New tools may be the mind-expanding drug that resurfaces the creative marketer in us.
Few of us in marketing and advertising could say that we chose this direction because of the planning and management aspects of the work. We wanted to make TV commercials, or creative ads.
More recent additions to the marketing workforce may have pictured themselves spending their days communing with prospects on social networks.
It's the slogans, the positioning, and the creative messaging that we imagine more than the planning, research, and project management.
I was drawn into the marketing game through a different avenue. I was interested in the software that formed the bionic extensions of our marketing strategy. I saw the Internet as a way to quantitatively isolate and identify groups of prospects, targeting them with laser-sighted messages enticing them to buy at my whim.
I wanted to build the Predator drone of marketing.
While tools are still one of my keen interests, I've come to realize that it is the marriage of tools and creative communication that makes marketing work.
Creative directors may see the tools simply as one of the many details supporting a great messaging platform. However, this view is as limiting as my focus on marketing software.
Software and Data Squish the Creative Marketing Brain
For a variety of reasons, online advertising requires that we entwine the creative and executional aspects of our campaigns. No longer can the creative team hand the ads off letting a media buyer place them before a public impatient to hear the message. The Web offers too much data. Web ads must morph to meet the relevance requirements of smaller and smaller segments, in real time with measurement and analysis. Our content must be prolific to rise above the din of clicks and screen taps.
Ads cannot be created without an intimate knowledge of the ways they are delivered. The left and right hemispheres of our marketing mind are being jammed together, as if our metaphorical head were in a vice.
It's the data and software that got us here and it's these tools that will save us.
Figure 1 offers a look at the typical online marketing organization, whether it be one person or an entire team. The part of the job that involves getting creative and experimenting has been compressed to make room for the planning, management, and analysis of our online outreach. The data and tools have consumed the oxygen in the department.
Figure 1: Creative and experimentation are compressed by our technology.
Creativity and experimentation take a back seat to the machinations of aggregating audiences and driving relevance to smaller and smaller slivers of our audience. The machines gave us this crippling capability, and they can save us as well.
By automating more of the planning and management functions, our tools should give our creative side more room on our daily calendar. If we can resist the tendency of meetings to fill any unused space in our schedule, we can experience something closer to Figure 2.
Figure 2: Automation lets the creative side of your marketing effort expand.
Tools to the Rescue
As an example of these new tools, AdReady has announced its new "end-to-end display platform." AdReady has been sharing the collective learnings of its clients to help marketers choose the strategies, inventory, and dynamic creative that are likely to make an online display campaign successful. With version three, it seeks to automate much of the effort.
AdReady CEO Karl Siebrecht highlighted three major components for me, each having clearly been named by system geeks.
The first component is "algorithmic media planning." Plug in the outlines of your audience segments, identify the strategies you want to use, give the system a budget, then turn the crank. AdReady will pick a media model from its data warehouse, choosing the media and bid levels for you.
Advertisers can then engage the "automated multi-campaign creation" component. Spend all the time you want coming up with creative messaging, because this module will dice up your creative and reassemble it for each audience you are targeting. Do you want customized messages for your 60-city campaign? Let AdReady create and deliver 60 versions of your ad to the right audiences in each of seven sizes.
Analysis and its shadow, paralysis are tamed by the final component, "intelligent bidding." AdReady will adjust bid levels based on the performance of your ads, politely shooting any ads that aren't delivering good value for the cost. This can be a manual process or you can let AdReady run with it.
Let your imagination fly. Get experimental. New tools may be the mind-expanding drug that resurfaces the creative marketer in us; that side of us that has been suppressed by fractured audiences and mountains of behavioral data.
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With 15 years of online marketing experience, Brian has designed the digital strategy and marketing infrastructure for a number of businesses, including his own technology consulting company, Conversion Sciences. He built his company to transform the Internet from a giant digital-brochure stand to a place where people find the answers they seek. His clients use online strategies to engage their visitors and grow their businesses. Brian has created a series of Web strategy workshops and authors the Conversion Scientist blog. Brian works from Austin, Texas, a place where life and the Internet are hopelessly intertwined.
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