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The evolution of creativity in video advertising: How far have we come? And where are we headed?

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With such drastic development in our use of data and technology over the last decade, it can often be easy to forget the creative foundations that video advertising formats were built on.

That’s why we’ve asked IAB UK’s Video Steering Group to explore their own experience of creativity in video advertising; by discussing how it’s evolved over the last decade, and the opportunities and innovations that are defining its future.

Since the inception of video advertising, how have we seen creativity evolve into what we see today?

Advances in video technology, along with new screens and formats, have opened up the creative possibilities of video advertising far beyond just an ad’s narrative. Hyper-targeted, dynamic videos; hot-spotted product galleries; 360° virtual showrooms; location finders that can drive users to brick-and-mortar store locations - these are just some of the limitless forms video ads can now take. The data revolution has also transformed the way we serve ads to consumers. Through dynamic creative optimisation, ad technology can now create personalised ads based on data about the viewer the moment an ad is served.

Alex Khan, Group MD, International, Unruly

Technology and audience expectations have drastically shaped creativity. Thanks to the ubiquity and affordability of technology today, anyone can shoot video on their mobiles. This example by SITA had some of the highest engagement on LinkedIn, but was shot as a simple “talking head”. Secondly, audiences are more informed today. With access to data and user reviews, they form opinions on brands before they speak with a salesperson. Video advertising has proven it can cut through clutter online– but how we tell stories must keep up with audience sophistication.

Jennifer Bunting, Head of Product Marketing, EMEA & LATAM, LinkedIn

In its infancy, video advertising creative saw the much used 30” TVC ad run as advertisers’ sole online video creative. Fast-forward some years, it is evident that video creative has evolved into a more diverse set of formats and second lengths to best suit how users consume and interact with content. Achieving what was once unthinkable in that brands can now tell a story with six second video assets, utilising a range of formats such as In-Read video, Interactive Pre-Roll and dynamically targeted video to drive personalisation at scale.

Kishan Parmar, Display Partner, Carat

In a digital and data-driven world, why is it still so important to consider the creative?

Creative and data are two sides of the same coin. They need each other because creative without measurement is wasteful, and data in isolation doesn’t convince audiences. Yet together, they are powerful. Put another way, we all know that marketing is successful when it contributes to revenue. Data on its own doesn’t sell products – the creative does. But data tells the marketer if the creative worked – or even what the creative should focus on in the first place. Data reinforces creative decisions and creative allows marketers to do something with the data.

Jennifer Bunting, Head of Product Marketing, EMEA & LATAM, LinkedIn

Personalisation and relevancy are key not only for ad engagement, but also in affecting people’s overall perception of brands and publishers alike. The data rich environment that we now operate in allows us to connect creative with individuals by knowing what type of content they engage and respond positively to, coupled with the environments in which we know they enjoy consuming content. For example, by being able to utilise publisher data on how users interact with video content, we are able to determine what creative length and context is best to put in front of individuals. No one wants to be served a 30” sponsored pre-roll before a 20” video!

Kishan Parmar, Display Partner, Carat

Data alone cannot make a good ad, it’s the combination of creativity and data which makes advertising powerful. Testing your ads and using the feedback to tweak and adjust your creative is extremely important. Negative stereotypes, confusing narratives, branding overload, and cultural misconceptions are just some of the ways advertisers get it wrong.

Creating a beautiful video ad is just the first step. If you really want it to resonate with your audience, using data to understand how it will be perceived and make your audience feel can have profound effects on key business metrics like purchase intent and brand recall.

Alex Khan, Group MD, International, Unruly

Looking to the future, how will advancements in technology and innovation change creativity in digital advertising?

Millennials and Gen-Z in particular are adopting and using new forms of technology at a rate of knots. You only have to go as far as looking at user generated TikTok videos to see how creative their userbase is being with video content, whilst advancements in Connected TV technology are also seeing a greater volume of sponsored video content appear on the big screen. Both of these examples showcase how key it is that creative is adapted into a variety of iterations to align with the platform it is being served on, and ultimately, to captivate the audience that will be consuming it.

Kishan Parmar, Display Partner, Carat

If the past six months have taught us anything it’s that the future is extremely difficult to predict, but creativity always finds a way to adapt. We've seen many brands continue to create innovative campaigns in lockdown and the technology we have at our disposal means advertising has continued to flourish. Going forward we will see the relationship between creativity and data become even closer, enhancing our ability to create personalised, tailored, but creative, experiences that emotionally engage people.

Alex Khan, Group MD, International, Unruly

The next frontier in creativity is involving the audience. It’s not because this is “cool” but rather it will make businesses more profitable. For example, the rise of VR/AR will give audiences more control. Brands won’t be able to limit what audiences see – they’ll see all the wrinkles. Permitting audiences to make more decisions will open a treasure trove of data that can then influence product development, increase the velocity of a purchase process, and improve sales efficiencies in real-time.

Jennifer Bunting, Head of Product Marketing, EMEA & LATAM, LinkedIn

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