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Published March 2016

As 2016 marketing strategies kick into high gear, there’s one word on everyone’s mind: programmatic. Global programmatic ad spend is expected to reach $21.6B in 2016, and account for 67% of all digital display ad sales(1).

Programmatic advertising allows brands to reach their audiences with messages tailored to their interests and mindsets in the crucial moments when decisions are made. As such, it’s not just changing how we buy and sell media—it’s also transforming the way we strategize, design, and develop creative.

Transitioning to a data-driven creative process has real rewards. For marketers, it can improve the effectiveness of their campaigns. Media agencies can offer a greater breadth of services to clients, while creative and production agencies can produce higher-quality creative and build more efficiencies into their creative process.

Yet how do we actually make the transition? At DoubleClick, we saw a need to define best practices for developing and implementing creative strategies for programmatic campaigns. In partnership with the digital creative studio, Fancy Pants Group, and the management consulting company, Accenture, we tested several approaches with three brands: Gilt Groupe, L’Oreal Vichy, and Royal Bank of Canada.

Over the course of these tests, we identified a more effective creative process for programmatic campaigns. Today, we’re unveiling that process and the research behind it in a comprehensive guide for marketers.

We identified three key mental shifts that can help marketers make the transition to data-driven creative:

1. Understand all the data that’s available, then select the right data signals

Marketers may already be using data from CRM tools or market research to fuel campaigns. But a wealth of additional data signals are also available, from first-party analytics on company websites to third-party audience data to contextual inputs about device, location, or media type.

For instance, when we worked with L’Oreal on their programmatic campaign for their Vichy sunscreen products, we used location data, audience lists, and weather information as the data signals that informed the creative and gave us a solid basis for testing.

2. Work with creative agencies to develop sound creative strategies that are informed by data

Too often, the creative agency and production shop are brought into the process after the big decisions have already been made. Instead, marketers need to work with agencies to build creative strategies that are based on data from the beginning of the project.

When developing a programmatic campaign with Royal Bank of Canada, we worked with the brand to gather all teams into a single room to build the creative brief. Together, we mapped out a strategy that resulted in a cross-agency team that was invested in the process and outcome from the start.

3. Drive a collaborative, agile campaign process that involves all vendors and agencies from start to finish 

In today’s campaign creation process, each party completes their portion and hands it off to the next with little feedback. This prevents communication and transparency between media and creative. To ensure success, marketers should involve all agencies throughout the campaign process and ensure everyone is talking to one another.

When we worked with on a programmatic campaign to drive membership, we not only involved everyone from the beginning, but also continued to work together after the initial campaign ended. By doing so, the brand was able to tap the analytical capabilities of multiple stakeholders.  

For a quick glimpse of the five phases in the campaign process and the roles and responsibilities of each party across that process, check out The creative process for programmatic infographic.

1. eMarketer, 2015


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