Using Dynamic Creative Optimisation

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After 25 years in the marketing mix, Display and Programmatic has paved the way for channels such as Paid Search and Paid Social. So, why do you need to include the first digital advertising of its kind into your campaigns? 

Why you need to use dynamic creative optimisation in your Programmatic campaigns

Display and Programmatic activity doesn’t always have the best reputation. Having been around for over 25 years, these ads are widely accepted as the first digital advertisement, paving the way for Paid Search, Paid Social, video and audio ads to flourish. When we talk about traditional Display and Programmatic, we are referring to banner ads - those that come in a range of static sizes and appear on the side of websites, blogs and news sites.

On average, Display usually assists in 50 to 80% of total Paid sales online, so why does this advertising method have such a bad reputation? It comes down to results, with many brands believing that Display doesn’t more broadly contribute.


One of the biggest misunderstandings is the purpose of Display in marketing and the objectives it should achieve.

As it sits within the performance marketing sphere alongside Paid Search and Paid Social, there is often the assumption that Display will directly drive conversions, from a last click perspective, where people see a banner ad and immediately click through to purchase. However, Display activity isn’t often structured this way, so the expectations around the activity need to be different.

How does Display activity fit into the consumer journey?

Generally, Display activity is structured around the marketing funnel, through the key stages of awareness, consideration and conversion.

The aim is to capture people before or while they are becoming aware of a problem or solution being required, support them while they are researching a product and/or service and then encouraging a conversion. This means that each stage of this funnel needs to have the corresponding audience targeting, objective and KPI, alongside being matched to the creative – which is where dynamic creative optimisation comes in.

For awareness, the KPI should be focused on viewability, impressions and reach, while consideration should be traffic, clicks and CTR. For conversion, this is where conversion rate, revenue and CPA come in. It also means from a reporting perspective, this needs to either be held to the KPIs or the wider impact needs to be considered alongside. By looking not just at a post-click level but also post-view within the corresponding Display platform, this can show part of the journey.

The other part of the journey is in Google Analytics, where we can look at assisted conversions and the conversion journey path, to see the full picture. This information is easy to find, by going into Conversions > Assisted Conversions and then viewing the Channel Groupings over a set date range, but it can help to show the impact that Display has overall.

As consumer journeys are longer and people take more time to make a decision, it’s important to capture them at every stage of their journey. This is where creative can shine, particularly when using dynamic creative optimisation. 

How can dynamic creative optimisation help?

Dynamic creative optimisation, or DCO, is a method of programmatic advertising where the ad message being shown is selected in real-time, based on rules and requirements outlined by the advertiser.

The beauty of DCO means you can tweak the creative that shows, based on the following:

  • Location - based on town, city or country
  • Behavioural data - based on online data and shopping buying profile of the consumer
  • Contextual data - based on page content and websites visited
  • Customer data - based on 1st party data and audience segments
  • Weather - based on current or forecasted weather in a location
  • Site navigation - based on areas of the site visited
  • Message interaction - based on responsiveness to previous messages shared
  • Content - based on social, brand or consumer-generated content and responsiveness to this

The major benefit of DCO is the allowance of hyper-personalisation, which is key in performance marketing when the focus needs to be on showing the right message, to the right person, at the right time.

If we can use the data we have to learn more about what stage of the journey people are in, whether they have started research or are ready to purchase, and we can then match that back with the message we are showing, the likelihood of achieving the objective (either a click-through or a conversion), is on average, between 30% and 60%.

Practical example

Let’s say you are a trainer company and you sell both fashion and sport shoes. Ordinarily, it may be difficult to segment people into either the fashion or sport bucket and that might mean we are showing fashion-based creative to runner or running-based creative to fashionistas.

  • By using contextual data, we can see those who are engaging with running sites, versus those who are engaging with fashion sites, instead showing the fashion-based creative to fashionistas and the running-based creative to runners
  • Not only does this align with the consumers’ expectations, but it also feeds into the personas – the needs and wants of these individuals, making them more convinced that the solution being put in-front of them is the correct one

So how do we put dynamic programmatic ads into practice?

Sometimes it can seem easy to profile our audience and sometimes not, but ultimately by collecting information on data science, behavioural science and combining with some creativity, this can be applied to our dynamic creative strategy to ensure success. 

Step 1: Create buyer personas using behavioural insights

This means profiling the audience of your product and/or service and finding out key elements about them, including:

  • Demographic – age, gender, income etc.
  • Geographic – location in or interested in
  • Behavioural – browsing habits and spending interests, including other interactions with the brand
  • Psychological – personality traits, hobbies, values and lifestyle, including wants, needs and pain points 

This can be done both in and outside of a recession, but to learn more about how to profile during a recession, you can read more.

Step 2: Add your creativity to the data

Once you understand more about your audience, the next step is creating the corresponding ads and assets for them. By using what you have researched, you can reference these elements within the ads being produced and can be through editing the following elements:

  • CTA – changing calls-to-action such as ‘learn more’ vs ‘explore now’ vs ‘buy now’
  • Photography – testing elements such as products vs people vs bold block backgrounds
  • Videography – trying different videos with different storylines and motivations within
  • Text content – using variations calling out different USPs, mixed across the brand and product
  • Colours – trialing different colours within the brand palette rather than assuming the core colour is the one that will resonate most effectively 

Step 3: Keep testing and learning

A big part of running DCO is reviewing what’s working and what isn’t and monitoring performance to make further recommendations. By deciding on the KPIs you are attempting to impact through the testing of assets, you can monitor this and see the impact that DCO is having before continuing to make changes. Although we are always working towards an objective, the nature of digital means we can often continue pushing this, so by continuing rounds of testing and learning, you can ensure your Programmatic activity is super-charged to perform.

To summarise, DCO can be a powerful part of your Display and Programmatic activity and using it can reduce the reputation that banner ads traditionally have. By layering data, behavioural science and creativity, it can help take Display to the next level, making it a valuable part of your digital marketing mix.

If you’d like to chat to our experts about Display and Programmatic and how you can use dynamic creative optimisation to supercharge your results, contact us now.

To read more about persona targeting, applied behavioural science and building smarter digital marketing campaigns, read my other articles here.

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