Data-driven creative ads

A Data-Driven Creative Primer: What It Means, How It Works

mariodiezData-driven creative ads have exploded across the digital marketing space, but what’s their real value, and how do they actually work?

Data-driven creative ads use streams of data to customize an ad’s content or presentation in real-time, so it is of optimal relevance to its audience. The reason for this is simple: Relevant ads perform better. These data-driven modifications can affect the copy, headlines, background color, offer, price, product images or videos. They may even include elements within an image or video. Multiple creative elements can be driven by separate data sources simultaneously, as long as the ad serving technology can get what it needs to build the ad quickly. Most publishers require an ad to serve in no more than three-tenths of a second, so the data-driven ad server must figure out who will see the ad, build the right ad and deliver it in that minuscule sliver of time.

Here’s one way to imagine data-driven creative, or DDC: Instead of viewing an ad as a static block of image or video and type, view it as a kind of smart shell — one that mixes and matches creative slices based on the appropriate data, in order to display different versions to different audiences. DDC is where data meets creative — but making it work requires an understanding of consumers’ current desires and how to best satisfy them, before they even know what they want.

DDC starts with good, refined data about a user, which can have a wide range of sources, as long as it is appropriately permissioned and protected. For example, a car company may pull information from the “requested information” list on its website about a customer’s location, and connect it to data about the vehicles in which a user showed interest while browsing. Hybrid convertibles might pop up in ads shown to men in Northern California, while the Georgia mom who likes trucks sees ads for pickups in the color she likes best.

The more relevant the ad is to the user, the more effective it will be. A good creative plan leverages data to realize the creative strategy through pinpoint tuning of creative executions designed to entice each individual user, like a matador whose cape changes color depending on which bull he’s facing.

Let’s say Home Depot advertises a weekend sale. If the ad’s not optimized with relevant data, the marketer sends the same generic “Shop Now” message to everyone who sees it. However, if the ad automatically adjusts to a consumer’s previous browsing or purchase behavior — say, the behavior of looking at lumber prices in a particular region — then the ad can feature a video on how to select lumber, and can drive a sale to the local store with a message that the desired inventory is available.

The “One to One Future” that Don Peppers and Martha Rogers promised 18 years ago is upon us, and the practical application of a data-driven strategy can energize almost any audience-centric digital plan. One powerful variant of data-driven is dynamic creative optimization, in which key elements of an ad can be systematically rotated and cross tested, effectively customizing the entire ad experience on the fly in an effort to find the perfect ad for each audience, occasion and environment. By constantly measuring, adjusting and re-measuring the behavior of each audience, the most effective ad can be presented throughout the life of the campaign.

Data-driven creative not only delivers digital’s most powerful ad experience, it also generates powerful market intelligence. By recording and reporting each discrete user experience, location, time, interest, device, context or dozens of other accessible metrics, the marketer can create an entirely new collection of data from the ad. With proper analysis, this ad-generated data can be used to inform decisions far beyond advertising.

Marketers are always looking for a better way to increase ROI. Programmatic buying has changed the way we think about media buying. Now data-driven creative is starting to change the way we think about how we use data to communicate with each and every audience. By automatically activating dozens or even hundreds of ad permutations, advertisers not only drive production costs down, but also drive measurable impact and consumer insights up. Data-driven creative is a marketer’s best method for translating a creative vision into the right ad for every user – faster than you can blink.

Mario Diez is CEO at PointRoll.

  • Sara

    While dynamic content optimization will solve for the technical issue of scaling creative, there will always be a need for human creativity. At Aarki, we look at dynamic content optimization as a way to give designers more time to focus on innovating new ad experiences that will be fully appreciated by their audience due to hyper-relevancy. DCO will not de-value the importance of creative teams, but instead empower them to focus on what makes them so special – their creativity.