Creative maths: The future of advertising

Maths – or data – has become advertising agencies' new language as programmatic trading changes the way brands connect with their audiences.

When you think about advertising, your mind first goes to how engaging and creative it is. Very rarely do you think about maths. That’s right. Maths.

Maths, or data, is now becoming the language of the world’s most creative advertising agencies. Data-driven advertising and programmatic trading is changing the way brands are reaching their target audience. In fact, Magna Global research expects programmatic to triple globally to $US33 billion by 2017. So how will maths and, more importantly, the data behind it, change the creative world of brand advertising?

Smart marketing campaigns have always evaluated their success based on two elements: brand impact and quantitative performance. Common to successful ad campaigns is that they achieve the dual aims of delivering compelling creative and delivering it to the right people. They use data gathered from past campaigns to see what was well received, to deliver the right message to the right person at the right time in an engaging manner.

Programmatic tools mean that marketers are now equipped with a very clear picture of who their audience is and how they are consuming content -- and the picture is only getting clearer by the day. This then begs the question, do brands even need creative? Well, brands need to sell, and programmatic trading allows them to be in the right place at the right time for the sale to take place. So what purpose, then, does creative serve if we’re getting results through programmatic?

The answer is simple: to sell, brands need to engage people. Brands need to be part of the consumer’s conversation. To have a conversation, brands need to act like an individual, to show personality and respond to the audience’s conversation and tastes.

And this is what creative does best. Creative showcases the brand’s personality to encourage the person to spend more time with the brand’s campaign. Understanding data today allows creative to be more relevant to more people. Creative infused with programmatic is set to take mass digital advertising to one-to-one interactions. It goes from likes, retweets and pins to a whole new level of fluid engagement and agile interaction.

This isn’t difficult to see. People interact with an ad twice as frequently when it is relevant to them. 'Native ads' (paid ads that assimilate into the page design and are consistent with platform behaviour) attract more attention than traditional banner ads. Online users look at in-feed ads 25 per cent more than banners and those users view native ads 53 per cent more frequently than display ads.

In North America, Mondelēz International seized the tools of engagement with the Oreo Daily Twist campaign in 2012, where a new piece of social content was created every day for 100 days in real-time, using Oreo cookies and the day’s pop culture headline, in celebration of Oreo’s 100-year anniversary. The finale was a live event in New York’s Times Square combining online communities voting for their favourite story for the 100th Daily Twist, real-time polling and the winning content designed live from within a glass 'newsroom'. The results speak for themselves.

What this campaign really shows, however, is the direction a brand needs to start taking to engage audiences in the not-so-distant future. Advertising messages will need to be tailored according to the individual’s interests, the digital content they are consuming at that moment and across the channels they engage on, be that social, mobile, websites and, very soon, TV. Delivering an advertising message to the right place at the right time will not be enough; the ad itself will have to be as engaging as the published content it sits next to, in real-time.

The data to deliver enhanced, personalised creative content already exists. First- and third-party data tell us about audience demographics, location and previous behaviours. Add to this data the context and environment in which the ad is viewed and programmatic plus creative becomes very interesting.

If you know the gender of the person viewing a publisher’s website, the ad can showcase you relevant products. Know the location of a browser, and the address of the closest store can pop up. Data can not only be used to deliver relevant creative in real time, but continued improvement in matching programmatic and creative on technology platforms will also see marketers being able to predict behaviour, thus developing more personal and successful digital campaigns across web, social, mobile and TV.

Sound daunting? Well, all it takes is a little planning, but that’s a story for another day…

Cindy Deng is the managing director Asia-Pacific for digital advertising company Turn.