Brands Need Programmatic Creative to Keep Up with Ad Tech

With the rapid adoption of programmatic technology there has been much more efficient ways to buy and sell online advertising. About 85 percent of advertisers and 72 percent of publishers participate in programmatic, a number that is expected to continue to grow even more rapidly in the next two years, according to the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB).

But an unexpected problem has arisen because of this growth. The creative portion of the advertising process is having trouble keeping up. Many advertisers are struggling to take advantage of programmatic technologies because they don’t have required creative messages in nonstandard sizes and formats.

The reality is we need programmatic creative automation to fully leverage programmatic ad exchanges.

Mind the Gap

The “content gap” between programmatic inventories and available creative is the subject of a new white paper by CPXi on “The Critical Need for Programmatic Creative” (download link).  According to Jeff Hirsch, president of global digital media holding company CPXi, “The next challenge for brands is to be able to iterate high-quality creative on-the-fly that can keep up with the fast paced world of real time bidding.”

The CPXi white paper outlines the potential benefits the digital advertising ecosystem can reap by adopting an automated approach to the creative process or “Programmatic Creative.” It's empowered by platforms such as AdReady, which can iterate successive variations of creative with little additional effort by advertisers who understand how to leverage the technology.

An interesting case study was unveiled at an event I attended last week at AppNexus headquarters in New York City. Representatives from CPXi and Emory University explained how programmatic creative improved campaign performance of Emory's Goizueta Business School MBA program. It boosted click-through-rates (CTR) on banner ads by 48 percent over previous banner campaigns. In addition, the cost per 1,000 views of the ad fell 24 percent, as a result of better targeting.

Better Together

Programmatic creative combined with programmatic advertising fully leverages all available inventories and non-traditional ad units. Emory ran a series of executive MBA ads in various sizes and formats using CPXi's AdReady programmatic creative solution to dynamically generate additional creative on demand, with little effort, running within the AppNexus application environment. 

One of the key findings of the programmatic white paper — and the main way Emory University kept down the cost of their MBA campaigns while increasing their effectiveness — is that the more ad sizes a campaign uses, the better the performance.

Campaigns using the top three display sizes have a CPM less than half that of campaigns using only the 300 x 250 size unit, and campaigns with seven display sizes have a CPM 60 percent lower (all while CTR increased).  Emory quickly created ads in nonstandard sizes that occupied remnant inventory that weren’t in demand, yet were highly effective at reaching the target audience, university representatives reported.

They said using CPXi’s AdReady kept the costs of custom ad creation down while allowing the business school to rapidly iterate its message, beating out its main competitors such as Harvard and New York University. In addition, Emory was able to create a variety of assets with tailored messaging, adjust and test graphic elements to identify ideal creative and deliver them to each target audience seamlessly and in real time, across a host of non-traditional ad unit sizes and sites.

Angela Bostick, associate dean of Marketing and Communication at Goizueta Business School, said:

CPXi's platform enables us to tailor our widespread digital display campaign to a variety of target audiences for a fraction of the cost of manually creating each asset. Not only did we cut costs, but the newly developed ad units actually outperformed our existing ads. We have been thrilled with the results so far and will be delighted to continue working with CPXi for other university marketing efforts."

Programmatic creative enables advertisers to strengthen their position in the market with regard to the new four C's: cost, competition, coverage and capability.  Using AdReady and AppNexus, Emory was able to compete effectively in today’s programmatic media landscape.

The Education Perspective

I found the use of programmatic advertising within a top tier executive MBA environment at Emory interesting from the education perspective, too.  As an educator, I know most colleges and universities are behind the time both in technology and budget to advertise their programs to perspective students.

Bostick noted that programmatic provided multiple benefits to the university, which normally favors more traditional (and expensive) marketing channels.  She and her team were able to quickly turn around custom ads and run them with almost no turn around, at much lower cost than going through their ad agency.  

Programmatic creative is clearly the way to go for universities — if you can get you’re your “behind the times” educational establishment to buy in. Emory was able to sell its MBA program via programmatic creative — or what Bostick described as a “$90,000 widget” — to increase applicant leads.

The one thing programmatic creative doesn’t address is whether those applicants will succeed in their ultimate career goals.

Title image by Asa Aarons / all rights reserved.