It’s time for brands to finally make a clear move to DCO

Adform's country manager, Phil Acton, explains all the different reasons why brands should move toward Dynamic Creative Optimisation (DCO) for their digital advertising campaigns.

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One of the biggest misunderstandings about digital advertising is the widespread perception that everyone hates the intrusive nature of it. Life in lockdown has proved this simply isn’t true. In fact, 92% of consumers worldwide feel brands should keep advertising during the pandemic – a view shared by nearly two-fifths (37%) of UK consumers.

Admittedly there are issues with digital advertising, but they aren’t driven by a dislike of all ads. Despite ongoing conversations about the need to improve advertising, consumers are still being targeted across the web with generic, irrelevant and disruptive ads.

A change of direction is overdue – it’s time to leverage content and context more efficiently through Dynamic Creative Optimisation (DCO).

What makes DCO better than normal ads?

It’s important to note that standard ads aren’t completely ineffective; they can be highly successful for some campaign objectives, but the value they generate depends on what counts as a “good result”. Are brands purely trying to reach as many eyeballs as possible, or do they want to create meaningful connections with individual consumers that inspire them to take action and become long-term, loyal customers?

If the answer is option two, then DCO is the clear choice for success. Thanks to smart personalisation, DCO has greater real-time relevance than generic display ads, which equates to stronger performance. Dynamic banners not only drive higher clicks than conventional ads but also help to minimise acquisition costs. Compared to typical banners, like-for-like production expenses are 80% lower for DCO; meaning brands can create large numbers of high-quality ads that capture audience attention, for a much smaller price.

Subtly is the fastest route to success

The benefits of DCO are increasing as technology advances with innovation now focused on automated optimisation. Brands can specify key ingredients — such as formats and creative strategy — and ad servers can carry out multi-variant testing to find the most effective formula. While this presents challenges around defining how multi-purpose formats can be automatically adjusted to hit the right frequency, align with different devices, and work around the complexities of video, the rapid development of tools and capabilities means it won’t be long before DCO reaches the next stage of development.

The best examples of DCO are when the creation process is invisible to consumers. At a practical level, this involves avoiding flashy banners and obvious use of data that can cause annoyance – and maintaining a genuine online value exchange is critical. So while consumers only receive relevant ads (that, in turn, helps to support a significant portion of the ad-funded internet), brands must commit to managing data and personalisation responsibly, to reap the benefits of long-term engagement. Standard retargeting initiatives can be replaced by hybrid campaigns that blend DCO with subtle product pushes, while larger advertising efforts can build multi-purpose communications where branding and performance come together.

Getting dynamic: where should brands start?

In normal circumstances, shifts in the weather will prompt a swift response from bricks-and-mortar shopkeepers. When a sunny day flips to an outbreak of rain, in go the sunhats and out come the umbrellas. DCO gives brands the ability to adopt this simple but powerful tactic to give their digital ads more in-the-moment resonance.

For example, a warm day in London might see temperature-sensitive digital out-of-home (DOOH) screens switch to advertising designer sunglasses, while ads in rainy Manchester continue to suit their context by promoting the use of Uber. Taking granularity further, brands with multiple retail outlets could augment dynamic creative with localised discount codes shoppers can use online, after seeing screens during daily exercise.

Obviously, the climate isn’t the only factor brands can use with DCO. Normally, travel is one of the greatest examples as it shows ad creative can be adapted to many factors; from airports near an individual’s home and frequently searched holiday destinations to the best current connections or flight prices. For now, many of those variables are off the menu, but as lockdown eases, there are growing opportunities. Staying sensitive to differences in international – and even national – rules will enable brands to keep ads aligned with what is permitted in certain locations; ensuring messages spark positive connections for different target groups, not frustration about confused lockdown guidance.

A measured journey to greater performance

The best way to implement DCO is progressing one step at a time. First, brands must pin down their own advertising parameters and evaluate DCO options by answering several questions:

  • Who are my customers, and which type of product or message will they prefer?
  • What’s the immediate context of my target audience?
  • Which data points are being used to determine audience groups and where can this insight be accessed?
  • Will effectively harnessing this data mean working in partnership with other platforms or using third-party data stores?

Then marketers can begin mastering DCO tools. One of the key advantages of today’s increasingly sophisticated and standardised DCO systems is that they make it easy for brands to work at their own pace. With assistance from artificial intelligence and adaptive analytics, they can test, learn and advance towards continuously optimised dynamic advertising, and away from ‘same as usual’ campaign thinking and shift to efficiently segmenting and targeting varied audience categories.

As demand grows for deeper personal connections and better ads, brands must finally switch to more user-friendly and dynamic ads. By embracing DCO, brands can uphold their end of the online deal and provide the relevant, contextually appropriate ads consumers want, while giving campaign performance a crucial lift.

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