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The Importance of Data in Creative


Google have been blogging heavily recently around data driven creative, and how advertisers should be making big changes to make way for creative design and function that can be adapted and moulded by data insights. Reading these blogs has been exciting and intriguing for us as setting up campaigns using data driven creative is something we have been working really hard on pioneering in recent months.

This blog is going to introduce the concept of data driven creative, what it means for set up in your Programmatic campaigns and why we (and Google) think it is incredibly important.


Spend in Programmatic advertising has been consistently growing year on year since it began, and is estimated to hit a global spend of $21.6 billion by the end of 2016. Over half of all digital advertising spend is now in Programmatic and with such large amounts of advertiser media spend being pushed into it, campaign optimisation and streamlining has never been more important. As advertisers and clients alike become more knowledgeable about Programmatic and its benefits such as granular audience and content targeting, they care more about where their money is being spent, and ensuring is it being pushed into the best areas is now key to media spend satisfaction.

Why is this important?

We optimise campaigns daily to utilise our clients’ budgets in the best way we can which, in turn, drives great performance and provides inspiring insight for our contacts. It is all very well working hard on streamlining our campaigns and targeting, but we also need to ensure we are pushing the creatives that visually lead our campaigns in the same fashion. To ensure our creatives are evolving as fast as our campaigns we need to focus on two areas:

  • Testing to optimise
  • Testing to inform

We feel there are two ways to look at testing creative (sometimes they cross over in practice, but for simplicity for now let’s stick with them being separate!). The first is testing to optimise. This entails setting up a test with the hope that the data and results will lead to a result that can be implemented into a creative. This change will ultimately drive performance.

A good example of this would be an A/B call to action test on a particular creative. After deciding which CTAs you want to trial, you can then set up the test, wait for the data and analyse the results. Then be able to implement the results of the test - for example implementing a ‘Shop Now’ CTA onto Product Remarketing creatives because it outperformed a ‘View Here’ CTA. A simple test like this could potentially have a great positive impact on the performance of that particular creative. If you are running multiple creative variations however you will need to run this test again to determine which CTA works best across each variation to make sure you are optimising and implementing the right CTA. Creative optimisation at a granular level is a great way of slowly evolving banners to improve performance in the relatively short term.

Looking into the bigger impact, longer term side of things, we can set up creative testing to inform and shape both Digital and potentially Above-The-Line activity. Testing to inform is a great way to add extra value to the money that advertisers spend on Programmatic campaigns – not only are they getting ROI and campaign insights, we can also provide invaluable creative insight. One great example of this for one of our beauty clients is setting up a test across their top performing audiences where they want to test the following:

  • Do creatives containing our top selling products perform best?
  • Do creatives containing our newest product perform best?
  • Do creatives containing models/lifestyle imagery perform best?

Eventually we also want to test whether more or less ad copy in banners is the better performer.

Setting up this kind of test obviously requires a lot more work as the client has to have multiple creatives built and account managers will have more to run on the campaign side, however the results will be incredibly useful! Programmatic is the best medium to run tests such as these, and once the results are in, they will be able to see which type of ad works best for their audiences. For example, if they find lifestyle imagery performs significantly better than the other creative types they may wish to take this insight and apply it across other channels such as social, GDN or even Above-The-Line activity such as newspaper or magazine advertising.

Ways to set up creative testing

Dynamic creative

Dynamic creative is a great resource in the creative testing world. It allows huge flexibility in creative design - assets such as ad copy, CTA and images are easily swapped into a creative template using a dynamic feed. This means you can show different audiences different creatives and set up testing in real time. Dynamic creative works well for both granular creative optimisation and gaining creative insight as long as you are setting up your creative template with an end goal and purpose in mind.

A/B testing

A solid way of setting up a clear test is to split the cookies you are targeting and show one half an A variation and one half a B variation. You can then analyse which creative variation performs better. Unlike creative rotation, A/B testing ensures you a setting up a completely clean test.

Audience segmentation in DCM

The platform we use to set up A/B testing is DoubleClick Campaign Manager, Google’s ad serving platform. Within the platform you can set up Audience Segmentation which in turn will generate a clean A/B(/C/D/E) test! Once you have analysed which creative has performed best you can then decide to drop certain variations, or up-weight strong performing variations to reduce ad fatigue and decide if variation is generating the good performance.

Measuring what matters

Ensuring you have a clear idea of what metrics you will need to use to gauge creative success is key. For example, if you are testing brand awareness creatives you should be looking at clicks as this is directly linked to user engagement and therefore brand awareness. However, if you are testing direct response focused ads, it may be more relevant to measure post click or post view conversions. Linking the focus and key KPIs of the campaign to the metrics you are using to gauge creative success is essential to understanding the overall creative picture.

With measurement comes the need for data, and in turn it is important to ensure you have enough data to draw definitive conclusions. This is so important in fact that our team of data specialists have created tools to tell us exactly how long we need run a creative test dependant on creative variations, campaign history and budgets. This ensures that you gain a statistically significant result in all your testing and double ensures that all the effort you put into setting up creative testing pays off.

It’s not just banner ads!

Banner ads are probably the first type you think of when it comes to creative testing, but the same concept can be applied to all formats, including:

  • Social ads
  • Video (including In Stream and In Read)
  • Expandables and other Rich Media types

Testing to both optimise and provide insight should be used across all formats.

Campaign evolution with creative

Just like we would expect a campaign to evolve and change over time with data driven insight, we too should push for the same to happen with creative. Whilst creative concepts may change, as campaign managers we should ensure there is always some sort of ‘business as usual’ or base creative that we can guarantee will evolve with data over time.

To find out more about the methods of testing described in this blog, click on the below links:

Dynamic Creatives & Audience Targeting: A Match Made in Heaven

Get Flexible with Dynamic Creatives. Part 1

Get Flexible with Dynamic Creatives. Part 2

Audience Segmentation vs. Ad Rotation

Or, get in contact with one of our Creative or Data specialists.

To read this blog written by Nicole Priestley on the Periscopix website, please click here.

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