Marketers focus on advertising creative as programmatic optimisation stalls

Advertising creative
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Advertising creative was never high on the agenda for programmatic advertisers; ad optimisation was generally seen as the answer to better performance. But as programmatic budgets have increased and optimisation efforts deliver diminishing ROI, advertising creative is developing as a key factor in improving programmatic performance.


  • Digiday is reporting that, once considered an afterthought, advertising creative is coming to be seen as much of a priority as ad placement for some online advertisers. The shift comes as even the best campaign set up, with smart targeting, algorithm hacks and comprehensive analytics, struggles to make up for the ‘shortcomings of lackluster ads’.
  • Ander Lopez Ochoa, head of digital, media and e-commerce marketing at Johnson & Johnson says:

“No matter how good you get at optimizing your media performance, if your creative is not fit for purpose then it’s not going to work as well — we reached that point of diminishing returns”

  • Marketers generate multiple ad iterations to allow them to tailor messaging for audience personalisation and A/B testing. But to do this with creative at a programmatic scale requires a new approach to ad production processes and more collaboration between media and creative teams.

Data insights

  • Johnson & Johnson is overcoming the production hurdle by working with ad-tech firm Vidmob to analyse the creative behind its ads to try to understand what elements of the ad, from the colors used to whether it features humans, incite the best responses. Based on learnings, marketers produce new, optimised versions of ads.
  • Vidmob’s starting point is that intuition about creative advertising isn’t enough, data is required. The team started by entering three years’ worth of first-party campaign data into the Vidmob platform to give it a solid baseline from which to provide future recommendations. Long term, it hopes to have enough data to be able to perform a meta analysis on advertising performance.
  • Insights are turned into benchmarks that future advertising creative can be checked against, informing decisions like whether or not to show the brand logo at the start of a Facebook video. Even regional nuances can be factored in to gauge local reactions to brand marketing.

Social creative

Some marketers are re-using creative elements from their most viral social posts in programmatic campaigns, using technology from firms like Spaceback to create IAB standard ads at scale.

Daniel Rutberg, from ​​performance marketing agency MuteSix told Digiday that social creative allows the best performing posts from leading social platforms to stand out in a “sea of sameness” in standard display.

Social creative enables us to take the most viral and persuasive posts from each leading social platform, and re-contextualize them into a performance-first programmatic environment.

The social creative created on the Spaceback platform by client management software provider HoneyBook is outperforming traditional banners by at least 50%. The firm is scaling its media spend as quickly as possible, but has not scaled its creative resources at the same pace. Toby Skinner, growth marketing leader at HoneyBook says:

Being able to leverage all of our organic and paid social assets is a life saver.

Skinner anticipates social media will take over as the primary creative tactic for direct response campaigns. Traditional display campaigns will be used when the focus is brand building.

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