Content is the new digital currency. We see it in the ways publishers are reshaping their products, and in the way social networks deliver value to users. BuzzFeed, the company that taught everyone about native advertising's true potential, is putting content—as opposed to links—directly in its social feeds, with impressive results. Similarly, Snapchat's recently launched Discover tool goes beyond video chats and instant messaging to provide its users with publisher "stories" from across the Web.
Marketers are also looking for new ways to leverage content, and not just through native ads and branded storytelling. Increasingly they're using new data-driven tools such as programmatic advertising. To date, advertisers have used programmatic ad buying strategies to maximize media efficiency and ROI. But that is quickly changing. In its 2015 Digital & Media Predictions report, research agency Millward Brown forecasts a new kind of programmatic marketing in which brand stories and data enjoy equal weight.
The rise of programmatic creative
Programmatic creative is based on the concept that ad messaging should be built around audience data, incorporating signals specific to a user's environment. This allows brands to tell stories that speak to each individual consumer. Core signals like location, weather and time of day are used to modify creative messaging and visual elements in real-time. A single ad execution becomes a creative chameleon that adjusts its appearance as needed.
This kind of approach expands a brand's opportunities for creative expression. Companies recognize the value of branded content, but often struggle to measure their content marketing efforts. They know there's value in telling a story, but marketers are often driven by demands of achieving campaign goals at scale. Data-driven dynamic ads afford the ability to tell an engaging brand story that's both highly personalized and precision-targeted. It's a strategy that monetizes on the powerful connection between data and content, minimizes trafficking overhead and maximizes relevance.
Omnichannel ads: storytelling over time
The ability to deliver ads on multiple screens is increasingly critical to marketing success. Research firm eMarketer reports the number of mobile shoppers grew by 23 million between 2013 and 2014. Consumers continue to tap every available retail channel, looking to create the shopping experience that fits their needs. Activities like in-store mobile research and showrooming give advertisers the opportunity to capture shoppers' attention when it counts.
Some advertisers are starting to experiment with ad sequencing in this regard. First, a general brand message, designed to intrigue and convey some key brand characteristics, is delivered. The consumer then receives an ad introducing product information. This is followed by a final execution that includes a call to action. These ads can take the form of online videos, data-driven HTML5 mobile banners or even Facebook posts placed through Facebook Exchange (FBX). Just like a novel or play, these "acts" work together to create a cohesive story that's suited to the omnichannel consumer.
Forging powerful partnerships
This approach helps brands forge an emotional connection with their customers. In prioritizing targeting over other strategies, many marketers overlook the critical place of emotive messaging in building brand affinity. By delivering an emotive message to the right person at the right time, programmatic creative can fulfill even the uppermost brand advertising goals.
It's therefore critical that marketers prioritize partnerships—that is to say, creative strategists working with media buyers, and content developers working with data analysts. Millward Brown predicts that advertisers will eventually supplement programmatic campaign parameters with "richer audience psychographic and attitudinal data," including brand favorability.
All around us the media is embracing and elevating content, and marketers are doing the same. But that doesn't mean they're required to sacrifice campaign effectiveness. Crafting dynamic creative, creating true omnichannel experiences and forging powerful partnerships can help your brand tell a story that goes beyond both content marketing and automated media buying to create an entirely new methods of delivering meaningful ads.