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Is creativity limited by data?

The advent of programmatic advertising has enabled advertisers to use data to drive the performance of their online display campaigns. However a common criticism of the technology is that creativity takes a back seat to data, but I don’t believe this to be the case.

My experience of managing multiple advertiser campaigns for Infectious Media has shown me that programmatic works best when data and creativity work hand-in-hand. A great example of this is a campaign we managed for John Lewis last Christmas.

We ran a 24 hour programmatic takeover on the Radio Times, whose audience correlates closely with John Lewis customers and has been a strongly performer for the brand in the past. However this wasn’t just standard homepage takeover, we ran the world’s first data driven homepage takeover or ‘tailored takeover’.

We used a combination of standard display formats such as the masthead (970x250) with a custom made skin to cover the entire webpage; this allowed us to create a fully customised John Lewis experience for the user. Furthermore, combining this with additional audience targeting meant that users would see a different creative message based on their previous activity on the John Lewis website.

By carrying this out with multiple creative messages and using real time data, despite the fact the campaign was live for 24 hours; we were able to shift budget towards the better performing strategies in real time. Our most interesting insight came in the post-campaign analysis, where we saw some very intriguing results when comparing our tailored takeover to a traditional takeover.

For example, click through rates (CTR) for the tailored takeover were 42% higher than average and CPA performance was 6x stronger than a standard takeover.

Whilst it is important to note the overall performance based on its brand engagement and sales goals, analysing the impact of the creative was also incredibly important. Understanding the effectiveness of different ad formats and creative messages gave us greater insight into what worked well on an engagement metric, as well as a classic CPA goal.

This innovative project, which recently won the ‘Best Branding Campaign’ award at The Drum’s Digital Trading awards, highlights how vital the role of creativity still plays in programmatic advertising. Our tailored takeover allowed the creative to take centre stage, with data supporting it in the background ensuring every impression was relevant.

For myself as an optimisation expert, this allows me to get a better understanding of what makes the John Lewis audience interact and make a purchase. This data is very powerful and the beauty is that we can use these learnings to make informed decisions on what John Lewis’ creative strategy should be in the future.

To answer the question, creativity and data are often thought of as two separate variables to a proposed campaign. But by bridging the gap between the two, the end product is both more inspired and effective.

Jonathan D'Souza-Rauto, Optimisation Manager, Infectious Media


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