Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Freddie Turner: Aligning advertising technology and creativity to spark brand success

Programmatic innovation is helping put the romance back into advertising, while increasing effectiveness, by feeding creativity rather than stifling it, says MIQ’s Managing Director, Freddie Turner, NDA’s new regular columnist.

Advertising exists to create that beautiful moment of frisson between a consumer and a brand, when one spies the other across a crowded screen, their eyes meet, a spark flares, and they fall hopelessly in love with each other. This is the romance that drove the original ad creatives – the inspiration behind Madmen – and has since spawned and inspired a global industry in search of that very spark.

If those advertising pioneers were alive today, what would they make of the current state of the industry? They’d no doubt be stunned by the explosion of brands fighting for consumers’ attention across a bewildering number of channels. But once they had realised the sheer amount of data and sophisticated analytics at their disposal, they might just be ecstatic at the prospect of ensuring their kick-ass creative hits the consumer sweet spot. 

The programmatic straightjacket

Creativity is the spark that ignites a consumer’s passion in a brand or product, but if it’s not wowing the right people in the right way, it’s a waste of time and money. Similarly, data science and ad tech alone won’t inspire watercooler moments, because you can’t start a fire without a spark, as Mr Springsteen continues to sing. Finding the right people at the right time is useless if you don’t engage them. 

We all know this, yet rather than the great friends they should be, ad creatives and ad technologists have had a turbulent relationship. Creativity versus statistics. Madmen versus The Mad Professor. Beauty versus The Beast. Exciting versus boring. Creatives have always felt held back by the straightjacket of programmatic. 

Food for creative thought

The forensic nature of programmatic, harnessing data science and technology to analyse consumer behaviour and serve up ads to the right audiences at the right moment with the right message, has never been more important. But of course the rapid increase in digital channels makes targeting audiences both more complex and more possible. However, advances in advertising technology mean that you can now capture and analyse the increasing amount of valuable customer data these channels are generating, transforming it into key insights that drive more accurate programmatic targeting.

This gives brands a deeper understanding of their audiences’ personas, preferences and behaviours. From their channels, subjects, shows of choice and when they watch them, to how they prefer to interact with a brand and its competitors, what they do, and where they live. This not only makes it easier to reach the right audiences when they are at their most receptive, but also feeds creative minds to help them design ads that will optimise engagement by resonating and connecting more deeply. 

Hearts and minds

In the past, creatives have been frustrated by the restrictions of programmatic ads. Today, new and exciting formats are constantly being developed that enable increasingly creative brand experiences, which complement and add value to their surrounding content rather than detracting and distracting. This next level of programmatic development couldn’t have come at a better time, with consumers increasingly demanding brands to engage and entertain them rather than putting on the sell, and prove the value and benefits they bring – something advertising can do brilliantly if created and delivered in the right way.

What’s more, programmatic advertising is expanding across all formats and particularly into DOOH and TV, essentially pushing into areas where creatives feel most at home and enjoy the most time and space to do their thing. So, we’re reaching a point where programmatic innovation could actually power creativity and empower creatives. And those brands that can bring together data, tech and creativity in the most effective way are the ones that will win consumers’ hearts and minds.

Adversaries united

Programmatic is increasingly working hand in hand with creatives to generate the perfect experience that delivers key messages at the right time in the right way in the right place, even in small media spaces. Cutting through the noise of fully populated web pages. Attracting the attention of fatigued eyes online. Adding to the in-game experience that is already immersive and captivating. 

What’s more, programmatic campaigns are highly measurable, helping prove the value of advertising and, of course, ad creativity. Not only that, but creatives, data scientists and ad tech experts gain vital insight into the success of their work, which enables them to hone their skills repeatedly and be the best they can be. 

Going further with Subway

A great example of this in action is a recent highly creative and innovative campaign for Subway. The brand was looking to optimise its TV strategy by growing its linear TV reach through targeting cord-cutter audiences (those unplugging themselves from their TVs and moving online), increasing the frequency of ads shown to consumers under-exposed to linear TV, and re-engaging audiences with TV ads served through digital messaging to drive response.

Automatic content recognition data was used to segment households that were and were not exposed to the linear TV campaign. Those not exposed were targeted with a beautifully crafted Subway ad on connected TV, balancing the frequency by targeting ‘light TV viewers’ and cord-cutters more heavily than ‘heavy TV viewers’. Historical data from device IDs of high-street Subway store visitors was then analysed, with smart digital messaging and funky interactive mobile ads used to engage those who had been exposed to the Subway TV campaign and/or visited a store. 

The result was an 11.5% increase in incremental reach among connected TV audiences by tripling message frequency to ‘light TV’ viewers to reach people that would otherwise have been missed, while not oversaturating ‘heavy TV’ viewers.  The campaign not only widened the audience reach, but also its creative potential to engage with new people.

In this way, technology is increasingly feeding consumers’ hunger for creative experiences, while data is exploding the web of creative opportunities for brands. Programmatic is helping to unite the old advertising adversaries in a fight for more effective and successful advertising, whatever the channel.

Viva creativity! Viva brand experiences! Viva programmatic 2.0!