Data-driven marketing is today’s norm. The vast majority of digital display ads this year — 73 percent, according to recent eMarketer forecasts — will be purchased programmatically and incorporate data-driven targeting to activate. It’s also projected that 2017 will be the first year when digital spend surpasses TV to become the largest part of the overall ad budget, on average.
What’s more, marketers are expanding beyond using data to just guide ad placement, reaching deeper to let their data inform the formation of ad content. It would seem that the great data march is unstoppable, and that its influence over the entire advertising process is growing.
And yet amid this paradigm shift, some roles in the marketing process are ahead of others, particularly when it comes to creative, and especially when it comes to video creative. Raised in the pre-digital era of monolithic channels (TV+print) and the culture of the “big idea,” some marketers remain skeptical of both the “why” and the “how” of subjecting the most artistic and recognizable parts of advertising to the cold and dispassionate hand of data.
Dynamic video is going to change all of that.
The old-school creative approach
Many people in the top ranks of agencies were drawn into the advertising profession because of their unique ability to communicate with audiences through video and sound. And while the creative development process has always relied on data to drive consumer insights and big ideas, granular, individual-level consumer data was rarely used to drive creative outside of print-based direct response ads or CRM (customer relationship management) programs.
In digital, this granular consumer data has mostly been applied to optimize the programmatic placement of the creative.
Only recently has discrete behavioral data arrived as a ubiquitous asset capable of driving the composure of creative assets themselves. Advertising has always been a little art and a little science, for sure. But traditionally, the role of science has been to target the placement of the art, while the role of producing it was left to the artistic judgment of trained professionals.
And so when developing TV ads, customer data was something that creative professionals would draw on for inspiration, but it was no longer relevant to them once a handful of ads were produced.
You find many of the same dynamics among brand marketers, for different reasons. While brands are motivated first and foremost by effective communication regardless of the medium, few would deny the ambition to make a large, splashy statement through a major national TV campaign. But at the same time, every marketer I’ve ever spoken to wishes for the ability to speak directly to each customer/prospect’s needs, hopes and dreams.
But individual relevance was never possible in TV ads, so the skills and processes for data-driven video creative were never demanded or developed.
Art and science, hand in hand
So video is the CMO’s big statement and the agency exec’s best shot at a Cannes Lions award (though that is changing with the new data-driven categories). Video is the realization of the artistic energies pent up in the advertising ecosystem, an arena for the full breadth of the advertiser’s talents to shine. But the creative process behind video has been sheltered from the data-driven revolution in digital. Until now.
The last few years have been an era of dynamic creative training wheels, in which we have learned to use data to version display units, though only rarely to drive the idea behind them. And we have learned a lot. We’ve learned that even basic dynamic relevance leads to real, tangible benefits in campaign performance, and a demonstrable increase in ROI.
It hasn’t ruined the creative process — far from it. It’s resulted in creative better suited to the person seeing it, which is what advertising is all about.
We are just now starting to get clever about how to layer that personalization with fun, creative messaging at the scale necessary for large advertisers. Applying this learning to video will only multiply the opportunities for creative expression, not supplant them.
Data is nothing to fear; it’s a new opportunity for video creativity. We are fast approaching the tipping point where data enters that inner sanctum of Madison Avenue, and I’d argue that it’s also the moment when a whole new creative revolution begins.
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