Jeff Hirsch is currently the President of CPXi, a global digital media holding company that provides multi-screen messaging, leveraging display, social, mobile and video advertising at scale, serving billions of managed impressions daily. Hirsch has over 30 years of management and marketing experience including over 18 years in the digital space.
Though it seems to us that digital has been around for ages, it is in fact a relatively new industry. And as any new industry finds its footing, it is tempting to try to adapt legacy methods to the daily operations of that business. After all, the main principles still apply, and we were successful with this approach before; why wouldn’t it work again?
The problem is, to truly maximize the potential of any new industry, every aspect from the finances to the technology to the infrastructure must be reevaluated, and philosophies, practices and processes must be put in place that are designed to meet the unique needs of this new market.
The evolution of digital media from its roots in print and broadcast is a perfect example of this phenomenon. Broadcast media has been around for a century, and print even longer, so when publishing and advertising began to make the shift to online, the giants of those industries simply tried to adapt their original approaches to the online realm. They tried to sell Internet ad space like they had done with print and broadcast, they tried to buy Internet inventory as they had always done, and, because that practice was not entirely unsuccessful, they continued to do so for years.
So what is the purpose of creating new industries if not to maximize their potential for innovation and revenue? For the original pioneers, adding digital to their media arsenals boosted profits and emerging technologies made some things easier, so they considered that a win. However, that truly was, as they say, only the tip of the iceberg. The digital realm, as flush with data as it is, offers a great deal more for both publishers and advertisers.
It is only recently, with the emergence of programmatic platforms, that we as an industry have begun to truly deliver on the promise of digital. Programmatic takes the principles of automation, which as we know, have revolutionized many industries by significantly boosting output and accuracy, and applies them to the buying, selling and delivery of digital media.
Programmatic platforms enable advertisers and publishers to quickly and effectively parse vast amounts of data, turning them into real-time insight that can then be used to target campaigns that are much more likely to drive conversions. The speed and accuracy with which data can be analyzed and campaigns can be deployed via programmatic platforms, and of course the increased revenue that results, is exactly why the media industry began shifting online in the first place.
Skeptics might say, “That’s all well and good, but what about the creative aspect of publishing and advertising? Doesn’t that suffer when you automate?” The short answer is “no,” and the slightly longer answer is that the creative talent of actual human minds will always have its place in media. Whether you are talking about content or ad creative, the end goal will always be to resonate with audiences in some way, and that comes from human emotion and imagination.
However, that doesn’t mean programmatic can’t be applied to creative as well. Programmatic creative doesn’t mean substituting a bunch of ones and zeroes for the type of inspiration that created the Old Spice “Man your man could smell like” or “Got Milk?” It means further delivering on the promise of digital by using technology to take on the heavy lifting of adapting those campaigns to all of the formats available to best reach audiences.
A recent study CPXi conducted found that the top three most common ad units (Leaderboard (728×90), Medium Rectangle (300×250) and Wide Skyscraper (160×600),) account for over 90 percent of total impressions online. Yet, comparing CPCs of campaigns using one ad unit versus those utilizing seven different ad units found that the more diversified a campaign’s creative, the better it performed. That means most advertisers are nowhere close to reaching the revenue potential of their campaigns.
It is true that the creative side has struggled to keep up with the sheer volume of programmatic platforms, and the cost of creating seven different ad units has traditionally been astronomical. Conversely, failing to diversify your campaign creative on the front end actually results in media cost up to 400 percent higher than they could be. The costs of diversification have heretofore been prohibitive for many advertisers, but programmatic now virtually eliminates that cost, allowing advertisers of all sizes to broaden their campaign capabilities, reach more audiences and drive more revenue.
It’s time to admit that the old ways of doing business don’t work for the new media and technology industries and embrace new ways that actually can deliver on the original promise of digital.