The starting point for nearly every ad campaign is a great creative. Given the influence it has, it’s no wonder brands invest heavily – John Lewis reportedly spent £1 million making its 2016 Christmas ad with the trampolining boxer.

Yet, John Lewis also spent a further £6 million on TV ad spots to make sure this fantastic creative reached the right audience. This illustrates what brands and advertisers have known for years – it’s all very well spending millions on beautiful creative but if the right people don’t see it at the right time, there’s no point making it.

That’s why every marketer knows that having the right data to help you distribute your creative is crucial to the success of a campaign.

Focus on people

While the device or the channel that an ad is shown on has been the biggest concern for marketers in recent years, with the meteoric rise of mobile and social, we’re now seeing a resurgence in advertisers concentrating on the audience.

Data is helping marketers understand the people behind the numbers: which retail stores do they visit most often? Where and what do they like to eat? What vehicle do they own? By prioritising people, not channels, marketers are able to accurately target consumers with precision and engage them with ads across their multiple devices.

Once you shift your thinking to focus on individuals, you have much more control over how your compelling creative is seen. It’s all very well spending thousands developing a creative concept but if it’s then played to your audience over and over, they are more than likely going to be annoyed.  

Taking control

A people-based approach allows marketers to control the frequency of ads. As we switch between our desktop, tablet and mobile to interact with content online, a cookie-based approach will count each of these devices as a new user and therefore serve the same ad to each device. A people-based approach allows you to link all the devices of a user together to ensure they’re represented as only one person. This means you know if they’ve seen your ad before – and on which device – and you can put together more sophisticated content strategies, such as sequencing and storytelling.

A leading automotive brand we work with did this recently, using the power of people-based marketing to launch its latest SUV model. Using data on existing and potential customers, the brand was able to create accurate profiles of potential customers and target them with different creatives, each optimised for different devices including tablets, smartphones and desktops.

By building in data about which videos a user had already seen and on which devices, the creatives could be built into a narrative, telling a story with a sequence of different ads of different lengths. Combined with killer creative, this personalised approach gained the brand record traction and brand awareness for its new model.

While the first step has been to use data to pinpoint which ads to show someone on which device, with the rise of AI, even greater personalisation will be possible.

Machines can handle and analyse quantities of data that humans would never be able to process. Artificial intelligence can adapt and change the creative someone is shown based on the information about them coming through in real time. For example, we’ll see AI adapting the text shown to refresh the ad if the user has seen it before, or updating it with real-time information such as prices or available stock. This means ads will be unique to every user, at every moment.

While great marketers are already recognising that data analysis and creativity cannot operate in silos, we’ve only scratched the surface thinking about how they can work together.