Get With The Program

July 11, 2018


Programmatic creative should not be problematic  

© ar130405/Pixabay

Do creatives get in this business to be creative? Of course. Does that mean that every working hour is creative? No. Creative in advertising has never been precious. If you want precious, go write a novel or draw something pretty, but don’t expect to get paid for it regularly. In our industry, we’ve always had to listen to the people around us to some degree—our partner, ACDs, CDs, strategists, developers, accounts, our paying clients and, sometimes, even consumers! In fact, if we didn’t, we wouldn’t be doing our jobs well.


Never has that been truer than in the online world of real-time measurement and optimization. Now that we can listen and appeal to each consumer’s needs, effective programmatic creative demands multiple ads for unique consumer journey paths. The more relevant and customized the creative, the better the consumer’s response to it. Studies show that optimized, customized creative can boost an ad’s performance by 30 to 50 per cent. Naturally, marketers like this because they can market with greater certainty. And that is why programmatic spending is estimated to grow by more than 31 per cent this year.


If the real-time data is there, and the tech is in place to program customized creative that’s tailored according to device, location, what the consumer is doing, time of day, and purchase path phase, then it’s our consummate responsibility to deliver the very best multiple versions of that customized creative. And even push it further by adding to the versions, if there’s measurable value in that too.


So, for yours truly, it can become an exercise in writing reams of headlines or subject lines (sometimes both) with different targets and purchasing paths in mind. The lines are not new or creative in the traditional sense. They are, more often than not, nuanced and many. It’s less writing from a writer’s den (whatever that is), and more writing on a factory floor.


If it sounds like I’m complaining, I’m not. It is the natural and inevitable evolution of our industry. You can deny it, or you can embrace it, get efficient, and become the best darn little writing factory you can be. It’s the new reality. And there are new challenges with it, too. How many different ways can you say the same thing but kern it to different targets and purchase paths? Is that a creative exercise? Some would argue yes. Is this growing skill set needed and valued? Absolutely.


Actually, right now you can carve a pretty indispensable niche for yourself as an effective programmatic creative. Or, put another way, you can market yourself as a 360-degree writer (or art director) with experience in effective programming creative. I haven’t seen that listed as a skill ever, but it’s only a matter of time before LinkedIn adds it as an option.


Bottom line: Agencies and creatives need to adapt. Just like radio writers, actors and companies had to adjust at the dawn of TV.


I’m not saying this is where all advertising is going. It mainly applies to banner ads, emails and social. Some creatives may be able to comfortably avoid or minimize this work for now at least. And if you are doing this kind of work, it’s certainly not the only thing you do.


I’m also not saying this will be or has to be your favourite part of your job. But if you love your craft (be it words or pictures) and advertising, you might want to figure it out—or you may find yourself as useful as elevator operators, payphones and carbon paper (look it up).


We need to evolve as fast as our world does—or at least, until computers do our work for us. Author and futurist Martin Ford notes, “For now, humans are still best at creativity, but there’s a caveat there. I can’t guarantee you that in 20 years a computer won’t be the most creative entity on the planet.” So enjoy every part of your creative job while you can—even the less creative parts. I know I do.


Rene Rouleau is VP creative director at BIMM, a Toronto-based digital creative agency.