Marketing | 06 MIN READ

Dynamic creative optimisation (DCO): what you need to know

Dynamic creative optimisation (DCO) is next level programmatic creative. It’s the beating heart of the display ads of your dreams – if you dream about that sort of thing that is.

For some, dynamic creative optimisation offers the only way to do true personalised messaging at scale. In theory, it should be another nail in the coffin of the old way of working and the cold embrace of standardised content.

Yet, it is also a buzzword that is often dropped into conversation – perhaps without as much thought, or consideration as it deserves.

This is what you need to know.

Dynamic creative optimisation (DCO): what is it?

According to EasyJet CMO Lis Blair : “the future of marketing is being able to balance creativity and data”. DCO at its best is just this: creativity and data combined for maximum impact.

Personalised advertising that converts

Dynamic creative optimisation is all about using data sources to enhance your banner ads, injecting them with live analytics, real-time testing, and creative optimisation. The end product: hyper-relevant dynamic display ads.

For example, a DCO produced banner will not only show info based on precise viewer geolocation, but may also select the best offers and the most suitable imagery for a specific viewer.  It’s all about using data to personalise advertising.

DCO uses smart feeds: the ad knows who the viewer is and responds by selecting the best creative combination. This responsive feed – rather than a normal feed – does not change the creative elements but rather selects the best message available for the viewer from pre-made elements.

Your ad-tech stack in harmony

Moreover, DCO combines inputs from your creative management platform (CMP), data management platform (DMP), and demand-side platforms (DSPs) with an algorithm. Picking the best combination of creative to put in front of a viewer, based on first and third party data sources. Plus, it will optimise this combination of elements as the campaign progresses automatically.

And just like any other campaign, rules can be programmed via a DSP. For example, if click-through rate (CTR) is lower than another ad version it will stop showing a particular combination of creative.

 There are different levels of DCO:

Dynamic: pre-made dynamic ad variants, featuring specific data-fed elements, controlled and selected by an algorithm. This type of DCO offers more opportunity for engaging, rich media designs, creative optimisation, and is simple to set-up and scale using a CMP. It can be performed without the need of complex coding.

Static units: a single DCO powered ad unit that uses an algorithm to select the creative shown “on-the-fly”. It is essentially a static shell unit that is built according to the viewer. However, this approach takes much more time to prepare and requires coding – a lot of coding. It is also less flexible in terms of creative design, uses static templates, and is more difficult to optimise retroactivity. It is a heavy manual process to set-up.

So what’s the difference between DCO and a CMP?

A CMP is the production design/optimisation engine that mass-produces and controls the design versions (or indeed single banner) required for a DCO campaign. DCO, on the other hand, is the real-time technological process that serves hyper-relevant advertising.

DCO provides the dynamic content to the viewer. While, a CMP provides the right dynamic design for that content in real-time.

Furthermore, only an enterprise-level CMP will facilitate DCO done in-house. This type of CMP offers full control over production processes and transparent campaign insight.

Why the need for dynamic creative optimisation?

DCO is not a new concept. It is something that has been used across different sectors for years. However, its application in marketing, and specifically its development within display advertising is exciting.

Why? Because it taps into the growing trends of data-driven advertising and in-house marketing. Indeed, many brands now have access to commercially available artificial intelligence (AI), and can use it to better understand data and effectively engage consumers.  A critical convergence that is moving DCO strategies from fiction, to reality.

Audience perception of personalisation is changing

Consumer participation, and better understanding of advertising, indicates that viewers are now ready for greater personalisation. According to eMarketer research, the majority of all US internet users would prefer to see personalised advertising compared to non-personalised advertising.

However, (and here’s where it gets interesting) there is a marked different in US internet users’ attitude towards personalised ads according to age. With a third of all users under 50 appreciating personalised ads but unhappy with the quality they are receiving. In stark contrast, the majority of users over 50 do not want any personalised advertising at all.

What this means for marketers

If ever there was a time and a need for sophisticated DCO then now is that time. Viewers are aware of personalised advertising but are seemingly unhappy with the quality of the ads they receive. And in an era of ad blockers, getting this balance right is important.

Indeed, many marketers repeatedly push out campaigns that don’t speak to their audiences. And sometimes persistence breeds contempt, with those viewers fed-up with frequent poor ads actively blocking all advertising.

Marketers should instead keep the customer in mind and strive to remain relevant to their audience. Retargeting, for example, doesn’t have to be abrasive and static. DCO – particularly the type produced and controlled via a CMP – offers greater personalisation but with nuance and creativity. Data informing the creative process – rather than dominating it – is the ideal outcome.

Why use a creative management platform for DCO?

Using DCO means producing display advertising campaigns that change and improve, offering a better return on investment (ROI). Isn’t this what all brands what? It’s also easy to set-up if you have a CMP.

For example, if your brand already uses Google Marketing Platform, Display & Video 360, and a CMP, such as Bannerflow, then starting to undertake DCO campaigns is the next logical step. Via the use of a CMP you can set up the guidelines, enable data feeds, and the creative assets needed to make DCO happen. What’s more, if you’re already using platforms, such as Adform or Sizmek as alternative DCO serving solutions then inserting your CMP produced creatives should be just as easy.

Static templates Vs Dynamic designs

Often the constraints of DCO offered by certain DCO-specific providers, means producing generic static ads. In addition, the coding of individual assets is required; making the setting-up of a DCO campaign, a slow and laborious process – for fairly boring end products.

Not exactly what the consumer demanding better “personalisation” wants is it? It may be relevant and targeted but it’s going to make your astute viewer reach for the ad blocker.  Yet it is easy to avoid this template solution with a CMP.

Where creative management platforms excel in DCO ad production, is in control, flexibility, and optimisation of creative design. They offer the same awesome versioning and rich media capabilities of the best HTML5 display campaigns – code-free – via DCO.

Stay creative and engaging with your use of DCO

Template free, dynamic creatives produced and controlled by a CMP offer the minimum requirement for sophisticated display advertising campaigns. CMPs enable you to be more creative in your DCO approach.

For example, you could use different banner designs for different target audiences, which aren’t variations of a template. Instead, you can use entirely different types of layout, design, or interactive elements for specific audience segments. There is no limit to your creative ambition.

The future of DCO and advertising

Dynamic creative optimisation is finding its way into all sorts of fascinating applications. Already, streaming services such as Netflix and Spotify, are using the same technology to enhance and personalise internal advertisements. While, expect to see DCO enhanced voice search ads enter the mainstream.

Localised and smart out-of-home ads

And then there is of course digital out-of-home (DOOH). Hopefully, we’ll never witness the nightmarish reality of a Minority Report-esque dystopia! Yet, there is no reason why the same use of data and creative optimisation cannot be applied to internal store signage, or your average road-side digital billboard.

AI will advance, and so will your ads

Of course as artificial intelligence develops, AI will scale display production beyond human capability. Thus the capacity for DCO is set to further personalise. Potentially, with on-the-fly personalised copy and even creative video constructed on-the-fly. However, those advances are years away!

Ultimately, dynamic creative optimisation is set to offer ever more tantalising possibilities for marketers.

Next steps…

There are those in ad-tech that over complicate and then there are those that reduce complexity. Yes, DCO is complex. Yet, that shouldn’t restrict marketing teams in their use of it.

Using a creative management platform, such as Bannerflow, makes it far simpler for in-house teams to embrace DCO. Indeed, CMPs solve the pains of digital marketers.

If you would like to find out more about how Bannerflow can help your team set-up DCO, then please get in touch.

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