Creative and Context – a Match Made in Heaven for Advertisers

By Thomas Ives, Director and Co-Founder at RAAS Lab

Ever since tightening privacy regulations prompted the phase-out of third-party cookies and other personal identity signals, digital advertisers have been eagerly exploring alternative ways to target and measure the success of their campaigns.

This development has, without a doubt, been a good thing for the industry. Indeed, cookie-based marketing (and remarketing) had nurtured lazy, low-return ad campaigns, with consumers being served repetitive and poor quality ads. This was, at best, occasionally relevant to users. At worst, deeply frustrating. Indeed, the rise in the use of ad blockers over the past decade is testament to the latter.

With the imminent deprecation of third-party cookies, the ‘cookieless’ era of digital marketing has thankfully shifted conversation back to the role of both creativity and content at the heart of  successful advertising. However, to date, commentary around a return to contextual advertising has largely concentrated on optimisation at the lower end of the sales funnel, i.e. customer acquisition and loyalty.

As we enter H2 2023, with sustained inflation and squeezed consumer spending continuing to dominate media planners, forward thinking brand marketers need to be spending more time and budget on investigating the top of the funnel. Indeed, spreading branding awareness now will put marketers in prime position for the recovery. But the current lack of relevance and creative optimisation at the top of the marketing funnel is hamstringing performance; instead leaving lacklustre ad campaigns adrift in an ocean of content. It’s time to get back to what made advertising great: creativity.

Creativity + context + AI

Advertisers need to be prioritising high-quality ads and privacy-compliant ‘personalisation’ delivered in relevant contexts. Privacy and personalisation, however, is not the easiest combination in today’s digital ecosystem.

Brands should experiment with available technologies, like AI, which can not only help to design striking ads, but also determine which creative iteration will best resonate with specific consumer audiences and in which digital environments. Indeed, AI is capable of analysing millions of web pages to automatically identify the semantics, brands, products, and intent associated with each page. AI can also deliver real-time data (such as product lists, sports scores, weather, generative brand messaging, etc.), directly within the advertising creative, offering the opportunity to propel a campaign execution.

This detailed contextual analysis, and supercharged creativity, helps to match targeting and creative in real-time at an impression level. These content-matching display ads become a seamless extension of the user’s browsing experience, generating higher levels of attention and engagement as a result.

As one of the most important metrics available to advertisers right now, the link between engagement and creative is well-established, making the creation of eye-catching design crucial to campaign success. By bringing a level of automation to the creative process, brands can circumvent arduous and resource-intensive work to deliver maximum ROI for their campaigns, targeting audiences across the full funnel. Whether your goal is to raise awareness and consideration of your brand or to target those already engaged and motivated to convert, being able to serve consumers with the creative that is most appealing to them, without compromising consumer privacy, is a huge step forward for the industry.

A new, creative-led world

As advertisers adjust to new realities; with new technologies going head-to-head with economic obstacles, the most effective tactics for ensuring the success of ad campaigns will now come down to two key factors. Relevance of context paired with strong creative that compliments the browsing experience (rather than interrupting it).

Indeed, the true value of leveraging these technologies is that they let professional marketers get back to what made the industry great in the first place. Creativity has always been our strongest weapon, but was pushed to the periphery during the era of ‘cookie-based’ programmatic targeting. The time is now right for creative to take control again, with advertisers securing real engagement with their target audience.