiency as possible. Doing so requires creative and tech to place nice.