Injecting Creativity into Technology

The Theme of this year’s MIXX conference in New York was “When Technology and Creativity Collide” and it was as much a call to action as it was a recognition of the important roles these two elements play in the advertising process. The President and CEO of the IAB in the US, Randall Rothenberg, as well as Nick Law, Global Chief Creative Officer of R/GA, pointed out that from roughly the 1950’s to the 1990’s, when media was not as fragmented, the creative process dominated the advertising world and made the difference between a successful and unsuccessful campaign, client and agency.

Since the 90’s, technology has accelerated the pace of fragmentation and given consumers greater control of the types of media they consume and the manner in which it is consumed. It’s also allowed media planning and buying companies to eclipse creative companies as the dominant force in advertising as the need to find audiences and deliver messages became more complicated and technologically driven. Think of the growth of cable television, specialty channels, Internet advertising, search, trading desks, tablet and smartphone use. And while emerging buying technologies, such as Real Time Bidding (RTB), uses data to find and deliver messages to very specific audiences with scale and efficiency, the entire exercise can fall flat without proper consideration for the creative execution.

Vikram Somaya, VP of Global Operations and Audience at Thomson Reuters, a pioneer of Data Management Platforms and RTB expressed his disappointment with the lack creative effort and thought that he sees from many online display buys purchased via a Demand Side Platform (DSP_. He pointed out the wasted opportunity to test creative, retarget sensibly and tie both the technology and data together to deliver the most clever and relevant experience to a given audience.

During his presentation, Nick Law said that advertising has graduated from entertaining storytelling to being informative, entertaining and enabling the experience. All the while, it has to sell products. He also said that we are transitioning to a new age of advertising, one that requires a unique and different set of creative skills. Coders are really creators and that technology can drive product use, development and adverting objectives. Conceptual thinking is now part of the coders job description, not just mathematical thinking.

Using Apple and Nike as examples, he demonstrated that creative technology like the Nike Fuel Band or Apple iTunes store, powered sales of other products (running shoes, iPods), they enhanced the use of these products as well as opened up new revenue streams. He also had an great take on social media. He said that no one is a friend of brand. A brand’s job isn’t to be become the consumer’s friend; it’s to give them something to share with their “friends” like experiencing new music or a new way to stay fit.

The Rise of Programmatic Buying

Throughout the conference a number of references were made about the rise of RTB, both in terms of available inventory and in spending, particularly in the United States. This growth is fuelled by increased transparency between buyers and sellers as well as the growth of private exchange agreements that provide each party with a series of conditions that make the deal advantageous to all, yet the buy itself is executed programmatically via a trading desk or DSP. There was even a break out session about using RTB for brand advertising, rather than direct marketing.

Michael Smith, President of is extremely bullish about Programmatic Buying and sees that as the future of all media buying in the not so distant future. And when concerns were raised about the future need for buyers and sellers in a software driven world, he believes that there will still be a need for buyers and sellers, however, their roles will evolve to focus more on customer service. Despite Forbes’ enthusiasm, many traditional publishers and media companies are still very cautious when entering this space, as they are concerned they will sacrifice premium placements and revenue for commoditized, lower cost, auctioned based buying. Buyers, on the other hand, suggested that the true value of the premium placements can be decided by the auction and that a home page placement, as an example, might gain even more revenue for a publisher if it were open to the highest bidder.

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Robert Jenkyn is Senior Vice President, Digital Solutions, Media Experts