Bridging the Creative and Media Divide

In the digital advertising business, media’s relationship with technology has been an evolving, decades-long affair. Always rocky, never settled, but very productive for all the offspring (e.g., ad tech vendors) it has produced. With the rise of digital advertising, media buying utilizing sophisticated algorithms has nearly been perfected, but creative execution remains an afterthought. This has led over 25% of online users to install ad blockers and driven privacy regulation from those who don’t want to be stalked by prior shopping carts as they travel from site to site.

Ironically, with all the tech investment going into media, the most important driver of success, the creative asset, has been relegated to the sidelines. As the industry deals with the challenges in media optimization in the face of privacy-related issues like cookie depreciation, creativity is rising in the minds of CMOs—not just from a quality standpoint but also from a performance-driving perspective with relevance at scale. Unlike media, however, there has been little done to measure and monitor performance of discrete creative elements.

A key to rebalancing and rewarding creative contribution lies in technology solutions that bring the creative and media teams back together. An effective media-creative partnership will be best achieved by combined teams that reflect each other's skills, rather than misunderstanding each other. If everyone decamps to their analytical or artistic realm, the joint effort winds up being superficial, at best.

How Did We Get Here?

In the 20th century, media channels were narrow and more easily defined by three major networks, a few dozen cable networks, and well-defined print, radio and other publishers. Cable and digital media properties exploded in the 1990s and 2000s. Twenty years into the Internet era, Facebook and Google appeared and vacuumed up roughly 60% of all digital ad revenue according to estimates from eMarketer, accounting for 80-90% of revenue growth.

And it’s not stopping there. Social platforms like Snap, TikTok and Twitter are growing their share and retailers from Amazon to Target to CVS are launching their own advertising networks as shoppers use their sites more than their aisles to shop. Streaming CTV and music are also taking on digital ads at scale. And gaming networks have just begun to monetize the ad revenue at their fingertips.

Unlike previous eras when you would send one spot to NBC, CBS, and ABC, you can’t create ads for display networks and YouTube expecting to have your story seen by your target audience. Instead, you need to expect that the number, type and variety of formats will explode, making it harder to get ads to the right person in the right place at the right time. Media has created mixed offerings, each with its own way of engaging audiences and appealing to their interest.

This means that both left and right-brained marketers need technology to adapt their stories to these different channels, maintaining a solid base storyline while adapting formats to multiple forms of media. An opportunity for in-house agencies is to manage the complexity of partners that need marketers to tell the same story in very different ways. Snapple on TikTok needs to be similar, but not the same, as Snapple on Snap.

How can advertisers ensure that their right-brain creatives are not disconnecting while left-brain media teams grapple with complexity and the need to scale?

Technology to the Rescue

Technology can lead to better creative outcomes despite this explosion of channels. Next-generation creative management platforms (CMPs) can contribute in three critical ways:

Supporting collaboration workflows so ideas, assets, and edits can happen within a single system that unites creative, media, brand and legal teams together.

Facilitating a bottom-up data approach to understand the consumer and create big and small ideas that appeal to the audience being addressed. When creative and media teams look at the same datasets, the consumer wins.

Delivering AI that improves the production and placement effort allows people to infuse their learning into adaptive execution and get creative and media activity to happen more fluidly.

Bringing creative and media teams back together will help correct what is lacking today in digital advertising—memorable, creative campaigns. Advertisers and the consumers they cater to will benefit as a result.

Delivering Creative Effectiveness

In the end, manually managing all of these campaigns with spreadsheets and email is just too hard. The use of technology to streamline marketing workflows—whether by AI, collaboration tools or advanced templates—frees people to focus on the stuff they’re great at.

It’s good for both sides:

Technology lets creatives be more creative. When creative energy is tied up in production, the creative team is pressured to come up with the big ideas faster. With technology in place for variant development, the creative team winds up with more time and energy to create digital-first ideas and test them in real-time.

Technology enables the media team to turn things around faster. Every day a campaign is late costs real money in terms of lost revenue (imagine getting a campaign launched early because the creative was trafficked and ready in advance). Being agile and timely drives direct benefits to the top and bottom line, increasing the return on the media investment.

Technology that rebalances and realigns creative and media while facilitating relevance at scale pays off. A great example of data-driven creative development is Samsung, who was able to double their return on ad spending (ROAS) by creating and optimizing over 400 variants of their Galaxy Note 20 ads.

Let’s embrace technology to deliver relevant digital advertising that makes our consumers leave those ad blockers in the dust!

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