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Yesterday was Econsultancy's inaugural Creative Programmatic conference.

I was there, listening intently, and am delighted to bring you 31 of the most thought-provoking opinions expressed on the day.

Comments come from Topman, O2, TUI, The Telegraph, and a variety of tech companies and agencies.

To learn more about this topic, book yourself onto our Programmatic Training Course.

Personalisation / targeting

1. Nic Roope, Poke London

It’s the usual tension between art and the machine. Take a film and personalise it. Are all personalised results more resonant than the original unedited film?

Do people like a film more because there’s a BMW in it instead of a Mercedes. The answer is, of course, no. [Programmatic in this context] is eroding the feeling of the art.

(Nic was partly referring to Romeo Reboot, an infamous/innovative dynamic creative video, that hasn't yet released any campaign results.)

2. Charles Vallance, VCCP

With nearly all the strongest brands, we know what we're buying, so we shouldn't over-personalise or over-target as this will detract from how we consume brands.

3. Tom Lancaster, Topman

Our website is just as important [as programmatic ad creative]. The ad that’s personalised has to be matched by a site that offers the same proposition.

There's no point tailoring ads to high-end twenty somethings or the mid-thirty market, then the site showing the same things to both.

4. Jim Hodgkins, Visual DNA

Segmentation doesn't have to be explicit. It can be implicit - we know something about the user and therefore we can change creative appropriately.

5. Charles Vallance, VCCP

I think there's an opportunity to let the customer join in the mechanics. e.g. let them plug Spotify into the Topman site and see what look they are recommended.

It could be used as a trigger to open up a sale.

6. Bob Wootton, ISBA

My bete noire is poorly applied retargeting. For a while it’s funny [being retargeted after purchase], then it pisses you off. It’s conspicuous.

We can heal ourselves quickly from these endemic misdemeanours. Consumers understand enough to know the internet is good at targeting, so they think 'why am I getting more' [of these ads]?

7. Adrian Gans, VCCP

Brands still have a purpose and they need to convey that with creative that isn't necessarily personalised.

8. Adrian also gave an explanation of the three generations of data-driven advertising, represented in the table below.

data-driven advertising

9. Jim Freeman, Telegraph Media Group

Programmatic can work – but only if you respect the user, the medium and the environment. And humanise the tech.

Ad blocking

10. Bob Wootton, ISBA

We've always had tools to block ads (go make a cup of tea, have a conversation with your wife) but not systematic ones that block the good stuff as well as the crap.

Ads will always piss some people off, but we need to get the proportion right.

11. Sammy Austin, TUI

Ad blocking is a wakeup call for advertisers to improve creative.

It’s not just the responsibility of the advertisers, it’s publishers as well, they shouldn’t use annoying ads, takeovers etc.

We need higher standards. The IAB has released its first round of principles. File size, secure calls, due diligence e.g. excluding people who have converted, having a frequency cap, [this all needs to be understood].

12. Bob Wootton, ISBA 

It's very risky to force people to turn off ad blockers, but it seems to be working. So that shows that if we can change our behaviours, quickly, we can still save the day.

13. Jim Freeman, Telegraph Media Group

The Telegraph has been trialling [asking ad blocking users to add the site to their whitelists] for six weeks and lots of customers are doing it.

The Telegraph doesn’t have a high level of ad blocking compared to UK average and other news brands, but users are turning off blockers when asked.

14. Sammy Austin, TUI

Cross device, how do we effectively frequency cap? We need a better solution in place do it. Google and Facebook have the advantage.

15. Tim Geenen, Bannerconnect

Frequency capping is an old fashioned method. What about how long the ad has been in view for this consumer or how they have interacted with it?

[Understanding these metrics] would allow better storytelling.

Creativity

16 Adrian Gans, VCCP

One problem is the confusion of jargon and complexity. Creatives want to be talking about the work not just the tech.

We have to embrace a certain amount of complexity but talk about 'what' rather than 'how'.

17. Nic Roope, Poke London

Programmatic has inherited a role of optimisation (chopping up of messaging), rather than storytelling. We should be thinking about how programmatic can help with branding.

18. Tom Lancaster, Topman

Programmatic is easier if you’re product led. e.g. Apple could run ads with five colours of iPhones and infer which is the favourite.

Around services there are still other things to worry about, i.e. gaining the trust of the customer, which is harder to do in a few flavours of creative.

19. Charles Vallance, VCCP

Agencies like to unite with a single idea, not create 78 versions of something, so they're not keen on programmatic.

It's machine driven, it disintermediates humanity, it needs to be interpreted by a human brain. So, it's more of an efficiency driver.

20. Nic Roope, Poke London

The culture of creative advertising doesn’t lend itself to becoming more complex.

21. Sammy Austin, TUI

Repurposing TV content for video ads doesn’t work. Why don’t we follow up with direct response or sales-focused messaging?

22. Tim Geenen, Bannerconnect

Why do we have 30-second pre-rolls before 30-second videos?

23. Adrian Gans, VCCP

We won't be talking about the death of TV today. Programmatic is not ready to take it on yet.

dead tv

24. Tal Chalozin, Innovid

Bottom line is next time you think about how to get consumer attention, you must make it personalised, engaging and simple.

Then we can reward attention with an awesome story, and that’s what we're here to do. 

Case studies

25. Nick Adams, O2

The O2 precision process uses onsite behaviour, customer records, campaign history (engagement), interests and passions.

Overlay those four data sets and you can do some interesting targeting that powers the creative.

26. Tom Lancaster, Topman

We create interest personas as opposed to using social demographics. Key trends for the season are showcased on a different model for each persona.

It’s quite straightforward, you just create five times the work. But each has to be hero creative standard.

A lot of the ad build was done out of house, because of the number of ad formats. For each format we had twenty creatives - a mind boggling production task.

Our competition haven’t been doing advertising as long as us (Boohoo etc) but usually have a more niche audience, so they know/can assume more about what their customer wants.

Topman has to do this for a broad audience, showing them a range of products.

27. Nick Adams, O2

Customer scenarios for using programmatic including re-signs for pay monthly contracts, cross sellling, telling customers they are reaching their data limit, but also brand love and engagement.

In all these scenarios, programmatic helps improve conversion rates lower down the funnel.

27. Nic Roope, Poke London

There are few creative programmatic case studies. That's a case in point. Programmatic is not presented in a language that creative agencies can riff off.

28. Nick Adams, O2

Using a product recommendation engine in programmatic creative doubled the clickthrough rate of the Priority benefits campaign.

Ad fraud

29. Duncan Trigg, comScore

There are discrepancies between vendor assessments of ad visiblity...We need to change how we buy and aim for 100% view rates.

Advertisers need to know their vendor capabilities and fully understand their inventory to create a level playing field. 

30. Sammy Austin, TUI

Programmatic isn’t about buying as cheap as possible. I am willing to pay more for more viewable impressions and better practices.

31. Duncan Trigg, comScore

What is harm? It's not just ad fraud from bots or placement on pornography sites, it could be inappropriate placement on quality news sites, too.

Pre-bid filters should take into account page context and key words.

Ben Davis

Published 3 March, 2016 by Ben Davis @ Econsultancy

Ben Davis is a senior writer at Econsultancy. He lives in Manchester. You can contact him at ben.davis@econsultancy.com, follow at @herrhuld or connect via LinkedIn.

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