The Future is Here, and It’s Just in Time

By : Alex Collmer


At another time and in a different forum, our industry can debate whether it ever made sense for nearly 100% of ad tech investment and technology over the past decade to focus exclusively on the media-side levers of marketing – custom audiences, targeting optimization, frequency caps, dynamic budget allocation, and more. The assumption seems to have been that as long as you could show your message to the exact right person at the exact right moment, it didn’t really matter what you said? Or how you said it.

But anyone who has seen both a basic cable ad and something beautiful that made them cry, like Google’s great “Get Back To What You Love” ad, must have suspected that something important was missing in this equation. In fact, I’ve heard numerous platforms and global brands estimate that creative is responsible for between 60 – 90% for results. Never less. So, it always struck me as odd that so little of technology’s attention was focused on the lever that was clearly the most important. It struck me as odd, that is, until a recent conversation with Antonio Lucio (former CMO of Facebook, Visa, and HP) and Mainardo de Nardis (former Vice Chairman of Omnicom Media Group). Mainardo pointed out the error in one of the ways I was thinking (there are many, don’t worry), and said simply, “If it can’t be measured, it doesn’t exist.” And then it all clicked. It wasn’t that our industry had been focused on the wrong things. A/B tests and panel-based pre-testing –the various tools that have been available for “creative measurement”—really haven’t been up to the task of solving the million variable puzzle that is modern digital marketing.  Measurement wasn’t sophisticated enough to go beyond reporting on the outcome and get into actual learnings on how to improve. As a result, the industry focused on what it could, and because those media-side levers worked as well as they did, the system was highly forgiving.

Recent changes resulting from evolving views on digital privacy (namely, Apple’s move away from the IDFA with their ATT policy and Google’s subsequent impending move away from cookies) have taken an axe to the whole system, and made it a whole lot less forgiving. In the wake of this, the stocks of nearly all modern digital ad platforms have retreated significantly. Shopify, many of whose merchants relied on effectively targeted ads far more than effective creative, also lost tens of billions of dollars off of its market cap. Make no mistake about it, this has been a huge change that is impacting not just the incredible companies mentioned above, but all digital marketers. 

Luckily, just as marketers are grappling with the scary realization that more effective creative may be the only way to make up for the loss of effectiveness discussed above, there is a revolution going on in marketing that’s making data useful in the creative process in ways never before possible. For the first time ever, the smartest marketers are finding that they can use AI-based systems to help them learn which creative decisions are helping or hurting different business objectives, and then immediately put those insights into practice with new data-informed creative.   Over time, these insights become a new part of their first-party data stack. And with performance gains from using data in creativity more than making up for the losses in effectiveness stemming from recent privacy changes, it seems like the future is arriving just in time. 

Here are just a few examples of how some of the smartest companies are using Intelligent Creative to transform marketing:

ABI Global

ABI had a simple goal. They wanted to consistently develop digital creative that more effectively delivered against their brand goals. They knew that there was a process component to this. But they also knew something that we’ve talked a lot about in this blog – namely, that there is no such thing as digital transformation without game-changing technology.  So they turned to VidMob’s Creative Analytics to help with one of their most important US brands, Michelob Ultra.  “We were guessing on creative, and this is never a comfortable place to be when it comes to significant investments behind critical brands,” said Ricardo Marques, VP Marketing Michelob Ultra US & Global for ABI. “With creative intelligence, we’ve been able to reassess some deeply held beliefs that were holding back performance, and in doing so, we unlocked massive incremental value. Our view now is ‘why guess when you can know?” 

Johnson & Johnson

J&J envisioned an even more integrated world, where intelligent creative was embedded at the asset level inside their digital asset management (DAM) platform.  In their view, once the effectiveness of Intelligent Creative had been proven through early trials, the company wanted to streamline creative scoring across all of their assets. They did this in two ways: they contractually required their agency to leverage the insights in their creative work, and they asked VidMob to provide an integration directly into their DAM. This ensured the highest level of creative effectiveness and efficiency and ensured the creative that was being delivered mapped to best practices for each media platform and their own mandatory brand best practices. Next, they systematically analyzed by market, at a regional and local level, if brand requirements were equally effective across different markets, and put learnings into practice. Once the integration with their DAM was complete, J&J with VidMob trained over 300 people globally on how to use creative analytics to generate strategic insights on the drivers of performance. These initiatives have made J&J one of the most data-driven marketers in the industry, and have increased the performance of their digital marketing efforts universally. “Why guess when you can know,” said Ander Lopez Ochoa, EMEA Head of Digital, Media and eCommerce Marketing.  “Intelligent Creative has helped us drive creative consistency and effectiveness. VidMob has helped us up our game, by identifying regional and local drivers for creative performance, developing a deep understanding of how to optimize creative asset performance, and informing creative decisions across product, brand, benefit and emotion.”

Diageo LATAM 

For Diageo, the challenge was learning at scale.  As is the case with so many other marketers in the wake of ATT, they are communicating across more channels than ever before.  This creates a scenario that is both a common challenge for marketers today, as well as an incredible opportunity to learn far more rapidly than previously possible. Said Marco Frade, the Head of Media, Digital & CRM at Diageo, “This is an exciting solution for managing brand assets. It has the ability to monitor necessary brand elements at omnichannel scale, as well as bring insight into how ad performance is affected by brand requirements.”

Make no mistake about it, the changing landscape surrounding privacy is impacting much of the traditional ad tech stack in serious and lasting ways. Targeting, attribution, audience creation and many of the most impactful tools of the past decade have lost effectiveness. But as is often the case in life, when one door closes, another opens.  And as we see with the handful of examples above, some of the most forward-looking marketers are already moving into a future that combines AI and human creativity (both as it relates to the art aspect of ad creation and the creative exercise of data science) in ways never before possible.  The resultant Intelligent Creative is providing them with a business advantage that will only grow in the years ahead.

To learn more about how data can drive creative performance, check out our Smart Advertiser’s Guide to Data-Driven Creative.