Have you heard that ads are designing themselves now? No, I’m not kidding, and no, this is not the ill-advised plot of a direct to Blue-Ray® sci-fi flick, it’s a real thing.
We call it “Programmatic Creative,” and it is all the buzz among us Digital Marketers. With a quick search of the topic, you can see headlines such as, “The Rise of Creative in a Programmatic World,” “2016: The Year of Programmatic Creative,” “The Era of Programmatic Creative,” and “Programmatic Creative Whips Flash Creative in Mixed Martial Arts Smack Down!” Okay, I made that last one up, but there is a lot of hype surrounding the topic. The reason is simple. Programmatic Creative promises marketers the opportunity to speak almost one-to-one with their audiences, which makes their advertising more efficient and effective.
So, how did we get here? Did ads unexpectedly become self-aware and begin taking control of their designers’ Bezier tools? No, actually, Programmatic Creative is the natural evolution in the push to leverage big data across all elements of digital marketing. For years, marketers have been warehousing data in data management platforms (DMPs). They’ve used this data to analyze who was engaging with their ad executions and have divided the engaged into audience segments. These segments often provide marketers with clear distinctions in attitudes, values, wants, etc. that could make advertising messages more personalized. Unfortunately, marketing to these audiences separately has proven difficult due to scale and high creative costs generated. So, marketers have had to take the learnings and adapt them into broad demographic based targeting and more general messaging strategies.
Alongside of the warehousing and analysis of audience data, many Rich Media companies began leveraging ad servers previously focused on yield optimization for creative optimization. These companies began rotating multiple creatives to a targeted audience with variation in copy, motion, imagery etc. Over time, they would turn down the variations that were underperforming and turn up those that were performing. This activity was ultimately coined dynamic creative optimization or DCO. Its advantage was that it aided marketers in refining their messaging strategy to the broadly marketed audience. However, this approach still lacked the one-to-one audience based personalization that marketers desired and the cost of creative development was still high.
The introduction of programmatic media buying, however, was the key turning point in the advent of Programmatic Creative. Companies like Xaxis began infusing the data stored in their audience DMPs with technology that had recently been introduced that enabled real-time media buying. No longer were they booking a network buy for women 18-45. Instead, they were now in real time looking for 18-45-year-old women who recently bought a home and were in the market for household goods. The ability to target audiences in real time across numerous media properties eliminated some of the scale challenges of the past. The deep data that was known about these audiences in real time additionally opened up new opportunities for creative. Now we could not only decide who we wanted to target in the marketing moment, but we also had the data to inform how we should message them.
And thus, the Birth of Programmatic Creative occurred.