Automation is becoming a ruling mantra of digital advertising. Programmatic – where automation is made possible – is growing at a steady rate, counting for over 50% of the media budgets in 2016, according to Zenith’s latest report.
Although programmatic has undeniably brought greater efficiency and impact to digital advertising — enabling brands to connect with vast audiences across multiple channels in real-time — there is one area yet to fully exploit: advertising creative.
While today brands can fairly easily deliver ads to individuals whose interests and needs align with specific campaigns, the message that goes with the display of the banner is too often untailored and generic.
Thanks to recent advances in automated technology, a dynamic new tool — programmatic creative — will, at last, make it possible to combine streamlined operational efficacy with creative and personalised one-to-one storytelling at scale.
So, what exactly will happen when the worlds of automation and creativity collide?
Over the next 12 months, brands should use data more effectively as they leverage programmatic creative to not only identify who they should target, but how creative can be adjusted for maximum impact. Using a blend of machine learning and human insight, brands have been empowered to build millions of variations from just one basic ad via automated frameworks — allowing them to deliver unified cross-channel stories that are hyper-relevant because they are user-specific. What’s more, working within dynamic and intelligent frameworks also means creative is powered with the capacity to instantly accommodate a range of variables; from individual circumstances to world events, and even the weather.
In doing so, this year, brands will make increasing use of the opportunity to create ads with more than just messages; they will create a vehicle for brand storytelling that is at once far-reaching and deeply personal — enhancing brand perception and awareness while boosting conversions.
Using highly sophisticated and intelligent algorithms that become smarter over time, brands also have the means to optimise current campaigns using historic data and detect patterns in buying behaviour that indicate consumers’ future needs. This is doubly beneficial for brands: providing them with the ability to test campaign creative in real-time — taking measures such as rotating ads or altering sequencing — and offering consumers genuinely helpful advice about potential purchases, before their competitors do.
Traditionally, ads speak to groups of users instead of individuals, but programmatic creative enables brands to engage in personalised conversations where unique consumer desires, behaviours, and personality traits can immediately be integrated with advertising strategy.
Automated tech can rapidly sift through vast streams of big data to determine which copy variations, button colours or product combinations inspire particular individuals and drive the highest click-through rates, and activate this data to alter creative accordingly. As a result, 2017 will be the year where tech developments super-charge strategy and more brands make data-fuelled mass personalisation a reality.
Creative scalability is coming with a greater force and although this revolution will be heavily machine-assisted, it is important to note this is not an entirely robotic endeavour: the driver behind the machine is still human. So, to ensure success in the year ahead, brands must do more than hire a data scientist. If brands want to be able to harness programmatic creatives more efficiently, they must enhance their understanding of how data and smart tech can be used to better inform advertising decisions and tell more captivating stories.
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Fake news: hoaxes, propaganda, and misinformation deliberately published to mislead, rather than entertain audiences, has caused fear and confusion across the world, from news publishers accused of promoting it, to readers who have been duped by it. As Claudia Collu (pictured below), chief commercial officer, MainAd explains, it’s now also becoming a discussion topic within the programmatic community. Here, Collu tells ExchangeWire the industry needs to take a step back and continue to focus on quality ad placements.
From reports that a Chinese zoo was to name a gorilla Harambe McHarambeface, to claims that Pope Francis had endorsed Donald Trump, 2016 became the year of fake news. These two stories, and thousands of other untruths, which originated on fake news websites, were shared around the world by people who believed them or propagated for others to believe.
Fake news is becoming a subject of discussion within the programmatic community. Some advertisers are raising brand safety concerns and the potentially negative impact on their reputation, if their ads appear alongside these bogus articles. They do not want consumers to think they condone a particular political stance or controversial claim.
The nature of programmatic buying means the advertising money is following the eyeballs; but there are now calls for the ad tech industry to do more to reassure brands and avoid the risk of investments being withdrawn. Kellogg’s, for instance, have pulled their ads from the right wing news site Breitbart after questioning whether some of its stories are ‘aligned with their values’. Advertisers are demanding more control over where their ads are placed.
There is even a debate over whether the rise in fake news sites and questionable content might persuade advertisers to reassign their budgets back to traditional media such as TV. However, no media is entirely safe under this claim. CNN, for example, has blotted their copybook, after President Trump accused the channel of reporting fake news over the release of an unverified dossier by internet media company Buzzfeed.
Claudia Collu, Chief Commercial Officer, MainAd
So, what is the answer to keep everyone happy in the fake news debate? Well, as an industry, we need to stop looking for scapegoats and rushed sentences: opportunities must be adequately weighed while we put solutions into perspective. Take Facebook, for example. Here is a site that carries a huge amount of fake news because people can write and share anything they want to. Yet brands can reach a massive audience with relevant content, so no advertiser in their right mind would consider stopping investing on the social media over brand-safety concerns.
The internet is the most cost effective media, as well the most measurable and, as such, it should be valued. Brands certainly have the right to appear on good quality websites, and any provider of programmatic buying needs to appreciate their clients’ concerns, but fake news probably shouldn’t be at the top of the list. The emphasis for everyone in 2017 must focus more on the audience an ad is reaching, rather than on the website itself.
Of course, most people would agree there needs to be greater scrutiny applied to traffic sources, but advertisers need to have realistic expectations aligned to their budget. In RTB, for example, transparency can be limited as it allows placements to be purchased at a cheaper price. Ultimately, advertisers must be willing to pay more for higher transparency if they want to dig deeper into the traffic. MainAd, for example, works on a CPA basis so it is in our interest to place ads where they will convert or we do not get paid otherwise.
Ideally advertisers should work with companies that appreciate the difference between useful and unworthy concerns. Both have a role to play, but there must be trust between provider and client, so that a flexible approach can be taken to meet short- and long-term business objectives. Everything comes down to analysing and filtering traffic based on an agreed KPI. In very simple terms, high views and low clicks generally indicate that the traffic is unqualified and irrelevant, thus should be filtered out. These actions have a much deeper effect than removing fake news content from media buying.
On the same line of thoughts, viewability, related to the position of an ad on the page, is another interesting topic. A banner situated where it can’t be seen, irrespective of a fake or real site, cannot be valuable because it won’t convert. If the strategy in place is not correct, an advertiser is paying for placements that don’t drive ROI. Responsible marketers will educate advertisers on these topics, others will charge big money on fake-news-free content.
Ultimately, brands should not obsess over fake news. What matters is understanding how to optimise good ad placements that reach your target audience.
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