Advertising Technology

How Accountable Is Creative?


We are pleased to welcome Julia Casale as a monthly contributor to The Makegood. Julia is Chief Marketing Officer at Casale Media. She has been working in digital media for more than ten years and loving every moment of it. Look for Julia’s monthly column every first Thursday.

From marketing to creative to media, every team that touches an online advertising campaign is working in concert to achieve the desired outcome. When media, data and technology combine to reach the right users at the right time, how can we be sure that our creative delivers the right message: the one that gets noticed, draws them in and incites the desired reaction?

It’s a question that is at once simple and complex and that – despite the remarkable innovation taking place in ad tech – has gone largely unanswered.

From the impending 3MS release of a new viewable impression standard to proactive verification services available from companies like DoubleVerify and Integral Ad Science, we are strategically raising the bar for what constitutes quality online display media. But, to fully capitalize on these advancements, we need to place equal emphasis on understanding consumers and what speaks to them, and implementing technologies that can at once unify and optimize the creative experience.

Even if a potential customer is in the market for what you’re selling, or you have the perfect solution to the business pain they are suffering from, if the creative you display doesn’t connect well, then your efforts were for naught. Just seeing an ad does not guarantee that it will register.

For the value of accurately targeted, viewable media to be fully realized, it should be matched with creative deployments that push the boundaries of digital display – both in size and functionality. Getting today’s always-on, multi-tasking user to interact with your ad guarantees that their attention is on your brand. Keeping them engaged with your advertising is challenge number two. Herein lies the essential role of creative.

Units with larger canvases provide more opportunity to frame your message and invite engagement by way of interactive nodes, embedded video and in-ad utility.

The IAB’s recently released guidelines for using HTML5 coupled with expanding adoption of rich media, video and Rising Stars formats are making it possible to build and optimize more compelling creative experiences across every device. As technology continues to widen the breadth of creative options available to advertisers, and the role of online creative moves from afterthought to more strategic (and resource intensive) process, the need for prioritized measurement of its success will be further reinforced.

While metrics that provide cues to an ad’s ability to capture user attention such as engagement rate and completed video views can be deployed on rich media and video ad formats, most standard display ads don’t carry these capabilities. Ad exposure studies available from companies including Vizu and comScore, can fill this gap by testing for an ad’s ability to lift variables like brand awareness, brand favourability and purchase intent. Post and in-flight survey data can deliver a better understanding of who the audience is and what they respond to from simple things like choice of benefit statements, accompanying imagery or how the brand is positioned on the ad. But, going a step further, what if we gave consumers control over their ad experience, directly from within the advertisement and used these interactions as a way to tune not only current messaging but also future planning across channels?

Looking ahead, in-ad consumer feedback loops extend the brand study concept – putting control over preferences and feedback directly into the consumer’s hands. Companies like TRUSTe are piloting ad feedback mechanisms and the likes of Google, Hulu and Pandora are already using this data to dynamically inform the creative delivery processes. This adds a new data layer to the already big data mix: real time consumer signals relating to relevance, preferences, and creative response.

Ad feedback mechanisms although relatively new on the scene are evolving. Many early providers are experimenting with the concept of always-on brand research as a way to delve even deeper into consumer likes and dislikes of advertising and help measure the effectiveness of creative – and the strategy behind it – on a continuous basis. Rather than infer consumer reaction to our ads, who better than consumers themselves to tell us what they really think and use that information to improve what we’re doing?

While the metrics to hold creative accountable are here – how to actualize them across the brand ecosystem still lags. The promise of dynamic creative optimization requires manpower – creative and analytical – and automated technology working in unison to make advertising more responsive and to harvest fundamental insights that can be applied across platforms. The age of set it and forget it is over.

Embracing an always-on approach and stretching the creative envelope will extend the definition of campaign performance far beyond the media lens. Ads that are thought-provoking and interesting draw users into a different relationship with brands – one that is meaningful, mutually valuable and collaborative.

Reflecting on the critical role played by creative and how we can apply technology to make it more accountable – and in the process more effective – holds great promise. Don’t we all (brands, publishers, marketers) want to create content and experiences that people actually like?