Automation is becoming a ruling mantra of digital advertising. Programmatic – where automation is made possible – is growing at a steady rate, counting for over 50% of the media budgets in 2016, according to Zenith’s latest report.

Although programmatic has undeniably brought greater efficiency and impact to digital advertising — enabling brands to connect with vast audiences across multiple channels in real-time — there is one area yet to fully exploit: advertising creative.

While today brands can fairly easily deliver ads to individuals whose interests and needs align with specific campaigns, the message that goes with the display of the banner is too often untailored and generic.

Thanks to recent advances in automated technology, a dynamic new tool — programmatic creative — will, at last, make it possible to combine streamlined operational efficacy with creative and personalised one-to-one storytelling at scale.

So, what exactly will happen when the worlds of automation and creativity collide?

Data-driven ads with a unique twist

Over the next 12 months, brands should use data more effectively as they leverage programmatic creative to not only identify who they should target, but how creative can be adjusted for maximum impact. Using a blend of machine learning and human insight, brands have been empowered to build millions of variations from just one basic ad via automated frameworks — allowing them to deliver unified cross-channel stories that are hyper-relevant because they are user-specific. What’s more, working within dynamic and intelligent frameworks also means creative is powered with the capacity to instantly accommodate a range of variables; from individual circumstances to world events, and even the weather.

In doing so, this year, brands will make increasing use of the opportunity to create ads with more than just messages; they will create a vehicle for brand storytelling that is at once far-reaching and deeply personal — enhancing brand perception and awareness while boosting conversions.

Anticipating consumer needs

Using highly sophisticated and intelligent algorithms that become smarter over time, brands also have the means to optimise current campaigns using historic data and detect patterns in buying behaviour that indicate consumers’ future needs. This is doubly beneficial for brands: providing them with the ability to test campaign creative in real-time — taking measures such as rotating ads or altering sequencing — and offering consumers genuinely helpful advice about potential purchases, before their competitors do.

Enhancing strategic advertising success

Traditionally, ads speak to groups of users instead of individuals, but programmatic creative enables brands to engage in personalised conversations where unique consumer desires, behaviours, and personality traits can immediately be integrated with advertising strategy.

Automated tech can rapidly sift through vast streams of big data to determine which copy variations, button colours or product combinations inspire particular individuals and drive the highest click-through rates, and activate this data to alter creative accordingly. As a result, 2017 will be the year where tech developments super-charge strategy and more brands make data-fuelled mass personalisation a reality.

Creative scalability is coming with a greater force and although this revolution will be heavily machine-assisted, it is important to note this is not an entirely robotic endeavour: the driver behind the machine is still human. So, to ensure success in the year ahead, brands must do more than hire a data scientist. If brands want to be able to harness programmatic creatives more efficiently, they must enhance their understanding of how data and smart tech can be used to better inform advertising decisions and tell more captivating stories.