April 15, 2024

Programmatic & Creative: Deliver Engaging Content in 6 Steps


At its core, advertising is about telling a story to the consumer in order to engage them with the brand. Creative and messaging has gone hand in hand for decades. However, with the rise of digital and the “device-led age”, challenges have become apparent when designing ads across channels and devices, diminishing the role of the creative process often in favour of focusing on the efficiencies of programmatic ad buying.

Khalil Ibrahimi, MD at Admedo raised a valid point on this in an article discussing 5 ways to break through the Google and Facebook hegemony, noting on the separation between creative and programmatic:

“Creatives see programmatic as purely a technology, a means to deliver an ad. By incorporating programmatic they believe they hamper the emotional and artistic element. This is clearly a misunderstanding of the role creative needs to play in the next stage of programmatic expansion”

So how can creative and programmatic work together and how can brands ensure they deliver ads that people enjoy, rather than annoy them?


People form a first impression in a mere 50 milliseconds through visual cues. We process visuals 60,000 times faster than text according to research from 3M[1]. Therefore, it’s no wonder that 84 percent of communications will be visual by 2018.[2]

These statistics highlight the  power of good creative, and how pivotal it is for brands to get their creative right in their marketing campaigns.


To create a truly impactful brand experience, you need to understand your audience. Relevancy is key because your creative will only be effective if it is relevant to your audience. This is where the significance of programmatic comes into play, delivering ads at the right time, in the right place and with the right messaging. However, this is also where the disconnect lies, when the creative process is outsourced to a creative agency that is potentially far removed from your audience data segments.

As a brand, you must take more ownership of the creative process. You know your audiences best, so don’t be afraid to be actively involved in the process of creative for your ads, from start to finish, whether you are using a creative agency and managing programmatic in-house - or have outsourced to a tech vendor. Working across teams to inform decisions and connecting the two agencies together with your own digital and brand marketing team will help close narrow any bridges.

Too often we hear about the creative team dictating client needs to the client. Take and trust the professional creative advice and lead, but guide with your own knowledge of your audience and data sets. Ensuring all parties understand the fundamentals of programmatic is essential. Programmatic technology should not simply be dismissed as a way of delivering an ad. It allows you to harness your 1st and 3rd party data, deliver it in a targeted way, optimise in real-time, with the ability to inform your creative from the insights it outputs.


This is referring to the “right place” and “right time” part of programmatic delivery. For instance, think about different approaches for video, display banners as well as native advertising, ensuring you’re not recycling the same idea for each, but coming up with custom solutions according to each need.


Display ad creatives range from the good, to the bad and the truly ugly. Obviously you want to be on the ‘good’ side of the spectrum, pushing to deliver original ads rather than the tried and tested ‘good enough’ ones. However, serving subpar ad sets to the right audience can be just as detrimental to your brand as serving visually pleasing ads to an irrelevant audience.

Test and optimise - use A/B testing if you have the option to test different creatives. Take an ad that’s considered ‘safe’, something you’ve done before, and run this in parallel with a different concept. For example, brand vs price messaging, visual effects vs incorporating UGC (user-generated content). Continuously test, analyse and optimise to enhance performance and improve ad experiences for your audience.


Native, also known as sponsored content, is fast becoming the medium of choice for many advertisers when it comes to reaching audiences from a brand uplift perspective. We recently ran a Queen’s University Belfast Native campaign in support of the Display strategy. Native alone drove 6,151 clicks to site, with a total of 542 conversions in just over a month. Native provides the reader content that fits in its environment, and more importantly, information that is useful to in the right context, explaining why clicks to site are high. In this instance, the CTR was high at 0.61%.


Think about the medium of programmatic video ads. Your goal is to engage an audience immediately. If your agency wants to take your TV ad and repurpose if for display and expects results, you should question this from the outset.

A 6 second, 15 second or 30 second pre-roll ad can have major impact on the viewer as long as you grab attention immediately. Your video must show who you are, what you do visually and clearly from the start. Remember to be multiscreen – your video ad needs to fit seamlessly into its environment be it across desktop, mobile, native or smart TV.


The growing dilemma of ad-blocking provides a reminder of how the industry has failed to produce ads that people engage with and respond to in a positive way. If programmatic is better integrated into the creative process, and if creative agencies can embrace the role programmatic can serve in enhancing the delivery of emotional and impactful ads, ad-blocking could cease to impact the industry as heavily as it does.

Some food for thought - an IAB study showed that people would stop using ad-blockers if the ads served to them didn’t block content, and were more relevant to the consumer needs, with more control over whether or not they can be removed, stopped, or skipped[3]. A reminder that the consumer should be at the heart of everything we do.

Let’s be better, smarter and more relevant to our audiences and collaborate as an industry to improve our offering.

[1] http://www.themarketingbit.com/marketing-2/images-why-important-proper-usage-and-where-to-use/

[2] http://www.inc.com/larry-kim/visual-content-marketing-16-eye-popping-statistics-you-need-to-know.html

[3] http://www.iab.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/IAB-Ad-Blocking-2016-Who-Blocks-Ads-Why-and-How-to-Win-Them-Back.pdf

Want to get in touch?

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.