Personalizing Advertising with Real-Time Creative

:: Ben Kartzman, CEO of Spongecell ::

Marketers have long sought the ability to deliver messages specifically tailored to individual consumers. The idea of sending the right message at the right time to the right consumer is a marketer's silver bullet-a way to achieve more efficient ad buys and loftier conversion ratios.

Over the years, the industry has taken a few baby steps toward this elusive goal. Now, thanks to real-time creative technology (RTC), we're closer than ever to achieving what had once been thought impossible. RTC is creative that is able to automatically and instantaneously customize itself to a specific consumer, using information like the consumer's gender, browsing behavior or location, to name but a few examples.

Traditionally, advertisers placed the same display ad in front of all consumers and hoped for the best. This "spray-and-pray" tactic is massively inefficient. Moreover, because designing ads and buying media takes time, advertisers needed to design creative long before the ads would actually go live, meaning that ads were always lagging behind the most current events and trends.

RTC helps solve these inefficiencies. Rather than serving the same ad to many consumers, RTC allows advertisers to customize the creative to match the individual. In a sense, it allows for bespoke advertising. Plus, recognizing that advertising developed for a particular audience segment three months ago may be irrelevant today, RTC allows advertisers to load creative elements in advance and then choose what to display on the fly, resulting in more current and responsive campaigns.

Consider two car shoppers: a man schlepping through a frigid Pennsylvania winter and a woman sunning on her porch in balmy South Florida. Does it really make sense to send the same automobile ad to each of them?

With real-time creative, the woman would receive an ad showing a red convertible suitable for driving to the beach, and the man would see an ad for a black SUV capable of navigating snowy roads. The tailor-made content would appear instantly, offering a targeted message that would increase the likelihood that the consumers will make a purchase.

RTC is part of the natural progression of online advertising. The last few years have witnessed the rapid proliferation of real-time bidding (RTB) using online exchanges in which suppliers sell ad space, in real time, to the highest bidder. With RTB exchanges, advertisers have been able to use a viewer's website browsing habits to deliver a targeted ad in a matter of milliseconds.

The power of RTB's audience targeting capabilities is readily apparent, and RTB continues to attract marketer interest and elicit higher prices. Forrester Research projects that by 2017, rates for digital advertising traded via online exchanges will reach $6.64 per 1,000 impressions, more than double the current rate of $3.17, and total display advertising spend through exchanges will rise to about $8.3 billion, from less than $2 billion today.

RTB brings the power of data to media placement; RTC does the same for creative, producing better messaging and enabling marketers to reach their intended audiences in more effective ways. RTC draws upon the same Big Data technology as RTB - cookie matching, tracking tags, IP addresses and more - to deliver images and words appropriate for a particular viewer. It is relevant content tailored instantaneously and delivered seamlessly - a marketer's dream.

RTC platforms will facilitate more efficient advertising spending, improve ROI for advertisers and media buyers, and contribute to better end-user experiences. Moreover, recent technical advances have made things easier to use for advertisers and agencies and addressed many of the privacy concerns associated with the first generation of behaviorally targeted ads that "followed" users to different sites online.

Aligning data, media and creative in an RTC platform will replace the one-size-fits-all models of the past with relevant messaging in real time. Its rewards will be evident across advertising's entire ecosystem, enabling marketers to reach targeted users with more precision and less expense.

Conceptually, RTC is premised on the principle that everything changes, from seasons and climate to consumer interests and needs. RTC takes a snapshot of those variables in real time and incorporates them into a timely and relevant consumer message. Digital marketers are taking giant leaps forward as advanced technology enables better capture, analysis and leveraging of consumer data. Using this information, RTC will put a new face on interactive advertising, one that at any given moment will look a lot like the end user's.