March 4th, 2014

Starting With Creative. Not Ending With It.


Ace Metrix


We don’t generally point to other people’s content on our blog for the simple reason that we have data coming out our ears over here and the only thing that keeps us from publishing hourly is the other parts of our jobs like winning awards and giving them out. Still, the recent article “It’s Time To Fix Programatic Creative” by Mike Zeman, Director of North American Digital Marketing at Netflix, has us all talking. It is well worth your time in full, but let us take a complementary position here that we hope is at least half as good as Mike’s.

Mike’s primary premise is that the quality of creative is an afterthought in the digital world. All of the revolutionary technologies that have radically altered the landscape in recent years have only served one purpose: serving you crappy ads more efficiently and for a slightly lower cost. Small wonder that the display advertising business is awash in sea of self-reflection these days.

To ignore the importance of great creative, static or video is to fundamentally miss the entire point of advertising – to engage and sell, not to offend and repel. Yet we see it everyday, all over the web and on television. The ironic thing about it is that creative, and creative alone, has the ability to lift all the ships in the advertising port. Think about it, great creative:

  1. Benefits the publisher since the content, as well as what surrounds it, is compelling
  2. Benefits the reader/viewer/consumer since the content is enhanced by the advertising
  3. Benefits the advertiser, for obvious reasons
  4. Benefits the creative agency, for obvious reasons
  5. Benefits the media agency and the programmatic vendor by delivering faster view to complete metrics and with better impact

Creative matters. But we are not naïve, media weight matters too. However, ultimately, you can differentiate far more on creative than you can on media. We are happy to debate that with you in Cannes this summer.

So why does display creative suck so bad? Mike thinks it is because it’s so easy to produce and because the programmatic guys get a single piece of creative and a work order – with little thought to the implications. We agree, but we also think creative sucks because it’s so hard to test in a reasonable timeframe with reasonable data. Granted, we don’t test display, but we do test video advertising, both online and on television – and that’s up next for the RTB guys. This is where the stakes get bigger, because now the creative isn’t so cheap, even if it’s reused.

We are constantly surprised at the range of creative quality – even in video. In prepping for our upcoming BLACKBOOK, we developed this graphic.

What this graph tells you is that while there is a cap on how well you can do (in this illustrated case, on Casual Dining), there are several floors below ground. You only have to take your eye off the ball for a second to end up there – even if you’re showing shots of steak.

What it means is that without understanding what your creative’s strengths and weakness are, you are headed down the same road – treating all creative like it is the same. It’s not, and we have 32,000 ads to prove it. More importantly, each ad is made up of granular audiences (age, gender, income, race, etc.), and each individual consumer views advertising through their own lens. The key is matching the right ad with the right audience at the right time – online or on television. That’s what we are all about.


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