May 17, 2023
August 17, 2021

How digital ad creative can deliver on its ‘dynamic’ promise

Casey Saran
Co-Founder & CEO

There’s a Lumascape for Gaming, a Lumascape just for SPACs... even old school out-of-home ads get their own Lumascape!

But there’s still no Lumascape dedicated to creative tech. And for good reason: There hasn’t been enough creative tech to warrant a Lumascape.

Unfortunately, when it comes to our supposed creative tech revolution, it’s been Early Days for a long time. If we’re being honest, DCO has been MIA, despite millions in funding a significant amount of hype. Yet a new wave of creative optimization that is truly dynamic is just around the corner - if the industry is willing to learn from what brands already know: the best digital ads aren't ads at all (think Oreo’s super bowl moment).

The promise of DCO - and the shortcomings

The programmatic revolution was supposed to enable marketers to deliver the right ad to the right person at the right time. More often than not, brands are able to buy the right person at the right time - and then hit them all with the same ad. 

To be more specific, programmatic buying tools (we usually refer to them as DSPs), prove to be extremely effective at targeting specific audiences, but they don’t allow marketers to tailor their creative message to the specific user seeing the impression. Dynamic bidding algorithms still serve static creative.

When the concept of DCO first hit the scene, it was hailed as the missing piece of the ad tech stack - the key to delivering the right creative to each and every web user.

The early incarnations of this technology provided brands with the ability to run banner ads with different messages in different locales based on weather conditions, for example (Dunkin Donuts would advertise iced coffee in Miami and hot coffee in Maine). Car dealers would be able to run ads that swapped out pricing or inventory based on local availability.

While clever, this wasn’t exactly creative. And even as Facebook and Google raced to offer brands the opportunity to run thousands of versions of different ads in a given campaign, DCO never really moved forward

We were constantly talking about a more personalized, custom ad world, and we were giving people dull templates.

If you want to truly move and engage consumers, you need a lot more ammo than banner versioning. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what DCO executions have mostly amounted to. Changing button colors or subtly tweaking template layouts can certainly make a difference, but these kinds of optimizations aren’t even close to what got the industry fired up about DCO in the first place. We’re not about to break through banner blindness with a few hard-to-notice color or font tweaks.

The future - real creative content automation

Let’s take a break from our ad tech bubble and observe what has happened with social media over the past 10 years:

  • Most brands are social-first in terms of content creation
  • The social walled gardens went from single digit to over 50% of digital ad spend (partly because brands are creating such amazing content for these platforms organically - where display ads are a total after thought)
  • Emerging/D2C brands buy on social before any other environment (social is in modern brands DNA!). There is a whole world of born-on-Instagram brands out there, and Snap and TikTok are starting to see the same sort of ecosystems emerge.

We see everyday that social media platforms are able to produce distinct, engaging creative that people truly enjoy- so much so that they sometimes share it. And a brand’s social presence goes far beyond the products that they sell - it’s a content journey into the brand’s identity. Even better, influencers have mastered the art of creating authentic content that tells a story and showcases advertisers messages authentically. 

What’s this got to do with DCO? Well, let’s think this through.

If DCO as originally conceived didn’t live up to its billing - it wasn’t that the concept was wrong. Right message, right person, right time, etc. is a great idea! It’s just that brands didn’t have the volume of creative assets available to allow the technology to live up to its promise. Delivering the right message requires having the right message ready to deliver. Brands are great at this in social environments (just look at their Instagram feeds!), but require a new type of automation platform to translate these experiences into ads for the open web. 

Enter Social Display (in case you are new here, Social Display ads are authentic recreations of social media posts configured to deliver in traditional banner placements).

By combining DCO with social display ads, brands are finally able to bring the most powerful aspect of social media buying to the open web. Most brands have literally hundreds of social posts for every one display ad. Social display brings a new layer of automation enabling all of these high quality social experiences to be authentically recreated in programmatic environments. This means your DCO platform can finally deliver on its promise of delivering the right message to the right user at the right time.

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