Fulfilling The Potential: How to Execute A Dynamic Creative Optimization Strategy

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Dynamic creative optimization, or DCO, is a hot topic for many digital advertisers. The opportunity to personalize your creative’s look and message for different segments is appealing. However, it is easy to forget that DCO is a tool, not a strategy. 

Activating the three levers of DCO

To fulfill the potential of DCO, you need a DCO strategy that pulls three levers at the same time.

First, activate creative personalization in each audience. By working in concert with your audience-first media strategy, you can combine your customer relationship data with shopping behavior and real-time environment [e.g., weather, location] to serve the most relevant creative for each impression. You can maximize the potential of this data by building a truly dynamic if/then decision tree. 

Next, begin to execute a structured test-and-learn roadmap in real time. Develop a learning agenda that starts by defining your business and learning objectives. From there, you can leverage a DCO platform to set statistical parameters and remove under-performing ads for each audience in real time. This approach ensures no impressions are wasted on losing creative and generates rapid learnings at the audience level. 

Lastly, deliver exponential assets through dynamic production. The creative team is no longer required to rebuild ads for every size, format, and instance. Instead, leverage a master template with individual elements to instantly create thousands of cross-channel assets at the click of a button.  

The required roles for successful DCO strategy

Executing a DCO strategy demands that the responsibility does not fall upon a single role. It requires full and direct collaboration between the media and creative teams working in parallel within the platform. Each team plays a critical role from planning through the analysis of the media campaign. 

The media team

Most of the process in a standard media campaign is applicable, but several adjustments, such as feed set-up, data use, audience strategy, tagging, and tracking, are “net new.” Media and audience strategy stay the same in a DCO world, so your team would stay the same as well. The key change for the media team is the simplification of trafficking; rather than trafficking individual tags for every ad variation, you would now traffic a single tag that houses all creative logic. 

The creative team

The creative team needs to shift its mindset between two worlds: the world of templates and the world of elements. As an analogy, think of the template as the house and the elements as the furniture. In real life, you would design the house first and bring the furniture in later. However, in the DCO world, you decide what pieces of furniture you want and then build your house around them. Start with a single template across multiple audiences, and then use multiple elements to distribute ad variations for each audience. 

The platform

The platform involves three main components: data and feed integration, audience set-up, and ad creation. The platform ingests the data and applies if/then rules placed around them. The feed, whether it is a product feed or a creative feed, determines what elements are dynamically driven by the data. The media team then sends the audience information via a spreadsheet, including the click and impression tracker. UTM parameters should be associated with each audience, segment, or placement. 

The ad is built within the platform by uploading specific creative assets (elements) to be used within the main template. All the ad variations produce a single HTML5 tag to be trafficked within the media campaign. Once live, the platform uses real-time optimization and creative rules to produce the most efficient and relevant ads for the user. 

Developing DCO strategy 

While your media strategy stays the same, marketers now have the ability to reach finite audiences and tactics with extremely specific and relevant creative. Ask yourself, is the audience upper funnel or lower funnel? Is it existing customers or new prospects? Which audiences require specific creative? These answers drive the creative strategy and determine where dynamic creative can deliver relevant messages. 

The other half of the strategy development is data discovery to determine what data is available for use. DCO platforms can leverage first-party CRM, third-party cookie, platform-level (e.g., location, weather) and product-level (e.g., inventory feeds) data. These data points can help to bring dynamic creative to life alongside your audience strategy. For instance, showing a previously viewed product combined with current weather can deliver a hyper-relevant ad for a lower-funnel audience. 

DCO has the potential to activate agility, efficiency, and engagement by delivering hyper-relevant personalization, rapid optimization, and real-time creative production. Like any good tool, DCO requires a strong, thoughtful strategy to ensure that you are fulfilling its potential. Building the right team to develop and execute this strategy delivers impactful performance during uncertain and fluid times.

Don Sklenka is senior director of creative strategy, and Chris Pritcher is SVP of creative strategy at Merkle.