Finding Creativity In The Age Of Programmatic

  • Despite the naysayers, programmatic doesn’t have to crush creativity. Columnist Melody Gambino believes data and art can work hand-in-hand.


    Creative people in advertising are in the middle of an identity crisis of sorts as programmatic media technology sweeps the industry. While reactionaries are calling programmatic the “death of creativity,” on the contrary, it offers great, new opportunities to move beyond the status quo.

    In fact, the recent industrywide drive toward data-driven marketing has set the stage for a creative renaissance, one rooted in and informed by a deeper, more precise foundation of consumer profiling facilitated by technology.

    This consumer profiling is based on behavioral and demographic knowledge, which layers in precise signals that determine when they are researching or thinking about specific content. We now have the ability to apply data to discern the actual moment that people are planning vacations so we can serve them relevant and compelling messages about beach clothing, or to know when they are researching cars to serve them auto ads.

    To begin with, the entire digital advertising community needs to dismiss these fear-mongering myths that programmatic technology will in effect stifle creative people.

    If anything, the current evolution from an emphasis on direct response-based performance marketing and advertising to the emerging focus on branding campaigns by definition will offer creatives even more dynamic colors and broader palettes on which they can apply their craft.

    The key, in my estimation, is not to overwhelm creative people with the stuffy data and terminology we love to throw around in meetings. Brands and their agencies need to make a more disciplined and organized commitment to training creative folks on programmatic technology and not keep it ghettoized within media teams.

    Striking The Right Balance

    If marketers can strike the right balance of data and technology as resources and catalysts for inspired creative, then the industry will be poised for greater success.

    While the ability to sculpt target audiences in such a multi-layered and specific manner is great in this age of “personalized marketing,” we still need to fiercely defend the importance of instinct and intuition of creative folks. Those intangible impulses that all artists possess must still be revered and not marginalized if brands want inspiring storytelling and engagement.

    It upsets me when I come across an all-too-prevalent mindset among the new wave of digital marketing technorati that glibly demeans the legacy of old-school Madison Avenue storytellers.

    Regardless of what some “bro-geeks” who run ad tech companies might maintain, sacred advertising tomes like “Ogilvy on Advertising” still do matter and are as relevant in this new data-driven marketing age as they were in the ’60s and ’70s.

    That’s because the underpinning psychological and emotional principles that drive all compelling, resonant brand communications haven’t changed; it’s just the execution that has been adjusted and refined.

    So how do brand marketers go about creating their own potent blend of data and art in service of the consumer?

    Merging Data And Art

    One can start by fostering a closer alignment organizationally between creative people and data scientists. This alignment has two key elements — one being cultural and philosophical while the other has to do with technical infrastructure.

    First of all, short of merging creative and data teams, agencies should step up efforts to create more consistent cross-communication and cross-pollination between these two disciplines.

    As for upgrading a brand marketer’s technical wherewithal that empowers creatives, dynamic creative technology has been around for a while but highly underleveraged.

    When the consumer feedback loop is so sophisticated and immediate, the ability to adjust copy and images on digital ads in real time is absolutely vital to marketer success. This capability is a must-have and not a nice-to-have, which is how most brands have treated it.

    A multitude of companies measure consumer interaction with digital advertising like time spent and mouse-scrolling behavior, which are cropping up to help e-commerce companies and publishers optimize their sites. This data from the supply side informs the demand side and further strengthens the consumer feedback loop, which reinforces the need for dynamic creative optimization.

    More Platforms, More Options

    The other important trend that is reshaping digital marketing is the proliferation of media platforms that, while fragmenting audiences, offers creative people more avenues to ply their talents. Apple recently launched its much-hyped Watch product, which is the first major entry in the nontraditional media grouping known as the Internet of Things.

    Marketing is increasingly omnichannel in ways that we couldn’t have imagined even five years ago.

    As players like Facebook and Google refine the tracking and attribution of the consumer journey across all media channels, this always-on consumer feedback loop becomes increasingly effective and the opportunity for creatives to generate impact in a more holistic way will grow.

    Even now, creatives can achieve satisfaction in having someone see their TV commercials and then moments later have optimized versions of the same ads come across consumers’ phones or tablets.

    It’s clear that programmatic can actually be the key to unlocking Pandora’s Box for a new creative explosion. Hopefully, legacy mindsets and fear of the unknown won’t hinder creative progress in the programmatic age.

    Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.

    About The Author

    Melody Gambino is the Director of Marketing at Grapeshot, helping the Advanced Keyword Technology provider raise the bar in their US marketing efforts. She has worked for some of the largest and smallest companies in the US, and helped develop and execute cohesive digital marketing programs. Melody currently sits on leadership teams for the NY chapter of Women in Wireless and 212 Interactive Media. She is a Johnson & Wales University alumna and currently resides in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn.

    (Some images used under license from


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