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Why programmatic will soon be on the agenda at the start of the creative process

Amanda Phillips

Programmatic has been one of media’s most hotly debated topics of 2014 but the challenges and opportunities that it brings are about to affect a much wider audience.

This year Millward Brown predicts that programmatic will undergo a dramatic reinvention that will make it a fundamental consideration for brand marketers and put it on the agenda at the start of the creative process.

The benefits will be huge but only when active steps are taken to manage the process with brand rather than solely performance in mind.

At a brand level it will be critical to ensure that teams don’t lose sight of brand objectives in a rush to optimise programmatically based on behaviour.

This is critical because of the way that most programmatic systems are designed – to maximise interaction and click-throughs – which can be potentially damaging for brand campaigns.

Millward Brown research demonstrates that optimising around performance can be counteractive to brand; too precise targeting or retargeting of audiences and high frequency exposures can feel like the consumer’s every move is being tracked and be detrimental to brand.

Marketers need to ensure that brand message placements continue to take advantage of the proven benefits of contextual priming.

The proper context has been shown to help influence the trust consumers place in ads. Marketers need to place parameters around quality of placement as well as cost to ensure that banners and videos deliver on brand and performance measures.

The next step to adapting programmatic for brand benefit and taking advantage of the benefits of tight audience targeting will be to ensure that creative ideas can travel and be flexed for a range of formats relevant to different channels and screens.

The benefits of merging smart and engaging creative elements with existing media buying algorithms is huge, and appropriate planning and development and evaluation is essential if marketing teams want to see results.

Creative agencies will be partnering with developers and building up their own advanced programming capabilities and cross-functional abilities to produce and deploy smart ads with customisable creative elements.

The best of these executions will not seem “robo-generated” but will enable a new kind of dynamic, relevant storytelling based on when and how they are delivered.

To demonstrate the difference and the benefits of a more creative approach, let’s look at a performance-based strategy that many consumer-facing brands might have run in 2014 and compare it with a more creative, brand-led approach.

We’ve all seen this before… A consumer places an electric razor (but doesn’t complete) in an e-commerce store’s shopping basket. As a result, banner ads for that razor appear on the websites the consumer visits. A day or so later (having still not completed) the consumer receives an email with a voucher for 10 per cent off and finally completes the purchase.

With brand growth at the centre of our objectives, however, what if instead of these hints, an emotional connection could be made through compelling, targeted, and timely creative. The benefit to the company could be an extra 10 per cent margin – reducing the cost of acquisition dramatically.

In addition to increased efficiency, the ability of programmatic to target very specific people at known points in the purchase journey should make the impact of delivering the right messages much more powerful. Even allowing bespoke messaging to be delivered to active considerers of rival brands.

The first step in the evolution of creatively adaptable programmatic could be customised colour schemes and messaging that brands could select to set the mood and tone.

But this could gradually evolve into customised video with distinct vignettes and smart sequencing or a “choose your own adventure” style determined by digital behaviours and psychographics.

An individual execution could be made up of four variable elements such as colour, message, vignette/scene, and product each with a number of options – three options per element would yield 81 creative variations, designed to elicit a consumer response wherever they are on the journey.

Different permutations could be adapted and flexed for most effective formats and employed via real-time availability based on programmatic targeting variables such as age, gender, site visitation, previous ad exposure, and also multi-screening habits.

The result would be a creative “toolkit” with smart options deployable instantaneously at key moments in the decision-making journey for each potential purchaser and relevant channel, delivering increased meaning because of the context and sequence in which they are seen.

Ultimately, programmatic creative will become more human, seamless, efficient, and easy to digest, and 2015 will bring the onset of this evolution as marketers take more control of this new form of advertising delivery.

As the background algorithms become more sophisticated, and the appearance of the creative evolves to enhance the viewer experience it will become ever more powerful.

Success will require a cross-functional talent set utilising a mix of creative, technical, media, and research disciplines.

But that will only be achieved when marketers, creative and media agencies work together to leverage the latest insights to understand the touchpoints of each target and how to deliver impactful messaging via today’s increasingly adaptive (real-time) advertising platforms.

Amanda Phillips is head of marketing at Millward Brown

Read more on this topic: Where relevance meets creativity – Unlocking the power of programmatic through dynamic creative

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