There's been a major shift in the digital ad world over the past few years toward programmatic buying and efficient media spend. As we've gotten smarter about targeting and more dialed in to efficiency, some of the more compelling and beautiful creative has fallen by the wayside. We've become almost obsessive about efficiency -- when we draw up our budgets, programmatic is the first line item and the adjectives we're concerned with are "efficient," "effective" and "affordable." We work in a creative industry; whatever happened to "beautiful?" If you haven't asked yourself this question lately, trust me -- your consumers have. And largely, we have been found wanting.
We have created the monster that is ad blocking, and intrusive, non-relevant ads continue to feed the beast. It's time for us to focus on innovation that puts consumers first, and a natural starting point is in the actual form factors of what we are creating. As the cover of any magazine reminds us, we are visual creatures and imagery is critical to inspiring a desire to purchase a product or complete an action. Without something interesting to look at, all the targeting in the world is useless -- we need to give our advertising clients the ability to test bespoke units and formats. It is no surprise to anyone in the business (or outside of it) that consumers respond to beautiful imagery that transports them to a different place or offers a particularly relevant convenience or luxury.
The industry now has more and more access to such beautiful and interactive units via programmatic, but many new formats (particularly mobile formats) require tailoring for bespoke platforms in order to properly function. Smart clients understand that innovative formats need ample runway to test prior to being rolled onto programmatic platforms. Formats on mobile like parallel video, 360 video, AR and VR ads can be beautiful and non-intrusive, and it's our job to encourage clients to budget a certain percentage to test, learn, and improve these formats. User interface and consumer feedback testing is critical to digital creative innovation, and the clear first step in designing consumer-centric campaigns and cultures in general.
This is not to say we know what works in every situation -- I don't think anyone knows, yet. But now is the inflection point, and we must take the time and spend the money to test and learn. The industry and its capabilities are changing at a rapid pace. We cannot and should not chase every shiny new innovation, but with a savvy, testing-based approach, we can quickly identify which of these innovations work for you and your audience. It is a fine line to walk; overindulgence in a passing fad can be just as destructive as missing the bus completely. Only testing will reveal the correct balance. And testing on mobile, in particular, gives you the greatest runway for formats, data-informed creative, and device attributes.
Mobile is personal, ubiquitous and demands that we adapt to it -- not the other way around. Fortunately, we have access to an incredible amount of data on what the user is doing with his or her device at any given time that we can and should be using to create ad units that are more beautiful, more relevant, and more native than on any other screen. We know if consumers are viewing in portrait or landscape, if they're on wifi or 4g, if their headphones are plugged in. We know if they're texting or emailing in English or Spanish, and we have the capability to utilize gestures like swipe, tap and rotate. In mobile more than any other screen, we can and should serve ads that feel like content and reflect the native functionality of the device.
We have been given access to a whole new world of creative with mobile and video, and we have the opportunity to do some serious beautification and create authentic experiences through ads. But we won't know what works, or how it works, until we try. The consumer is the center of all our work, and we need to continuously invest in improving their experience. With testing, data, and a recommitment to beauty in creative, we can build better experiences and begin to re-establish the trust between brands, advertisers, and consumers.