Ad Network & Exchange Guide

Everybody Into the Pool

As We Plunge Into Ad Networks and Exchanges, Let's Remember It's Creative, Not Algoritms, Drives the Business

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It was impossible to ignore the talk of ad networks and exchanges at the recent Interactive Advertising Bureau annual meeting. Some execs preached efficiencies, some talked pricing and yet others (publishers) sighed with the realization that if they are to keep pace, many of them will be throwing their inventory into an exchange pool. There's a worry that as we enter a space where algorithms, not people, seem to drive business, we will turn into a bunch of engine optimizers.

Interestingly, there was little discussion of the effect all this will have on the business of making creative elements -- the media isn't the message on its own, after all.

But there's something about all this targeting and buying efficiency that gives me, a creative, hope: We can learn in real time how desired customers respond to certain ideas and executions.

Consider: Creative agencies can now engage targets and place messages into the marketplace on a limited scale during the early stages of development. By optimizing and measuring multiple creative executions via these microcampaigns, agencies can test their concepts with real, in-market targets. And instead of making decisions on the bases of intuition, simulation and proximal data, the choice can be made on an objective, impartial and desirable standard -- true effectiveness.

The implication means the deployment of digital creative should be at the forefront of the entire campaign's message development process. By deploying digital creative early, learnings from in-market performance can be gathered and the message tuned to optimal performance. After the digital deployment and testing are done and the messages are finalized, the campaign can extend to the other less-optimization-friendly-but-undeniably-effective media.

All this means that we have a lot of work ahead -- we must rethink the economics of our business, the way we approach the development process, our staffing and talent development strategies, infrastructure and value propositions.

Now is the time to begin the dialogue of progress. Don't think of the future as a world powered by ad networks. Think of it as a world of digital-driven, market-validated creative ideas.

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Mark Risis is managing director and executive producer at Brand New World