IX Perspectives

IX in Cannes: Automating Good Ideas

Landscape photo of Cannes

As you walk down Le Croisette during Cannes Lions, it’s hard to not get completely wooed and intoxicated by the glamour and realised creativity of the advertising industry. From meticulously branded experiences to areas devoted to providing Cannes-goers with just what they need (water, a workout, sunglasses, you name it!), in Cannes, the brilliant ability of advertisers to create shines.

But it’s not just the advertisers that make their presence known. The creativity of publishers and platforms make this festival inspiring, too. In Cannes, it becomes clear that creativity, or making a dream or idea real, is what holds this entire ecosystem together. And with automation, advertisers and publishers have more time to make dreams real.

This is why Index Exchange thought it was critical to bring together an advertiser and a publisher to figure out what’s happening, creatively, in programmatic and how we can use programmatic pipes to serve ad experiences that will affect audiences. The ability to buy high-impact creative programmatically is very real, but we’re all still waiting for more programmatic campaigns that make your jaw drop. Why haven’t there been enough?

Yesterday on the Daily Mail yacht, Jim Lesser, President and CEO of BBDO San Francisco, Rich Caccappolo, COO of Daily Mail, and Andrew Casale, President and CEO of Index Exchange, explored how to get advertisers to use programmatic more creatively and how to make the programmatic marketplace a bazaar of impressive ad experiences, not just those low-funnel pants that follow you around the web. The consensus was clear: the desire to use programmatic pipes for memorable, impactful ads that tell stories burns, we just need to get more people thinking through how to do it. According to Lesser, entrenched agency media buying processes is partly to blame.

For years, marketers and agencies have viewed programmatic as an opportunity for scale and reach – to find a user that carries signals that suggest they’re in-market or a worthy audience member. They wanted to close the loop, get a sale, and were able to find them programmatically. So, programmatic creative has been a bit marginalised and extremely limited by its historical use – the experience was just an image and some text. Programmatic teams at agencies are typically hands-on keyboard that executes the lower funnel ads that trickle their way. Lesser wants agencies to de-marginalised programmatic and gives it an early seat at the table. He argued that agencies need to rethink the creative brief, for starters, and structure creative briefs that emphasise specific data signals that can be gleaned from a programmatic transaction. Top-down agency understanding of programmatic needs work too – Lesser and his colleague, Executive Creative Director, Matt Miller, are Google interns this summer, studying programmatic. Perhaps more agency leaders should take this sort of approach.

When Lesser explains why he’s trying to learn about programmatic, he says he wants to “figure out how to go from creepy and annoying to relevant and useful.” Instead of annoying pants following you around the internet far longer than necessary, he wants to build ads that make the user stop and think excitedly to herself, “those come in red?!”

The panel also talked about the future. What is creativity in a world where media buying is fully automated? Do we let the machine just do the creating? The short answer from all was no. Because, according to Casale, then we’re just all irrelevant. And people want stories that are created by people.

As more and more marketers move more dollars into automated marketplaces, technology and access get somewhat commoditised. This is happening and what remains is the ability of a brand to create a really cool or beautiful idea or effectively seize a moment. Casale is waiting for that first marketer with savvy and a big budget to “buy the web” and make a cultural impact.

The takeaways are simple. Creativity in programmatic is burgeoning and we’re going to see more and more programmatically bought ad experiences that build brands and tell stories. Education and relationships are critical. Agencies need to understand the possibilities of programmatic and make sure the marketers they represent are very clear on what it can do for them. Advertisers need to work closely with publishers to figure out what types of inventory can be bought programmatically and more publishers should experiment with selling the good stuff programmatically. Seriously. Try it.

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