Bad creative = bad results in programmatic display, native and video
Contributor Kevin Lee discusses how you can win in today’s programmatic ad marketplace, where the algorithms reward creative and messaging excellence.
If your creative assets and messaging aren’t superior to those provided by your competition, you’ll have an insurmountable hurdle in programmatic display and video. You will most likely fail, and even if you don’t utterly fail, the opportunity cost of running poor creative and messaging campaigns will stand in the way of success. Furthermore, the marketing challenges caused by poor creative or messaging will carry forward into nearly every media channel, online and off.
But it’s not all bad news. Lately, I’ve noticed a highly positive trend emerging among successful marketers. What I’m seeing is that programmatic display, native and video are spawning a creative and messaging strategy renaissance.
A messaging strategy renaissance
This renaissance is a positive byproduct of the way programmatic, auction-based marketplaces work. In a nutshell, with poor creative, you’ll never be able to afford the impressions against the most valuable segments of your target audience. In effect, you’ll always be stuck “winning” the impressions on the “leftovers.”
Many marketers are already investing in creative and messaging. I recently had a chance to chat with Ujjwal Dhoot, who is VP marketing at Charming Charlie, a women’s fashion accessories brand. Ujjwal’s point of view is worth sharing:
“Data scientists need to acknowledge that left-brain thinking and data analysis are not enough. More right-brain curation is required to elicit an emotional response to the ad,” he told me. “Even in my prior role as CMO of FSAStore.com, it was clear that messaging and creative work hand-in-hand with all the targeting options and technology we have at our disposal as marketers to maximize campaign effectiveness.”
So ask yourself if better creative could improve your results.
Lessons from search (the original form of programmatic media)
Interestingly, SEM/PPC search advertising is the first form of programmatic digital media to tightly link creative and messaging excellence to marketing success. The economics are clear when you look at Google’s Quality Score (which quantifies the relevance of every ad, from every advertiser, against every searcher, using the marketer’s keywords in real time). Inputs into its operation include ad quality, alignment of copy to (likely) searcher intent, and the existence of a (creatively) satisfying destination page.
If you have a bad Quality Score, the result will be that your ad will not be served at all. At best, you’ll always overpay for the position you get.
In all forms of programmatic media, display, native, video and up-and-coming platforms, every view or impression is up for auction across all marketers with an interest in that impression/view. The price that the marketer bids (via their DSP or trading desk or directly with the network or publisher) is determined by a formula estimating the marginal value of that specific impression and then deciding what to bid.
Some bidding formulas are complex, calculating the best bid in real time (typically in under 50 milliseconds); other marketers calculate a bid based on predefined data and segments ahead of time, adjusting the segment bids as they go. Still other marketers just lump everything together and bid based on eCPM (“effective cost per thousand impressions”).
Whether you bid a fixed eCPM or CPC against all of your audiences (given a budget constraint) or use a complex bidding formula via your DSP, you need great creative. Messaging and creative attuned to your target audience and their current device and state of mind provide a huge — and measurable — advantage.
But poor creative messaging and its associated negatives (including less-than-optimal direct or brand response to your ad) mean you’ve forever lost an opportunity to move that consumer closer to purchase.
Winning the creative game
If your competition has better creative and messaging in conjunction with better targeting, it’s no wonder they’re kicking your butt in the programmatic marketplaces. Let’s think about ways you can win the creative game.
1. Refining your meta messaging: This is your “big idea” message. For Geico, its “Big Savings” idea often manifests itself as “15 minutes could save you 15 percent” or a variant. But Geico also gets creative in really fun ways just to build the brand.
2. Ad strategies: Programmatic gives you the power to customize the creative and messaging to the audience based on a variety of factors, including:
- Are they someone who has been to your site (retargeting/remarketing)? If so, what page or product did they investigate?
- What device type are they on?
- What category of website are they on? (news, e-commerce, social media or other)
- What time of day is it where they are?
- Where are they (mobile lat/long or ZIP, in the case of desktop access)?
- Does third-party data, or their ISP, suggest something about them that should put them in a unique segment?
- What browser and operating system are they using?
- How many times have they seen a specific ad (frequency)?
- What additional third-party data (for example, weather data) might influence messaging?
Of course, creative and messaging excellence doesn’t stop at the ad unit. Landing pages and social media pages matter just as much. Destination pages with superior engagement metrics often win organic “duels” on SERPs — on social media, algorithms. Better creative drives social media views, likes and shares, whether paid or organically served.
Redefining the creative process
The algorithms ruling today’s programmatic ad marketplaces all reward creative and messaging excellence. While the kind of creativity they encourage (and the mechanics of creative execution) would be unrecognizable to the media buyer of 1965 — and even of 2005 — their influence over campaign success or failure is unmistakable, and their rules (e.g., Quality Score) are clear and well understood.
And with new ad units (such as Facebook’s storytelling-oriented Slideshow ads) gaining traction each day, the creative possibilities have become richer and practically endless. I think messaging is so important that I’ve bought three creative agencies and three PR agencies over the last four years.
You worked hard using paid and earned media to engage. Don’t waste the opportunity to drive your message home. Work with — not against — the quality- and creativity-seeking algorithms in your campaigns. Employ personalization (via some of the tactics I suggest above or via your own), test your assumptions, refine and reiterate.
Developing fluency with this new way of doing things (“the new creative process”) will put you in a better place to influence, connect with and impress whichever segment you choose to address with your digital marketing.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech Today. Staff authors are listed here.