Programmatic has always been a technology of two halves. On the one hand, it has brought a slew of benefits: data-driven precise targeting, greater access to low-cost inventory, more detailed campaign reporting — the list goes on. Yet on the other, it has come with several flaws; chiefly latency, and the propagation of irrelevant and uninspired digital advertising that can lack creative flair. 

But that is imminently set to change. As the technology has evolved, so too have its capabilities – now its core components are being harnessed to make programmatic hyper-relevant and engaging, at scale. Now we are about to enter the era of programmatic creative. 

So what has happened to drive this advertising evolution, and is the industry ready?

We are an industry obsessed with metrics

Digital advertising is an industry obsessed with metrics and, on the whole, this is highly beneficial. Clear and accurate reporting is essential for advertisers to be assured their efforts generate real value, and for publishers to effectively monetise their inventory. Yet the problem with measurements is that they can become irrelevant when technologies and user behaviours change, and in an industry like digital advertising, this happens all too frequently. 

For example, rich media ads have so far been heavily restrained as there was no real way to measure their success in terms of viewability and effectiveness. Now the IAB New Standard Ad Portfolio has brought standards in line with emerging technology while maintaining the message ‘campaigns must remain user-centric’.

The industry has also recently rediscovered the importance of understanding individual users, not simply grouping all consumers into the same category. This is partly due to the backlash against the irrelevant, dull ads that have become so prevalent – namely ad blocking. 

When brands stop thinking of consumers as a statistic, we are able to advance as an industry. It should be less about metrics, and more about making ads that are contextual, engaging and non-intrusive, which these new guidelines address.

Data-driven creativity 

With 92% of marketers stating that creative marketing is more important than ever, it is essential that brands investigate new avenues for inspiration. There is a line between being engaging and being intrusive with the user, which the industry is currently tiptoeing around. While programmatic creative is helping, I’ll admit, we still have a long way to go. 

So what does programmatic creative mean for advertisers? 

Combining data and the creative to make messaging hyper-relevant, engaging and interactive across multiple devices, programmatic creative is the new and improved automated advertising tech that is set to transform the industry.

Meeting users’ need for personalised ads — 46% of users prefer them — this new tech delivers data-driven ads that reach individuals in their preferred way – making ads more appealing to the user – improving the quality of the ad and thus, the user experience. 

The benefits of programmatic creative are felt industry-wide, for brands it enables them to tailor messaging specifically to the user, for marketers it allows them to become interactive storytellers instead of just unidirectional narrators – optimising the user journey. And for publishers, a better user experience means higher CPMs.

Programmatic creative also leverages the campaign’s capacity to produce a large volume of truly personalised messages to its target audience, leading to higher conversion rates and well-placed ad spending. But all this can only be achieved if the media and creative agencies come together to automate the data and bring a truly optimised user journey across the sales funnel.

Another important point to add, marketers, need to distinguish the difference between what is ‘viewable’ and what is ‘memorable’. After all, when users are engaged, they are more likely to remember the ad’s messaging, resulting in higher purchasing intent. This was recently demonstrated in a recent Ipsos study, which sought to compare the effectiveness of pre-roll and a premium skin-based out-stream video format. The results showed that not only did 80% of participants find the out-stream ads more appealing, but it also formed a lasting impression on users, with 33% ad recall – as opposed to 15% for pre-roll – and left them feeling more inclined to buy.

But advertisers need to ensure they are ready for this change. As I’ve said before, the whole process can only come together if media agencies and creative agencies collaborate to ensure the user journey has been fully thought through. As new technologies such as programmatic creative come into play, the industry needs to adapt quickly if we are going to persuade users not to install ad blockers and create a genuinely beneficial experience for all parties.