One of the most critical issues in behavioral targeting's development is often the least discussed: creative. Specifically, in a world of audience-centric advertising, what does great creative look like?
We've been down this road before. Ten years ago, we talked too much about the technology, neglecting to point out it would only work if effective creative were part of it. Perhaps this is one of the reasons it took so long for traditional advertisers and agencies to truly embrace online.
Once we started do more than just put "stuff that moves" into banners, with generic calls to actions such as "click here," we found success and acceptance with advertisers. Site publishers made agencies their partners. Industry leaders such as Wenda Harris Millard at Yahoo, Scot McLernon at MarketWatch, and Joanne Bradford at MSN, made the promotion of great online ad creative a priority. It paid off. Industry trade groups, led by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and the Online Publishers Association (OPA), made showcasing great creative a key mission. It paid off. Industry conferences built awards programs around great creative.
Quite unlike the manner in which ad creative in offline media is traditionally celebrated, a new theme is front-and-center in the examples cited above: the advertisers' quantifiable results.
As online advertising shifts to a future based not only on the page but also on the person, we must be proactive about understanding how online ad creative will need to evolve. Since online is the only measured media that truly can deliver fully addressable, fully measurable advertising, this is a key differentiator between online and offline media. Online is positioned to provide advertisers with the ability to deliver truly relevant creative and achieve true brand engagement. The medium is unique not only in its addressability and engagement but in also its measurability.
Consequently, we must promote development and celebration of great creative in behavioral targeting. We have an emerging platform that enables media agencies to truly target their buys to very specific audiences, though we have lots of work to do to make it simpler and more scalable. Most of that value will be unrealized if we don't understand the new creative paradigm audience-centric advertising offers. It will also be lost if we don't use hard numbers to communicate its effectiveness.
Just as we watched in wonderment as sites like MarketWatch pushed the creative envelope for page-centric creative, turning its site into a watermarked Budweiser happy hour on Friday afternoons and driving Porsches through contiguous ad units across the page, we must do the same with audience-centric audience. Like MarketWatch, we must also demonstrate measurable lift in specific brand metrics with studies from firms such as Dynamic Logic.
Where should we look for inspiration? Here are a couple of ideas for some low-hanging fruit:
Finally, celebrate great creative. Nothing inspires great creative like great creative. Call attention to great work and give it the credit it deserves. When Web site owners and advertisers generate great results, they must talk about the data. Nothing will move us from a page-centric world to a people-centric world faster than great creative -- and the measurement behind its performance.
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