How To Stay Creative With Programmatic Advertising

programmatic advertising
Daniel Foster, Flickr.

Programmatic advertising has been suffering from a bit of a bad rap – not from campaign results or improved ROI. It’s from the creative end of the advertising world. In fact, some marketers and writers have even said that programmatic is “killing creativity in advertising”, forcing it out in favor of algorithm-based automatic buying and ad delivery. Yet, creative still has its place in programmatic – in fact, it might even allow creatives to stretch themselves further than previously thought.

Why Creatives Fear Programmatic

The number one complaint amongst creative professionals is that advertisers are sacrificing making good ads in favor of data, i.e. creating uniform, speedily-put-together ads in order to get their content in front of their target audience as quickly and easily as possible. While this may be happening, it’s actually not producing great results. Research has proven that potential customers – especially Millennials – prefer personalized ads and messaging. The other concern for creatives is that programmatic has taken the human completely out of the equation: Campaigns are simply built on data algorithms with no human involvement. That’s actually not correct. Highly skilled people still need to be heavily involved in the process. Data must be analyzed by in-house staff members or vendors with good analytical skills who can adjust campaigns based on what they’re seeing.

How Creative Can Work with Programmatic

Creative is a major factor in the success of campaigns, but creative cannot be a standalone department anymore. Instead, it needs to work closely with the overall digital team, and assets must support the overall media strategies. This is a bit of mindset change from the past, especially for long-term creative professionals and agencies. The days of the “Mad Men” may be gone, but the new landscape may offer more ways to produce interactive and non-linear communications with clients.

4 Ways to Stay Creative in Programmatic:

    1. Personalization:

      As mentioned earlier, consumers prefer personalized messages. Programmatic makes it easier to find and target specific audiences. These audiences have different preferences, wants and pain points. Creative assets must be produced that speak directly to these preferences – generic ads don’t work as well.

    2. Responsive ads:

      Responsive ads scale based on screen sizes. The IAB is currently creating Flex Ad Standards for these types of ads. Content needs to be created that fits these different screens/devices. Programmatic bare-bones ads won’t do the trick. Someone will need to be involved to determine which components and layouts look best on these screens.

    3. Content Use:

      Most companies have a lot of content lying around drives and computers. Creative professionals and agencies can use this content to create different ads and ad sizes for different devices, screens or audiences. For example, different audiences prefer different types of content, but a business may be marketing the same product or message. They just need alternatives of the same content/messages. Creatives can create a video with the message for one audience (i.e. males on YouTube) or ads for other audiences (i.e. 35+ females on Facebook).

    4. Branding:

      Creative professionals are still important for branding purposes: creating iconic messages and content that consumers immediately associate with a brand. The brand is then reinforced with messaging, content and ads – all supporting the overall branding strategy. Teams need to work together to produce these branding elements, which typically requires a lot of brainstorming and creative briefs.

Programmatic doesn’t signal the death of creative. In fact, creative is a necessary component of all successful campaigns. Creative professionals, however, must move beyond the “Mad Men” ways of thinking about their role and embrace the new digital marketing landscape. In order to stay relevant, they must work more closely with digital teams and generate new types of targeted, interactive ads.

Business Insider, October 14, 2014, “Why Programmatic is Killing Creativity in Advertising”
Marketing Land, May 4, 2015, “5 Principles For Making Programmatic Creative Work”
eMarketer, May 5, 2015, “Programmatic Creative: Look to Existing Processes for Guidance”