Your reference guide for creative design and the best-performing ad units

Defining what we mean by “programmatic” is a necessary precursor to any discussion about online creative executions. The term has become shorthand for a diverse range of technology platforms and creative formats. Technical definitions aside, essentially it is a catch-all for any digital marketing activity in which the audience is sought and its attention traded in real time.

Transacting ad messages at scale and with precision is one of the great benefits of the digital marketing age, but with so much noise and clutter in a typical online consumer journey, there are real challenges for creative agencies when it comes to achieving stand out or the creation of a brand story. The test for most creatives is understanding the roles and implementation of each digital ad format necessary to build an effective communication plan. In scoping any online project, this question is often voiced by the creative thinkers in the room.

We work with over one hundred creative partners to design and deliver successful digital projects for our clients. Our experience working on digital campaigns from a broad range of verticals, from retail to property, has allowed us to identify several key areas for success.

Pursuit of creative excellence is nothing new, but how we achieve that within the programmatic space creates new challenges and opportunities for the advertiser. Here we share some principles, some techniques, and some tips for delivering successful campaigns.

Playbook #1: Think digital first

The pace of technological transformation helps redefine the scope of any ‘creative’ challenge within contemporary marketing. Designing for a digital-first world often flies in the face of traditional design thinking, but considering initial design from a digital perspective can aid programmatic performance significantly.

Playbook #2: The right ads for the right job

It is key that we use the right ad formats for the objective of the campaign. Larger, more impactful formats including rich media and video ads are best for delivering cut-through in brand awareness campaigns. Whereas for performance campaigns standard formats and native ads are perfect for providing the reach and scale for driving cost-effective sales.

Playbook #3: Creative personalisation drives performance

Serving ads to audiences based on the pages or products they have looked at drives a significant uplift in all the main key performance indicators, such click through rate (CTR) and sales. This is a tactic that we call dynamic creative optimization (DCO), and is one of the most effective tactics we can deliver within programmatic display. The more sophisticated creative responses will also change relative to the consumer’s position within the funnel: for many products someone who visited yesterday without purchasing and someone who purchased a fortnight ago will be equally worth retargeting, but they will need a very different creative execution.

Playbook #4: The value of HTML 5 creative Vs static banners

HTML5 has been around for nearly four years, but a surprising volume of advertisers still opt for even older, static formats. The main strength of the HTML 5 format is that it allows the pieces of a banner or indeed the whole creative to animate, making this a more interactive experience for the audience, and thus driving far higher levels of engagement. Yet, the biggest benefit of HTML5 is that whatever device or browser it is on, it will animate and display in the same way. This is key in the multi-channel, multi-device space we operate in today.

Playbook #5: Many ads make light work

When running campaigns, the more ads sizes we have available, the better the campaign performance. Whether the goal is cost-effective reach or driving sales at an optimal ROAS, with more creative formats we can find in-market audiences more efficiently and serve them ads in the most appropriate, cheapest environments, thus allowing us to deliver higher-performing campaigns.

Playbook #6: Use data to inform creative build

We collect enormous amounts of data when running programmatic campaigns, whether that be demographic, audience or interest data. We can use this to help inform our creative imagery and messaging. For example: when running a campaign for a sports brand we see males in their 50’s over-index for an interest in cycling. To drive engagement when targeting this demographic, we tailor our ads to include imagery of older males cycling. This ensures they resonate more and drive improved performance.

In this fast-evolving channel, use this Playbook as go-to reference guide to help you create the most effective digital campaigns for your clients. Need to speak to the Experts? Get in touch.

Dan Hughes – Head of Programmatic