Unilever, Nestle, GSK and TUI to scale programmatic ads with dynamic creative

By Seb Joseph | News editor

October 15, 2015 | 5 min read

Unilever, Nestle, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and TUI are looking to scale their programmatic media buying strategies with dynamic delivery of creative in an attempt to alleviate the problem of brands reaching the right audience, but with the wrong creative.

Programmatic advertising technology is fundamentally about audience trading but in the rush to exploit its efficiencies the industry has yet to apply the potential benefits to produce more dynamic creative, according to speakers at this week's Ad:Tech conference.

Marketers from some of the world's top media spenders spoke about their willingness to experiment with programmatic to deliver timely personalised ads at this year's event, but the creative industry has yet to meet these demands adequately.

Unilever’s attempt was through “Romeo Reebot”, a Hollywood-style trailer of Shakespeare’s famous tragedy where everyone sees a different story for its Axe brand in Brazil.

Unilever CMO Keith Weed told attendees that some 100,000 variations of the ad were created, using factors like musical tastes and interests to tailor the soundtrack and setting to those reading online media. While the prospect of everyone seeing something different is intriguing, personalisation on that scale requires a fundamental shift in how agencies create content, according to Weed.

"It’s still early days and it is going to get more sophisticated and better as we move forward,” he said. “[Dynamic creative] really creates a thought that one day advertising agencies are going to be more like algorithms than they are individuals as you start putting together the opportunities.”

The latest marketing news and insights straight to your inbox.

Get the best of The Drum by choosing from a series of great email briefings, whether that’s daily news, weekly recaps or deep dives into media or creativity.

Sign up

The idea ties to the notion that the real-time world of display advertising will force creative shops to adapt or die. Such is the demand, that advertisers are starting to get frustrated.

Bob Wooton, director of media and advertising at Incorporated Society of British Advertisers (ISBA) said “a lot” of its members aren’t happy with their agencies about dynamic creative ad serving [i.e. serving ads across a number of different ad formats that are fit for that screen]. And in the programmatic space, which is blighted by fears that real people aren’t actually seeing ads, dynamic ads are tipped to help problems relating to traffic fraud, brand safety and viewability, etc.

“There's not a lot of it going on, and a sense of despair about agencies' ability to actually do it,” Wooton continued. “I understand the reasons: it's expensive; labour-intensive, and not within the DNA of a lot of them. But they need to get up to pace.'

The consensus being that the industry has been so tied up in optimisation and placement of programmatic media buys that it has forgotten to consider if the message is right or not.

“Creative agencies need to wake up” and realise that they can’t charge thousands for a “set of banners anymore,” said Nestle’s digital lead in the UK and Ireland Gawain Owen. Speaking on a separate panel at the event, he said creatives were trailing brands and media shops in adapting their business models to programmatic. Despite his criticisms, Owen believes “2016 has to be the year of creativity,” with brands and their agencies improving the quality of ads for better engagement.

TUI is another advertiser that thinks dynamic creative could unlock new revenues from automated buying. The tourism business is using contextual data to target ads based on what content people are viewing on its sites. So instead of seeing an ad for Tunisia next to context for Egypt – a feasible instance prior to the initiative – visitors will be pushed creative specific to that location.

“When programmatic first arrived there was rush to get on board with but now because we have the opportunity to target the right customer, at the right time, for the right price and with the right content I think creative optimisation using various different data sets can achieve that,” said Sammy Auston, head of media at TUI, who was also on the same panel

GSK is also all for dynamic creativity, although is currently focused on how its digital investments to drive online sales working with ecommerce media providers – programmatic commerce.

“Programmatic is about the dynamic content and delivery of that dynamic content based upon data signals that are coming from your data management platform (DMP) or another DMP,” said Khurram Hamid, global head of digital media at GSK and the third brand marketer on the panel.

“I’m interested in making sure we’re buying humans from a media standpoint but from value marketing standpoint it’s about creative and making sure we’re using insights. I don’t that area of programmatic has fully taken off.”


More from Creativity

View all


Industry insights

View all
Add your own content +