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Context wins. 

Programmatic creative.

Programmatic creative are ads that have been “programmed” to change depending on where and when they are seen. The lift by having content relative to the user can be phenomenal. 7-12% engagement has been the norm for us. [For perspective our advertising industry is usually called successful with 1-3%.]


Every element within these ads are dynamic, set up to call unique elements depending on signals from the environment. Let’s use a Nest Thermostat ad as an example. In the evening, you would see dark nighttime images showing house temperature being turned down with messaging about saving money with Nest’s learning mode. In the morning messaging and imagery would be about getting the house warm before getting up or managing the temperature while you are away at work. The dynamic elements could be: real-time pricing, or CTAs linking to the different landing pages to reflect each ad’s message. You could even change messaging automatically depending on your current local weather. Viewing the ad during a blizzard you would see warm home messaging and likewise during heatwaves messages about cooling and comfort.

Below: a database screenshot. Each row is an ad, each column an element of an ad:

Screen Shot 2019-12-11 at 11.19.29

Simple setup


First, build your ads in DoubleClick Studio. Point references for dynamic elements to call definitions from outside the ad in a database. You will need three references...the spreadsheet location, a row number for each ad and a column [cell] number for each dynamic element. 


Now duplicate for each size. We usually build six [970x250, 728x90, 336x270, 300x600, 300x250 and 320x50]. 


You are now set up to call and load elements. We typically have 40 columns [for elements] that can be called such as background color, image name, logo, animation style, headlines, subheads, price, before price, CTA, CTA color, DMA, time, etc. Get as granular as you need. Just remember though once an ad is trafficked it is built by DCM. This means you will not be able to add or change the function of an element/column without re-trafficking.


Cool trafficking


Now for the amazing feature. Traffic each ad like a normal ad in DCM. The database makes your ads update in real-time. For example, time and location can direct the ad to columns with headlines for the afternoon in Denver. When the ad pings/collects the assets from the context correct column for the current time and location and “become” what its context says to.


WARNING: Using a database like this is powerful but dangerous, controlling your live ads in the wild in real-time. Any error in a cell, any wrong information and that part of the ad will be broken. We strongly suggest restricting editing rights to your DB on a secure server and only give key personnel access.


Now there are two amazingly positive flipsides to using your database: 


First of all, making more ads is as simple as duplicating rows, pasting them and adding the new elements. Production speeds up dramatically, brand is kept exceptionally tight and the client will understand layout constraints better. 


The second positive is you can skip re-trafficking ads by updating the ads that are already trafficked. So for Google Store, if we have Pixel phone ads in market that need a price change, new headlines, and new art we can update the DB and the running ads are updated in minutes, not 7-10 days. This gives your clients amazing flexibility to react to market changes: tune based on analytics, cheaply A/B test, present new offers, address stocking issues and generally make any evergreen campaign behave like targeted DR [without violating GDPR].


Two examples of the same ad. Left: commuting hours. Right: Suburban evening. All elements, video, frames, and animations are managed by the database and can be changed on the fly.

Last bit of advice


Be subtle.  In the two examples above the messaging reflects a feature an Assistant user might find useful in that moment. It isn’t overt that the ads are contextually relevant. Help potential customers see value without feeling spied on or followed. [And since we are not tracking any user data the ads do not violate GDPR.]


Build a few programmatic creatives and you will see a healthy lift in ROAS, you will help make ads more valuable [relevant] to consumers, and you will impress your clients with a newfound responsiveness/flexibility to their needs.


Scott Campbell joined Essence in 2012 as a member of the creative team at Point Reach, the world's first mobile-only agency. He is named as an inventor on over 30 interface patents. Scott helped Apple develop the Mac icon system, and was part of the team that helped develop the desktop publishing revolution with Adobe/Aldus. He now helps invent and promote programmatic creative at Essence... ...focusing on creating high-performing ad campaigns for Google and optimizing how they are delivered to market.

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