The Renaissance of Creative Work in a Data-driven RTB Advertising World

As RTB continues its exponential growth and surpasses $20 billion in the US next year, humans simply aren’t needed to power deals and manage negotiations the way they once were and advertising professionals are feeling the pinch. Yet while some see this shift as the death knell for the human element in advertising, it can be argued that what we’re seeing now is the creativity renaissance of the ad industry.

Advertising professionals needn’t feel threatened by ever-increasing automation. Time once spent on repetitive tasks has been freed up to invest in creative work at the very moment our creative needs are exploding. Rather than replacing humans on the job, automation has freed up human labour capacity that can be invested in creative to meet the demand for cross-channel, more granular campaigns.

In performance and brand advertising alike, advertisers have always had an overarching message to share and distribute consistently across channels. As those channels have evolved beyond television and print to include myriad digital channels including social, mobile, video and display, ads have become more granular and targeted to evermore-specific audience segments.

What does this creative renaissance mean for advertising professionals and teams? Let’s explore four factors driving the demand for creative talent across the ad industry: audience segmentation, ad sequencing, real-time marketing and data-driven creative.

Audience Segmentation Driving Ever Greater Need for Creative

Today, a campaign might consist of hundreds, thousands or even tens of thousands of sub-campaigns. Buying ads on Facebook, for example, might mean an aggregate level campaign with many sub-levels, each targeting granular audiences. The people working on creative, now free from repetitive, redundant tasks more suited to machines anyway, can focus on conceptualizing and developing the right creative for each audience segment.

Data segmentation allows us to deliver very different creative to these various sub-segments and that actually changes not only the way we deliver ads, but how creative teams think about their creative, as well. Rather than deploying a standard beer ad creative, for example, an advertising team might find that what triggers a good brand image in the elderly differs widely from the messaging millennials prefer. They could employ different city skylines in creative for targeting various geographic regions — people in New York can think it’s “their beer,” just as people in San Francisco feel ownership seeing their city highlighted in the ads.

Storytelling via Ad Sequencing Demands Creative at Scale

This concept goes far beyond geography, however. The sequencing of ads, driven by RTB enabling advertisers to deliver to specific user IDs with all of the insight that entails, is a growing trend. Advertisers delivering to specific individuals can tell whether a user has seen a particular ad, allowing them to more effectively tell a story with their creative.

Consider a campaign story with three distinct messages, for example. Joe Facebook opens his Facebook account three times each day, on average. Jane Facebook only goes on Facebook once a week. The old method of breaking the messaging out into one message per week for three weeks would deliver the whole story to Jane, but Joe is likely to grow tired of seeing the same ads for days on end. Conversely, you could run all three ads simultaneously, but it’s not a cohesive story.

The sequencing of ads combined with RTB and targeting specific individuals is an incredibly effective method of telling the whole story to users in the format and on the channels best suited for each person. Advertisers can leverage various media formats, combining banner ads, video, display, and social ads all within a single campaign, but it requires a great deal of creative.

Free of tasks now handled by machines, teams can reap maximum benefit by leveraging this segmentation, targeting and sequencing together.

Today’s Creative Requires Rapid-Fire Response

A third factor in this creative Renaissance is our need for near immediacy in creative production. Say it’s the FIFA World Cup finals, for example, and one player has just scored the game-making goal, expertly kicked home with a certain Adidas soccer shoe.

That would be pretty difficult to prepare for with all those players and their respective choices in footwear. A savvy, agile marketing team can almost immediately put live a campaign around that shoe’s contribution to the game-winning goal, with variations for each country or geographic region in which soccer is most popular.

The old days of calling your publisher during regular business hours, working through drafts and approvals to finally settle on one creative iteration and finally pushing it live days or weeks later are long over (and for that, we are thankful). Today, advertisers are creating fantastic brand connections by tying into real-world events on social media, then in advertising campaigns, and back out in the real world almost immediately.

Analytics Insights Powering More Compelling Creative

Finally, creative teams are now free and empowered to leverage far more analytics data in their work. The outcomes of creative work are measurable in a far more direct and timely manner, allowing teams to iterate on the performance of their concepts rather than gut feelings.

Previously, you might create five different concepts and pitch them to your boss, who would then decide which one would proceed to development. Today, the data tells you — your audience tells you.

You can put a campaign live and split test, using social media analytics tools to determine response before proceeding and building out the campaign. There’s no need to run surveys, send out questionnaires, or use focus groups; you can dig into site and social analytics including sentiment analysis and conversational trends to power more precise, relevant and compelling creative throughout the life of each campaign.

So no, humans aren’t needed to power deals and negotiations anymore. Even so, the role of the human in advertising is increasingly important as our creative needs grow alongside the opportunities inherent to RTB and programmatic. Those advertising professionals poised to move into these diverse creative roles — and the brands empowering with time, tools and an encouraging creative environment — are best positioned to succeed in advertising’s creative Renaissance.