Advertisers love the sexy “big idea” for creative branding campaigns.

And therein lies the fundamental aversion to getting down into the detail and considering the potential advantages offered by data.

Data isn’t sexy, consequently, it isn’t loved by brand advertisers. In their minds, data is the preserve of the far less noble direct marketing realm.

The idea of putting data at the core of campaigns, which the direct marketer does, is an anathema to the brand advertiser.

A neat illustration of this thinking is through personalised advertising. Brand marketers can’t deny that they’d like to connect with us all individually.

The “Share a Coke” campaign in which cans and bottles were personalised was a huge brand success.

Around 1,000 name variations were available on shelves and over 500,000 available through the online store.

So, why do brand advertisers seem reticent to deploy personalisation techniques online – a media tailor-made for such activity due to data?

Why do we so rarely see good examples of this type of campaign in the digital environment?

Falling in love with data?

The answer to the previous question is branding’s lack of love for data. However, this mind-set could be changing due to a couple of factors.

Brands love TV because it’s a wonderful platform to tell stories at scale.

In comparison, online platforms for telling good brand stories at scale using data and creative have been more constrained.

With smaller screen sizes and more limited ad ‘real estate’, brand banner advertising is more of a challenge.

However, the skills and appetite for meeting this challenge and using data efficiently are increasing.

Share a Coke Bottles

This improvement in the banner format is combining with a growth in other branding-type formats in display advertising, such as video and native advertising.

The IAB’s latest digital ad spend figures showed both video and native spend grew around 50% last year to account for nearly half of display ad spend.

These two parallel developments in display prove its increasing allure as a branding medium - FMCG advertisers, historically considered the least relevant in regards to online ads, are now the dominant spender on display, accounting for nearly £1 in every £5.

We’re seeing this increasing willingness to embrace data manifested by clients taking control of their data destiny.

A number of high profile brands are taking on long-term software contracts with data management platforms (DMPs), showing the appetite clients have to both control and exploit the data opportunity.

Programmatic plumbing

Alongside the rise in online branding formats, the other factor changing mind-sets among brand advertisers, rather surprisingly, could be programmatic.

Something originally seen as even less sexy than data.

The “plumbing”, or logistics, side of programmatic is becoming less of an obstacle to using data and creative to tell a good brand story.

The amount of heavy-lifting required is reducing in terms of time, resources and money among agencies and vendors to connect the data, the creative and the inventory.

Consequently, there’s a growing sense of enthusiasm about take-up among brands.

So, as programmatic matures, many of these growing pains are less pronounced.

As the plumbing between creative, data and buying becomes more automated, it means the industry can move more towards programmatic as a creative solution.

Programmatic as creative

In turn, programmatic creative has become more advanced and more flexible, without compromising scale and automation, to meet the specific creative requirements and nuances that advertisers have for being able to tell their brand story.

Programmatic creative is now flexible and advanced enough to insert dynamic and personalised elements into online ads to enable the idea of “mass personalisation”, which was essentially what the big idea “Share of Coke” brand campaign was shooting for.

These developments hopefully thaw the relationship between brand marketers and data, particularly as they open up exciting and innovative brand campaign ideas that can be brought to life in this brave new world.

Take, for example, Netflix’s campaign to promote the addition of all ten seasons of Friends to its library.

Conceived by Ogilvy Paris, it’s a pre-roll video campaign that responds dynamically to videos watched on YouTube by inserting a clip from Friends that relates to the video topic searched for.

Essentially, it uses data to relate Friends to almost anything you search for on YouTube.

What will be your big brand idea this year that comes alive through data?

To learn more on this topic, book yourself onto Econsultancy's Programmatic Training Course.

Glen Calvert

Published 19 May, 2016 by Glen Calvert

Glen is founder and CEO of Affectv and a contributor to Econsultancy. 

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