Musings from GroupM: Towards a Better (Digital) Creative Understanding - Andy Chapman - MediaBizBloggers

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Remember back in the day when all we had to worry about as agency folks looking to launch a new ad campaign was our mix of :30 and :15 TV spots, a few different sizes of magazine ads, and maybe two versions of a newspaper ad - one targeted to a general consumer and the other to a business traveler?

OK, I don't remember that far back either, and those days are long gone. But progress has presented us with a different set of challenges.

We all know how the growth of the Web has brought the promise of targeting to the fore. This has enabled us to identify and track a prospect through online behaviors to deduce his/her potential interest in a product or service, as well as where that prospect may be in the path to purchase.

But for too long we have been attempting to capitalize on this opportunity with the equivalent of a few arrows in the quiver. By that I mean we take a relatively small handful of creative executions (not counting various size permutations, of course) and hope the one-to-many approach works if we have a mass reach objective (similar to broadcast). Or, we pray that a one size fits all message appeals to many distinct segments within the broader target.

However, experience has shown us the power of aligning the right message to the right audience at the right time, as witnessed by test results across various metrics ranging from basic CTR to engagement and even sales. Clearly there is a much bigger opportunity, some would say responsibility, to harness the potential of the multitude of data to be gleaned in the digital space. So what's the problem?

Currently, the biggest obstacle to addressing distinct audiences with tailored display messages is the ability to produce and deploy them efficiently at scale across a media buy. The significant labor and cost associated with creative development often becomes a deal-breaker in the cost/payout calculations marketers make. As a result, media buys, campaigns and ultimately client business growth via the Web are impeded by constraints outside of data: we know the audiences are there, we just can't afford to optimally access them for reasons largely related to old fashioned production constraints.

Luckily there are some technology solutions addressing this very issue. Gaining more traction recently is a host of players in the "dynamic marketing" area. This is where creative teams can leverage technology that can efficiently assemble multiple versions of display ad creative on the fly using templates, and deliver them to the right audiences as the impression is being served based on cookie level data. This means that instead of having to be limited to perhaps three standard offers at fixed price points, we can now develop a significant matrix of offers that are highly testable. We can learn a lot about which price points, calls to action, frame placement, background color, etc., work best and quickly arrive at better ROI. We also have the ability to gain new insights into which offers and audiences resonate, which may not have been apparent previously.

Companies such as Tumri and Teracent (acquired a few months ago by Google) are currently leading the charge in dynamic marketing. Up to now most of this activity has been applied to network-sourced inventory; the next frontier is applying these solutions on top of Ad Exchange buys using real time bidding (RTB) to determine if we have identified another viable marketplace from which to efficiently source the best prospects online.

While this approach is not the only solution to the challenge of defining and addressing segments within larger target audiences online, it represents a relatively low-barrier way to begin testing its value in campaigns for our clients' businesses.

So let's propose a challenge to the marketing community: media agencies, ad agencies that drive the creative process, and marketers must begin the dialog to develop efficient ways to expand the pool of relevant creative messages for our clients' campaigns. If we don't , we waste a big opportunity to raise the level of effectiveness of online campaigns and fail to grasp the greater marketing promise of the Web.

Andy Chapman is the Digital Trading Lead at Mindshare North America, a GroupM company

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