Considering that U.S. programmatic display ad spending reached $15.43 billion last year, 2015 might be known to generations to come as the year of the programmatic buyer.
But media-side teams must now prepare for 2016: the year of the creative planner.
The explosive growth of programmatic, with its enhanced audience targeting capabilities and unprecedented scalability, has created an immediate and pressing need for a new breed of creative professional: one solely responsible for ensuring that the right creative is reaching the right audience segments.
Markedly absent from the conversation around innovation in ad tech has been the necessity for a certain type of human driving the machine.
The “creative planner” title itself isn’t entirely new, although one could argue that historically, calling yourself a creative planner simply meant you were getting creative with your job title. Typically, this person still had the responsibilities of the creative strategist or art director; they managed accounts, worked with creatives, etc.
But this new generation of creative planner is the direct counterpart to the media planner. Once the best marketing mix is identified, the creative planner takes the media planner’s targeted audiences and ensures that the creative matches that targeting.
It’s a position that is fast becoming a necessity as we’re increasingly inundated with audience data and the sometimes daunting task of understanding the demographics of audience members, behaviors, and purchasing preferences.
Prior to the creative planner role, there was no single, designated person responsible for developing a nuanced understanding of how one audience might interact with a brand or product versus another.
The creative planner of 2016 is tasked with understanding the differences between audience segments, the relationship each one has with the brand, and how that will be reflected in ad creative. The creative planner will be also responsible for taking ownership of the proper use of the technology.
As much as ad tech has made our lives easier, it has also made it easier to do things that aren’t necessarily in the best long-term interests of the consumer, the industry, or even advertisers themselves. This tendency to push technology to its limits can be blamed for much of the current dissatisfaction with programmatic.
But the creative planner will take ownership of the outcomes ad tech is creating, effectively solving the decreased loyalty and bad user experience inherent to programmatic when oversight from a user perspective is lacking. As programmatic has picked up speed and become more widely adopted, this role has never been more needed to keep balances in check.
Another responsibility of the modern-day creative planner is to orchestrate and facilitate more effective testing practices. There’s a test-and-learn mindset in visual advertising, and yet even where the capability to test is there, it doesn’t happen as often as it probably should.
As programmatic demands more ad variation and personalization, the creative planner will be responsible for gleaning useful audience insights from more frequent and precise testing. They’ll also create more personal (and therefore compelling) experiences for audiences. Across the Web, ad-serving algorithms are attempting to personalize content for searchers, social media users, and website visitors by prioritizing ads and trying to match the content to user intent, behaviors, and demographics, and whether they realize it or not, audiences have grown accustomed to (and even demand) personalized content.
The creative planner, by nature a hybrid technical, analytical creative--with the talent toolkit of a UX professional but for paid media versus unpaid--will be able to look at the big media mix, run experiments to drive better performance, and review data from a statistical point of view, as well as understand what resonates with audiences on a personal level. Project managers who may already be serving as a sort of intermediary between the different sides, for example, may find the transition to the creative planner role easier than those with a single-side view.
While the era of automation creates great opportunities to reach the right people at the right time on the right devices, we need the creative planner to close the loop by ensuring that those audience members are exposed to the right messaging.
It’s the much-needed humanization of programmatic, the full potential of which will only be realized when the power of both machines and the creative humans driving them are working effectively together.