Today, advertisers have an incredible wealth of information and technology at their fingertips. We can reach both vast and precise audiences and engineer data-driven, AI-powered strategies that optimise media investments towards specific outcomes. However, despite advancements that are transforming the digital ad industry, the creative content of the ad itself is still, by far, the most important factor in determining the success or failure of campaigns.
As cutting-edge tools and creative acumen converge, ad creatives can now be influenced and enhanced by strategic intelligence and dynamic optimisation in ways that have never been possible before. This marks a profound evolution in the continuum of digital advertising; a new era where data is essential to – and inextricable from – the creative process.
But how exactly do brands and marketers leverage data to enhance the creative process?
Data-driven creative: What it is and how it happens
Data generated from sales, transactions, web or app analytics, searches, social listening, usage attitude data, context, testing, and more are used to help marketers build a better understanding of their target audience. However, these data are often applied retroactively or indirectly while relying on creative intuition to decide the creative approach to any given campaign.
Increasingly, those audience insights can be used to analyse the impact of creative content during the campaign. It can be applied to major things like the conceptual approach and a/b testing to compare performance data of two distinct ideas. On a more granular level, it can also be used to understand the impact of things like copy, font size, colour, imagery, and the placement of those components within the advertisement.
Marketers can use machine learning (ML) to detect patterns, gather insights, and link individual creative elements with the audiences that best respond to them. Thanks to the power of ML, marketers can also increasingly integrate dynamic and potent contextual and environmental factors like location, weather, mood, or real-time events into their creatives.
Once the insights on what works best (when and for whom) have been generated, marketers can create variations on the creative for every applicable audience. Marketers often generate hundreds of variations, but thankfully, these days, that process can be automated.
On a programmatic platform, advertisers can use artificial intelligence (AI) to put their insights to work, assembling personalised creative assets in real time and delivering them to relevant audiences. This also allows marketers to run modified and optimized variations of their ads across different channels including search results, social media platforms, video, gaming, e-commerce, or digital out-of-home (OOH).
Signals received on creative performance can be used to continuously optimise campaigns through AI models by deriving deeper creative insights from audience responses. This not only creates more effective and efficient campaigns, but it also helps personalize the messages delivered to the audience.
What data-driven creative looks like in action: Ford case study
To improve returns on digital campaigns, and move prospects down the sales funnel, Ford activated engaging display ad formats by utilizing geo-fencing and real-time location signals. With insights on users' proximity to the nearest dealer store, Ford's Click-to-Call campaign was able to narrow the scope to immediate and viable candidates. This assisted in optimising the use of strategic call-to-action (CTA) buttons in their creatives. Ad formats were set to show the "Call" button to users during store hours while the "Book Now" button leading to the Test Drive Form was activated outside of business hours.
By integrating geo-specific signals with ad formats, the campaign received over 3,300 calls in 4 days, achieving a record of 27% more calls than projected. With as many as five million users reached during the campaign and more than 130,000 clicks – a 0.41% click-through-rate (CTR – Ford's hyper-local campaign helped bridge the consumer's journey from "having a purchase intent" to "taking action," leading to improved business results.
Creating a promising future
It is important to note that intuition and creativity remain absolutely essential to the process. Data and programmatic creative do not replace them but can help expand the possibilities and amplify the success of the creative process. With data more deeply integrated into the development process, brands and marketers can conceive ideas with stronger foundations and deliver them to more receptive audiences.
The combination of real-time data, refined targeting, and highly relevant content not only leads to greater efficiency and stronger campaign performance, but makes ads more precise and personal, creating a better experience or consumers and making ads more valuable for all of us.
The author is national head of product and marketing science, Xaxis India