Marketers debate how transparent digital marketing practices raise risk of short-term thinking

Marketing leaders from Nude by Nature, Trafalgar Tours, Vision Critical and The Hallway debate the programmatic's impact on creativity, risk-taking and the marketing budget

Marketers wholly subscribing to a metrics-based, programmatic digital marketing approach could be risking brand growth through short-term thinking and optimisation overkill, The Hallway’s Jules Hall claims.

Speaking at ADMA’s Digital Town Hall event in Sydney yesterday, the agency’s founder and CEO said marketers need to straddle the line between optimisation and creative thinking as programmatic and digital become dominant ways of engaging with consumers.

“If you keep harvesting and don’t build brand positioning in people’s minds, you run out of people to harvest,” he told attendees. “We’ve seen clients do that and we’ve had to dig them out of that situation.”

Within creative agencies, Hall said there’s also a view that programmatic is killing creativity. However, he argued programmatic opens up enormous opportunities for creativity – just of a different kind.

“In this ecosystem and world we’re operating within, we need system thinking: You need lots different executions that can be as tailored to the individual and consumer at different points in their journey as possible, but those executions still need to be tied to a singular, core idea,” he said.

“You need an idea that can tolerate lots of executions so you’re not seeing schizophrenic, isolated messages from a brand. Every message needs to build on that brand experience and story you’re trying to establish in the hearts and minds of consumers.

“What programmatic offers is a way to deliver on that and create more interesting, dynamic communications.”

To do this, the creative process needs a major overhaul. “It requires macro thinkers, but also micro thinking, and being able to think down to details, nuances and form factor. And you need to move very quickly,” Hall said.

As an example, he noted a campaign The Hallway undertook for Google, which encompassed 1100 executions in market over a nine-month period. “To do that, we had daily standups and approval processes,” he said. “You are thinking and operating with a very different rhythm.”

Australian natural cosmetics brand, Nude by Nature, started investing in in-house programmatic capabilities in order to more dynamically target creative. Its head of digital, Gavin Merriman, said the decision was prompted by a desire to do cross-channel personalisation and improve retargeting efforts.

“If we wanted to send a replenishment email to someone, we know they’ve bought product, and we’ll send it two months later after they purchased as they’re ready to buy another. But email is limited, and we wanted to push out to that same segment on Facebook, display and other areas,” he explained. “You can’t do that with traditional programmatic services, as they don’t take feeds from DMPs and you can’t adapt creative to show a single product or message.

“That drove us to look at an alternative way to do it and take back some control in-house for creative and messaging in display, as well as the website and through email.”

Trafalgar Tours head of marketing, Narelle Riley, said its parent company, Travel Corporation, is also bringing digital media capability in-house globally after US testing showed more effective media results. But she admitted to some concern marketers could “kill the magic” with too much rationality around creative.

“What can bring that back is bringing things back to the consumer and the values and what they’re looking for. They’re not just online either, it’s multi-channel,” she said. “The challenge for us as we become more fragmented in this media world is how to track across channel and see a brand, not just in one way, but in a number of different ways, then learn from that.

“It’s like the old days – we need to deliver the right message at the right time – it’s just it’s got more complicated to analyse it.”

Up next: How marketers are tackling the need for flexibility in marketing budgets

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