Display Ads Booming: Who is handling the creative production?

Who is doing the creative?Google predicts the display ad market is set to go through an “amazing revolution” in the coming years, estimating the market will be worth $50 billion worldwide in 2015. In addition to the growth in volumes, there is a plethora of formats with 18 different “standard” display unit sizes in the AIB guidelines. That’s before you count the multitude of options for video and rich media. In a survey of major brands, 56% have rich media, video or interactive features in their ads

At the same time, the use of simple static banners is not disappearing, contrary to all dire predictions. Just take a look at Facebook’s use of simple and small formats, which is helping to keep traditional display ads alive.

This tremendous growth in volume and variety of display ad formats begs the question: how is this creative production, and for that matter versioning and online ad maintenance, going to get done quickly and economically? And if it is being created by an internal team or an outside third-party agency, I have to ask at what cost to the advertiser?

The frequent optimization of display ads and creative refreshes are generally credited with driving user engagement (and therefore value), but mean significantly increased workloads and labor costs—that’s if you can find the talent!

 Major Players, the UK’s leading creative recruiter, reported in May 2010 that the industry is currently experiencing a skills shortage for experienced talent to fill digital production and project management jobs.

Karine Lionnet, Major Players’ head of recruitment for creative services jobs said: “The market for creative services jobs has definitely changed over the last couple of years. With the digital explosion in full swing, the demand for tech savvy talent has led to the best candidates being snapped up, leaving traditional agencies and talent struggling to make the move into the digital job space.”

This is one of many such articles written in the past couple of years on the difficulty of sourcing qualified interactive production personnel to keep up with the explosion of online advertising. Clearly, the growing high-volume, low-dollar and high-complexity nature of interactive campaigns makes it the most labor-intensive medium in the advertising industry. But few if any of the authors actually recommend a viable solution to the dilemma of delivering fresh, relevant and timely display ads in higher frequencies when advertisers are simultaneously demanding lower costs and higher ROIs on their marketing investments.

We have been witnessing this challenge first-hand with our clients at Affinity Express, who are trying to reach potential customers through highly customized and focused online marketing while saving money. In contrast to many technology companies, we do not believe automation is the complete answer, despite what Google says about Teracent for the Google Content Network or about DoubleClick Rich Media. 

Automation for sure has strategic relevance in trying to figure out the return on the marketing investment and in serving up regimented, template-based ads. However, this falls short of the mark when it comes to developing the differentiating creative messages specific to a brand and its value proposition. In and of itself, great creative that resonates with targeted individuals (one-to-one) or demographics is paramount to marketing results.

In fact, Neal Mohan, Vice President of Product Management at Google, says that “advertisers today are increasingly seeking to run campaigns that are highly measurable and relevant to users. . . . But great ad campaigns are about more than clicks or numbers. The best campaigns are so memorable and effective because they make an emotional bond with us.” That requires people and creativity. And the required volume of transactions means significant resources and cost.

I found common ground with Scott Belsky in “Shaping the Future: 7 Predictions for the Creative Community” which was published in Fast Company on January 6, 2011. 

He predicts: “The advertising agency of the future will consist of account managers, administrative staff, and a tiny leadership team that provides creative direction. The creative production itself will be distributed to individuals and small teams around the globe who are at the top of their game. The same applies to corporate marketing departments and other creative firms.”

Mr. Belsky goes on to say that resources for finding and managing top talent were extremely limited in the past. Now, the rise of online networks, as well as project management and collaboration tools are empowering creative professionals and ushering in a new era of independence.

According to Mr. Belsky, “There is remarkable talent emerging from all corners of the globe. . . . The only problem is that this talent doesn’t need to work for you anymore. In the new era of ‘distributed creative production,’ top talent will be able to work on their own terms. The companies (and clients) that welcome this future will benefit from better creative output.” He believes the latest shifts in creative industries will ultimately empower creative professionals.

I couldn’t agree more. But rather than ad-hoc project bidding or online networks which can be problematic, progressive major agencies and corporations will want designated professional teams with defined processes that can scale and consistently adhere to branding standards (versus turning over projects from time to time, which would tie up management and possibly cost more in set-up and revision efforts).

 They will also need robust systems and business continuity planning, as large companies and agencies will not want to risk missing critical launch or publication deadlines because of power or Internet outages and the like.

 The best of all worlds is to achieve:  creative production to meet the demand + cost reductions, high standards and flexibility – risk = business process outsourcing for advertising and marketing production. To me, that sounds like a great way to meet the demand.

 It’s the only solution that adds up and addresses all the current needs, including the talent and a platform for management of the provider to optimize advertising across channels. There is no approach that is more effective at empowering brands to promote their products and services globally and competitively.

About Ken Swanson
As CEO, Ken is focused on ensuring that Affinity Express balances outstanding delivery to clients with continued growth.

2 Responses to Display Ads Booming: Who is handling the creative production?

  1. Pingback: Marketing on a Budget « Affinity Express Blog

  2. Pingback: 2011 Global Services 100: We’re in Again! « Affinity Express Blog

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