Let’s talk! – Programmatic Creation

Do creatives have zero desire for the new fascinating possibilities of programmatic advertising? Do media planners even understand how creation is made on and offline? Or are creation and media two such different poles that they are by nature hard to bring together?

Under the motto “Let’s Talk”, mediascale Managing Director Wolfgang Bscheid and Markus Maczey, Chief Creative Officer of the Plan.Net Group, sat down and talked openly about advantages and disadvantages, opportunities and difficulties. They talked about marketing automation, creation and the future collaboration between advertisers and agencies.

Wolfgang Bscheid

Wolfgang Bscheid

Managing Director of mediascale
Markus Maczey

Markus Maczey

Chief Creative Officer Plan.Net Group
  • Wolfgang, not too long ago you really painted creatives with a single – and unflattering – brush. They had "too little digital thinking, they refuse to accept new technologies and see contradiction as an annoyance and their creation as a set-in-stone statement." Is that still your view today?

    Wolfgang Bscheid (WB) _ Yes, I meant that quite seriously even though it doesn’t apply to all creatives, of course. But there are still too few creatives involved in the key discussions around programmatic advertising and marketing automation in our market – either at panel discussions or in important lobby organisations. Right now, the market is driven almost exclusively by technology and media experts.

    Markus Maczey (MM) _ You’re right. But it’s also fair to say that it’s not the key task of creatives to promote the standardization of advertising media or the measurement methodology of online videos on Facebook or to discuss interface problems between DSPs and SSPs. But, obviously, creatives should also naturally take advantage of the opportunities offered by technologies such as programmatic advertising.

    WB _ But in my view, that’s still something that happens all too rarely. And I have a hard time understanding why. If you can address individual target groups with programmatic and can respond to their different needs, you’d think that was surely something exciting for creatives too. Finally, they don’t have to work towards the lowest common denominator anymore – one standard design as a consensus template for the broad target group – since programmatic offers much more possibilities for creativity.

  • And so how can we explain why it so rarely works out that well?

    MM _ Unfortunately, the solution isn’t quite as simple as it might seem at first sight. The ‘problem’ in the whole discussion is still a procedural one. The briefings for media and creation very rarely match and different objectives are often formulated. Furthermore, media and creation are often separate departments and/or have different managers – both on the customer side and the agency side.

    And above all, creatives have one job. Our task is to develop an idea at the beginning of the process that will surprise the market – an idea it didn’t see coming. This is, after all, a key prerequisite for communication actions to have an impact. Frequently, the requirements for this into measurable performance then turn into the content of the media briefings.

    WB _ Ideally, of course, a campaign should be surprising. This surprise, however, must also lead to some form of acceptance. A campaign has to yield a measurable success. And so long as the creative work – and I’m exaggerating here – is only concerned with the big surprising idea, and the media only comes into play afterwards, so this big idea can achieve the previously agreed goals, this can’t work. Neither with programmatic nor without it.

    MM _ But of course, in this respect, programmatic is particularly challenging for many creatives. Obviously it’s great to be able to target users in a targeted manner. But let’s take an online advert with a great headline, for example. It takes a copywriter quite a bit longer to come up with it. If the same copywriter has to write five text variants for the banner for dynamic creation, then it’s going to take him up to five times longer, if not more. But then you’ve got to first prove that these five headlines also work more effectively when broken down to target groups. Otherwise, it’s hard to justify this to the customer.

    WB _ And this is only possible if we have the same budgets! Because we know from our ongoing campaigns that target group-specific creation can balance out media budgets, for instance. I have long argued that advertisers should provide a cross-departmental budget for media and creation. If so, the following applies: the campaign has cost X amount and achieved performance Y. Let’s take an average budget of 100,000 euros. If the campaign with different creative alternatives works only 30 percent better – and this isn’t a particularly high value – then you could save exactly that amount on the media side and thereby provide more variants of creation. If that’s not an incentive, I don’t know what is!

    MM _ Absolutely. The challenge is the following: The way a creative process runs in an agency and in the cooperation with the customer strongly depends on who’s wearing the hat in the campaign planning. Three areas are usually involved: strategy, media and creation. As long as one of these starts or dominates on its own and doesn’t develop all three departments together – which in practice is unfortunately the rule – then at least one department will be unhappy.

    WB _ Exactly. It often happens to us that the media is discussed too late in the game, leaving us with no alternatives. The only chance is to get all parties involved to sit down at a table and have them discuss things together. Creatives need to understand how a media person ticks and vice versa. In the end, it’s only in the symbiosis, in the understanding that the other contributes something very important, that you create value added.

  • But why does that still happen so rarely?

    MM _ We both do this often enough. Of course, this doesn’t always go smoothly. But the result proves that the ‘pains’ are always worth it. The truth is, it only works when both sides show respect and understanding for each other’s work and contribution. And then there’s always work to be done on clarifying this or that position.

    WB _ Probably. The media person needs to understand that a creative is emotionally attached to his motif and is fighting for it. And the creative needs to understand that in the media, creation is a commodity – even if that may sound a bit harsh. We have to deal with it more radically and with less passion, because we’re ultimately measured by the performance. And if a headline or a motif works better than the version the creative prefers heart and soul, then we go with the more powerful variant. Communication in a digital world depends on a continuous process of optimisation. We provide a set of meaningful variants, look at what works best, and from that learn why something is accepted. It’s less and less about finding the perfect solution in a single stroke of genius, as in the dream scenario of the creative. We have to approach it step-by-step in a highly dynamically changing environment. And this methodology has yet to fully reach the world of the creatives.

  • Do you share this view, Markus?

    MM _ To some extent. For creatives, programmatic is just as much a tool as is virtual reality, for example. But just one of many. And creatives tend to try out a lot of new things, as it’s in their nature to play. As a creative, I have nothing against optimisation, verifiability or KPIs. However, the goals of the media and marketing managers in companies often differ. Depending on whether something is meant to be done for the brand or for the sale.

  • Wolfgang, what does the performance expert have to say about the separation between brand and performance advertising?

    WB _ I personally find this separation into brand and performance artificial and absurd. In the best-case scenario, communication should help the brand AND make it more valuable. It’s just that I have to document this performance and make it verifiable.

    MM _ If I were CEO, then I would, of course, write a campaign brief that is super effective, which will send my brand value through the roof and ultimately win me another award. Unfortunately, this only works out on rare occasions. That is why every department, every trade, usually seeks the KPI which it can best meet.

  • So then what does a process that yields more look like?

    MM _ Step one: The advertiser needs to define exactly what he expects from his communication or campaign. In an ideal scenario, marketing, media, sales and other stakeholders are already working together and are formulating clear goals.

    WB _ At the same time, we need a set of KPIs, which we adopt together with the customer and use to assess performance. And we define the instruments we will be using to measure it. Both are already ipso facto creative processes and ideally are always a joint discussion with the customer. In the end, you’ve got an integrated working model where the strategic planning, creation and media departments – in future also incorporating the topics of data and profiling – all sit together at one table. Both on the advertiser side as well as on the agency side.

    MM _ Setting up this new process is critical. The one thing to avoid in this though is agreeing on the lowest common denominator. When that happens, advertising becomes completely uninspired.

    WB _ Agreed. But in my experience, such discussions create the greatest common multiple. Sure, media planners and creatives clearly tick differently. But when we get them to a table and they work together, they realise that it’s actually a lot more fun for both sides.

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