Creative Personalisation of Ads – and Scale?

Grand Visual’s Chief Creative Officer, Dan Dawson, discusses the juxtaposition of data and creativity in OOH.

Data and Creativity: Driving Smarter Ads in OOH

There are one or two things I hear on an all too regular basis in our industry… and the worst of them by far “not enough time”. Over the years, I’ve pretty much discovered it’s actually a coded way of saying “I don’t understand, it sounds really complex and I’m outside of my comfort zone…. I need you to go now so I can get back to my advertising safe space”.

After the most challenging 12 months for OOH on record, we simply need to challenge that rhetoric whether they are in our agencies, production houses, or in-house teams. The time has come to be smarter, and that means smarter ads, on smarter networks with smarter creative messaging. But it is a real challenge, as we’re asking our teams to step right outside of their comfort zones or to trust a partner to help deliver and craft something magical.

WPPs Mark Read’s recently said, “We have to think about how we produce the right content for the right channels – producing work for Facebook or Instagram or Amazon requires distinct skills and understanding of those platforms.” His words struck a chord with me mainly because it’s something I’ve been blathering on about for years to anyone who’ll lend an ear – Let the craft masters do what they do best and the rewards will be beautiful. For us that specialism is creative production for the Out-of-Home media space, however, it goes the same across the entire advertising spectrum. We all know the saying about the Jack of all trades.

There is a  HUGE difference in using data-informed decisions to ensure an audience sees an ad, versus the ad being personalised in some way to the viewer. I think that’s where Mark was going with this second soundbite: “We spend a tremendous amount of time worrying about media targeting, programmatic media and optimisation but we don’t do nearly enough, I’d argue, to think about how to personalise the creative messaging that goes to consumers and that has to have equal weight.” 100% agree Mark.

In OOH terms, when we say “personalise’ we of course mean making adverts resonate with an active audience, making creative messages relevant to a group at a particular time or location. Perhaps based on their mindset, situation or current need state – We’re not talking single person personalisation it’s group audience personalisation.

On the media side of things, lots of work has gone into algorithms and systems to seek consumers behaviour and tracking them across platforms and devices, in order to inform platforms to serve ads that might be relevant based on their online habits and or published demographic profiles. But how will all of this stand up to the ‘cookieless’ future we’re being told about?

In the OOH media space, huge efforts have been undertaken by agencies on tools and platforms – such as Talon’s Ada – built to supercharge OOH media by providing priceless audience information and insight for clients. For me the promised land is aligning this intelligence with smarter creative, where each message permutation has been given the craft treatment tailored to an active audience. Live data and audience planning tools help us understand the audience, but all too often producing a creative message matrix for each of the potential live data outcomes is something that falls into the ‘not enough time’ conversation. Because… it’s doesn’t sound easy… and I’m out of my comfort zone.

Sir John Hegarty told me recently on our Behind The Billboard podcast, that he feels audiences are being “stalked, not seduced” from an advertising perspective. We’re being hunted by our cookies, and shot in the face with shouty messages. He was talking about the need for the crafting of messages here. We discussed the need to apply our craft to the new digital technologies and techniques in order to ‘personalise’ ads in the OOH space. I pushed John Hegarty on why he feels it might be that we don’t apply enough of it on Digital OOH, he went on to talk about how ‘disposable’ digital advertising can feel. We talked about digital adverts being pulled, replaced or updated mid-campaign based on their efficacy – which in turn makes them feel disposable, less permanent to creatives. Another reason for this disposability is some online platforms allowing the ‘creation’ of ‘adverts’ as part of their offering – For example, you could sign up to a social network today and have an advert for your business on their platform by tea time. I mean, it looks terrible, but each to their own.

The art of producing amazing creative [and smarter] advertising at scale is not easy. It requires the perfect marriage between creative and technology, between agencies and clients, specialists and producers, tools and their operators and between the audience and the message. When you find that perfect marriage – ‘not enough time’ is never a problem. That’s when great things happen. Just ask Google, McDonald’s, Spotify, Hiscox, Specsavers, Sainsbury’s, Skoda or Virgin Trains… in fact don’t ask them, ask their agencies.

(This article first appeared in Little Black Book)