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The Intersection of Creative and Data

The Intersection of Creative and Data Peter Crofut
In our last article, we featured four strategies for creating epic digital brand experiences; we focused on the power of measurement, the importance of expanding the canvas, and the value of empowering the audience and re-engaging them over time to create memorable brand experiences.



Today, we want to talk about data and creative. In today’s digital advertising world, it is essential for data and creative to become part of the same conversation. The rise of integrated advertising platforms, seamless data transference and powerful targeting technologies has equipped media agencies with exponentially more data points to use when deciding which people they want to target with an advertisement. Media buyers are able to target and report on impressions using nuanced pieces of data: they can target people based on the websites they are viewing (contextual data), based on the viewer’s interests and demographics (audience and demographic data) and even based on the viewer’s past actions (behavioral and first party data.)



With all of these data signals at their disposal, media agencies know the audience they are reaching with each ad. But if a media agency is taking all that time to ensure a campaign is reaching the right people, shouldn’t the message cater to the people who are viewing it? After all, what’s the point of all those targeting signals if you’re just going to show a generic message at the end of it? The media campaign is only as strong as the creative execution.



The intersection of data and creative


This is where data and creative come together to inform a digital brand campaign; creative can benefit from the same data signals that are being used to target the audience. The industry calls it dynamic creative and the whole point is to select the best message, call-to-action, video, image, etc., for the person who is viewing your ad at that moment. Dynamic creative has already become a table-stakes tool for Direct Response marketers to drive conversion with techniques such as remarketing. However, brand marketers can and should follow suit. Brands historically are most concerned with creating memorable and engaging experiences for consumers. Brand marketers can encourage their creative agencies to push the envelope by leveraging the vast availability of data signals online, to bring creative richness and user experience to a more relevant and customized level. Infusing data driven signals into the brand experience gives marketers and agencies additional insight into performance, and a new methodology for analyzing and improving brand creative over time.



Brands can make their creative assets themselves more interesting to each viewer by ensuring that more relevant information is presented. The Alka Seltzer campaign provides inspiration for how dynamic creative can take a branding campaign to the next level. Geography, weather, time of day, and audience interests signals all contribute to the actual creative that is displayed on the screen -- the clocks, the TV’s, the outdoors -- all reflect the environment of the viewer’s actual world. Video parts are stitched together dynamically to incorporate the user’s interests into the storyline, making the creative relevant to each viewer. In this way, the brand builds each ad for the viewer at the other end.



Successful integration requires organizational paradigm shifts

As the Alka Seltzer example illustrates, dynamic creative poses many opportunities for the performance and efficacy of digital creative. However, although the technology is available to access and make sense of the data, the process of dynamic creative butts heads with the existing organizational systems. For dynamic creative to become truly successful and commonplace, there needs to be a fundamental shift in the way media agencies, creative agencies, production shops, and end advertisers work together on digital campaigns. The cross-functional collaboration needs to improve.



Media agencies and creative agencies need to converse much earlier in the campaign planning process to ensure a two way dialogue about the media plan and the creative idea and how to incorporate the audience signals cohesively across both. Creative agencies need the same access to the audience data that the media agencies are using for their targeting, to ensure all groups are on the same page. Both groups need to become more agile and adapt their campaigns based on what will be best for the brand and for the viewer.



Creative Art Directors and Designers need to work closely with their digital counterparts within creative agencies so that the digital strategy is driven by the intersection between data and creative, and doesn’t arrive as an afterthought for implementation. Within the end marketer, different brand management groups need to work together to cross-pollinate learnings across product lines, increasing the opportunity to create cohesive user experiences and drive higher brand interaction.



Ultimately, to allow for all of these cross-functional conversations, campaigns need to build in more lead time, so that people aren’t rushing at the last minute and publishing campaigns that haven’t been fully thought through. Building these dialogues into the planning process will benefit the creative execution and the performance of the campaign for the brand/marketer.



Bottomline, the advertising industry is moving toward a programmatic approach -- media agencies have already begun to successfully adopt this approach, but creative agencies are only starting to understand the benefits of the programmatic approach for their creative ideas. Dynamic creative, and the infusion of data signals into the creative message for big, engaging brand campaigns, holds real promise. However for this approach to become commonplace and successful, the players in the advertising industry need to focus on cross-functional collaboration, both within their own organizations and with their partner agencies, and change their campaign planning processes to accommodate these dialogues.



Tune in next time for a lens into cross-screen creative and a conversation around why advertisers should care about mobile and tablet and how HTML5 is providing a solution to build-once, run anywhere.

As head of Google's creative platforms solutions, Peter Crofut is a 15-year veteran of display who oversees Google's creative platforms strategy and the team of specialists focusing on helping the creative agency community leverage...

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