Staff Writer
Mar 27, 2017

The truth behind data—the “creativity-killer”

Advertising is evolving into a science, and creativity could be collateral damage.

The truth behind data—the “creativity-killer”

With the automation of almost every industry looming, it’s hard not to imagine advertising becoming a trade that lies less in the hands of advertisers and more in algorithms. More and more, ads that are served to consumers are scrutinised pieces of architecture catering to gender, age, locale, web history and what you put on your pizza. It appears that ideas no longer live in the heads of the creative minds responsible for them—they’re analyzed and reanalyzed and siphoned through a labyrinth of programmatic processes until arriving at a final product.

Carina Yip, General Manager of Digital Sales at Next Mobile—one of the largest ad solutions providers in Hong Kong—details these challenges, “Clients' requirements are getting more and more complex; they want to know who their readers are, what they're interested in. This is a challenge for the industry.”

So what’s the end game here? Are we hurtling towards a future where computers map out what we want before we want it? Will advertising agencies worldwide shun our huddled masses of artists in favor of KPI-centric tech?

That’s a bit hyperbolic, but there is a general sense of unease right-brainers feel when they utter the words “programmatic marketing.” This unease needs to be addressed, because there’s an injustice when ad tech is labeled creativity-killer.

Do demographics right

Machines understand demographics better than you do.

KK Tsang, CEO of The Bees Holdings regards his company’s need for ad tech as irreplaceable, “Cross-platform, cross-media, cross-screen measurement tools will give us the actual total audience ratings we need to move forward as a company. This is truly important."

It might be tough to swallow, but it’s true. However, creatives will always have the emotional upper hand. 

The industry has been chasing target demographics for years. But programmatic isn’t the enemy beating down the gates; it’s the enabler of creativity. Now that we have the ability to better deduce who consumers are and what they’re passionate about, advertisers have the opportunity to truly excite their demographic. All that creative energy that’s been wasted on logistics can now be put in its rightful place. We’ve secured our audience’s attention—now, what will you say to them?

A new vein for creative contribution

Despite all the strides ad tech has taken in understanding and speaking to consumers, there are still some very human questions at hand.

Carina Yip goes on, “We're looking for a way to put confidence into data sets, to prove our effectiveness but we simply don't have a formula which can make TV and digital comparable. It's like apples and oranges. We need a service that can directly measure both platforms so clients can see which is performing at a higher level.”

Being unable to compare channels equally gives rise to creative solutions in execution and distribution. Advertising isn’t only technical, and it also isn’t only about innovation, it’s about being innovative with your technology. Tech isn’t just a medium. As a creative person we have to own the tech, we have to understand its implications and it’s inherent benefits, and then use it to our advantage. 

Digital Ad Ratings (DAR) is a good example of this technical innovation at work. Through Nielsen, the pioneer and innovative engine behind the concept of ad ratings, advertisers have the opportunity to expand their craft. DAR helps advertisers that want a cross-platform view of their demographics, and want to apply that data to their own creative solutions.

Ad effect evaluation has indeed become a headache for programmatic buyers, particularly with regards to multi-platform advertisements. Media companies and programatic buyers alike believe that their biggest challenge now is evaluating return on investment, especially the ROI of digital media. DAR alleviates these pains and makes way for useful, meaningful and profitable results.

“What sets mobile Internet marketing apart is the accurate recognition of the user's identity and interests. This can help brands deeply interact with users online, enhancing the effectiveness of marketing campaigns and advertising ROI,” said Angel Young, managing director of Nielsen Hong Kong and Macau. “Nielsen now seeks to establish metrics in Hong Kong that can help enterprises make the move to mobile.”

Young went on to disclose that, in the age of precision marketing—where the use of data management platforms and programmatic trading reign king—marketers are demanding much more than traditional demographics, and are increasingly segmenting consumers based on their nuanced online behaviour.

This is a development we as creatives can’t shrug off. We’ve learned to take the tech and use it as a tool towards our creative solutions—think how seamlessly you oscillate your sketch pencil to an Apple pen. It’s time to embrace ad tech in that same spirit.

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