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7 things you didn't know display ads could do

Cat Spurway
7 things you didn't know display ads could do Cat Spurway

Every year at this time, the crystal balls start to appear and predict the next big trends in digital marketing. Anyone want to place a bet on how many times we read about "11 trends for 2011"? Well, I have just one: more informed ads.

That's it -- the key trend for 2011. And it's not really even a trend. It's what will define any and all successful digital marketing campaigns from now on, plain and simple. No matter what media or channels comprise your digital strategy -- video, mobile, display, social, etc. -- marketers must embrace more intelligent advertising.

First, let me define what I mean by "more intelligent advertising." It means leveraging data to drive your creative, message, and ultimately campaign performance and the value of each impression served. It's the ability to ingest location, behavioral data, activity, audience information, and ad performance -- basically any information you can get your hands on -- to dynamically generate a display ad that is hyper-relevant to each audience at the moment of delivery.

Whether delivering a display ad with video, on a mobile device or tablet, within the non-guaranteed space, or across the PC web, 2011 is the year for intelligent dynamic ad generation and delivery. Think of it as artificial intelligence for your brand -- advertising intelligence, if you will.

One of the trends we saw in 2010 was targeting creative to reach your audience based on location, demographic media buying, creative versioning of multiple ads, behavioral information, and as of late, ad optimization. The brands that did this did it well. But targeting only based on a single element or pivot point just didn't go far enough. Now, data can be used to influence your creative, ad functionality, ad delivery, and so much more, based on the aforementioned standard characteristics and some exciting new categories including audience characteristics, product or offer preference, and more predictive optimization.

If marketers are able to understand their audiences, find them wherever they are across the digital landscape, and serve them relevant, targeted creative -- not just targeted placements of the same ad -- based on multiple data points, they will absolutely create the kind of engagement that maximizes the value of every ad served and every media dollar spent.

With dynamic ad generation, there are a number of elements within an ad campaign that can incorporate real-time advertising intelligence in order to deliver engagement and results every time. This article will explore those elements.

Creative and functionality
There's a running joke around PointRoll that data is the new creative. Guess what -- it's not. Smart is sexy, true. But some would argue that a good listener is even sexier. Using data to understand the impact of your messaging and using that information to drive your creative is the wave of the future. Creative must always be central to any digital ad campaign -- it is the heart of your brand and how you visually communicate it. But being able to know more about what creative stimuli will resonate with your audience makes your creative even more powerful.

The ability to deliver rich, interactive experiences while still leveraging dynamic ad generation is a reality; your art does not have to suffer for the science, and shouldn't. Imagine knowing that a particular audience segment responds to video while the other enjoys gaming. Instead of adjusting your messaging and a few images, create one rich media campaign that dynamically generates different functionality -- one ad with a video and one with a game -- all in the same campaign. And better yet, report on it.

Unique publisher content and data
One of my favorite sites, Pandora.com, clearly understands the value of relevance. Pandora.com leverages the Music Genome Project -- with more than 400 points of data -- to create a streaming audio station of only the music you like. You enter an artist, and Pandora answers by playing in unending succession of artists and songs that are musically similar.

Team Detroit and Pandora enabled Ford to gain access to the growing mobile online radio customer base by delivering localized, dynamic mobile ads leveraging Pandora data on user listening activities. Many sites have unique data and content that can function as a data input. In this case, it's how music preference is tied to demographics. The options become endless when you imagine combining data points. Imagine delivering data-influenced creative and local dealer offers based on what vehicles aligned with types of listeners -- F-150s for the male country music fan in Texas or the new Fiesta to indie-rock loving women in San Francisco. Combine that with the multi-channel approach of delivering the experience no matter the device.

Product and offer
Leading retailers have embraced advertising intelligence to move consumers down the purchase funnel more quickly and efficiently. CVS, JCPenney, and Walgreens are delivering relevant product, pricing, and promotional messages within their rich media display ads and Facebook deals tabs, based on audience targeting.

The ability to deliver relevant product and pricing information based on demo and geo is not new, but beginning to learn and optimize which particular products and scaling price points based on ad interactions is. Instead of delivering ladies' shoes to all women, deliver the most popular ladies' boot to the right segment based on more consumers interacting with it in previous impressions delivered within the same campaign. And new for 2011, enable them to buy that boot directly from the ad with providers like Adgregate.

There has been a perpetual struggle to deliver and optimize the effectiveness of local promotional offers. From dealers, bottlers, and wireless brands to electronics manufacturers and retailers, advertising intelligence provides a measurable and effective way to activate marketing at the local level.

Leverage geo and audience data to influence targeting variables and creative elements, including messaging, images, and display ad features via local offer management databases to easily add, edit, or delete offers. Local offer management tools with inherent dynamic capabilities allow brands to easily execute field marketing, prove the effectiveness of co-op dollars, and put the management of local marketing into the local marketer's hands without compromising approved national standards.

Pepsi has been a leader in digital localization. The company enables its local bottlers to customize promotions and offers by retailer at a DMA level. Using a local offer management interface, local bottlers can dynamically create different rich media display ads for Walmart, 7-11, or any other Pepsi retailer in the area simultaneously. By simply inputting the offer, price point, and retailer, the ad then creates and serves itself when the buy identifies that particular location at run time.

Demo and behavioral
Discount luxury and brand-name apparel and accessories retailer 6pm.com, which is operated by Zappos, recently leveraged intelligent advertising with the use of Yahoo Smart Ads. The campaign leveraged Yahoo's extensive database of demographic data and PointRoll's dynamic ad serving technology to deliver targeted products -- a specific sweater to one consumer and a certain necklace to another -- based on factors such as age, gender, geography, and behavioral intent.

PointRoll was able to mix and match products and creative elements based on the Yahoo data to create thousands of different ad executions -- at the very moment a particular audience category landed on Yahoo.com. PointRoll and Yahoo were able to provide 6pm.com with ad performance data by segment and, together with 6pm.com, track results from customers who interacted with the rich media ads to find that the return on spend was more than 2,300 percent.

There are many third-party data providers emerging that can help advertisers strengthen their audience targeting and management. For example, use cookie data matched with Nielsen PRIZM segments to identify your most likely prospects. Household-level creative and dynamic versioning can also be based on key PRIZM codes.

Audience management platforms such as Legolas will become increasingly relevant in the year ahead as advertisers look to build their own audience profiles that represent attributes for a consumer who is likely to respond favorably to their advertising message. That knowledge can be leveraged across campaigns and buys to match users to a profile, match profiles to brands, and serve dynamic ads that not only complement each profile but also can be further versioned within the profile.

As ads become more customized, so does the opportunity to optimize and learn from each ad combination, targeting, and ad serving parameter delivered. Optimization capabilities can deliver significant lift in performance. This includes automated creative optimization that delivers the best-performing creative combination, as well as more advanced optimization leveraging behavioral, geo, third-party, demo data, and more to influence creative, messaging, and targeting decisions. 

When you optimize your already-robust advertising intelligence parameters, you're able to tell the system to not only deliver a specific creative and message combination based on a user, but also to learn from each ad served to deliver the best combination based on a specific goal. You no longer have to imagine a time where you don't manually adjust your buy and rotation to achieve the highest interaction rate or site conversion. You can apply advanced and custom algorithms across all placements on your plan for multivariate optimization to deliver significant lift in performance. And the best part is, it's inherent in the delivery systems.

The above points only scratch the surface of why advertising intelligence is what's next -- now. Re-targeting, dynamic microsites, other site-side applications, and the reporting -- ah, the reporting -- would need another article in itself. Dynamic ad generation gives us the ability to tie all of these together to deliver a relevant, personalized consumer experience that will drive unparalleled ROI. It has become much easier and more efficient to incorporate multiple data points across one holistic display campaign spanning online, mobile, social, digital out-of-home, or any digital channel. That is what will make the promise of truly effective targeting and messaging finally come to fruition.

Just like the smartest kid in the class is well-versed in every subject, the most intelligent ad campaigns are well-rounded, drawing value from many marketing touch points and using them to improve performance and drive results.

Our industry will spend the next several weeks pontificating about trends in mobile, video, or social platforms, as well as audience segmentation by behavior, geography, demographic, or another method. And all these articles will have good ideas and valid points. But all of those things are display ad influencers and are a part of developing more-informed advertising. In short, advertising intelligence perceives the environment in real time and actively creates an ad that maximizes its chances of success. Innovation around dynamic ad generation is moving quickly and is going to be a major game changer for savvy marketers who get on board in the coming year.

That's why 2011 is the year for advertising intelligence.

Cat Spurway is VP of strategy at PointRoll.

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to leave comments.

Commenter: Cat Spurway-Hepler

2010, November 24

Hello George, thanks for reading and taking the time to comment! While I agree the ability to have multiple tabbed panels within a non-expanding ad is very useful and has been leveraged by many brands for about 10 years, it's not quite in line with what I am discussing here. What would enhance Spongecell's ad units in reference to this article is the ability to change those multiple windows and features on the fly/at run time based on behavioral, demo, geo-location, or other data variables including products preferred by similar audience segments or even activity other consumers have taken in previously delivered ads of the same campaign. Consumers could get more relevant and specific deals, product videos and contests, and instead of locating the closest store with a click or input of a zip code, the ad automatically populates the closest location based on IP or publisher-passed geo data the moment it's delivered to the page. Happy to share examples from several verticals – email me at [email protected] and I'll send along. Thanks again for reading!

Commenter: George Simpson

2010, November 24

Very interesting summary - but it fails to include ad units from Spongcell (https://Spongecell.com/) that that give advertisers multiple windows within the same ad space to achieve a wide variety of promotions and lead generation. Users get offers such as special deals, see product video, enter contests, locate a retailer directly through the banner, share through social media and anything else the marketer desires.