The renowned contrarian Bob Hoffman and other traditionalist Don Draper-style marketers may have a point when they say that advertising is being replaced by so-called ‘Maths Men.’ They may say this with a snarl of condescension, but the fact remains that digital advertising, and more particularly the digital feedback loops associated with it, is doing wonders for advertising creativity.

Current-day marketers know and understand that the advertising industry is in a state of flux. Gone are the circulation numbers to sustain certain newspaper titles and traditional TV viewership is busy taking a series of unrelenting body blows. The facts are inescapable. Today’s audiences are consuming their news and viewing pleasure via the internet and, as a result, advertisers are finding themselves in an unfamiliar environment where there’s little to no control over what people see and when they see it. Enter programmatic!

Programmatic advertising is becoming increasingly popular as a way to regain this lost control by using data to create targeted ads that will be shown at optimal times for specific audiences. While programmatic advertising provides better creative intelligence, it’s important not to get too carried away; it should NEVER be allowed to replace creativity and the human touch needed for effective marketing campaigns as data can only offer so much insight into an audiences’ preferences. Effective advertising is all about relevancy to the target audience and, with more people being exposed to this technology on both sides – advertisers and consumers – there may be a rise in creativity that could revitalise the ad industry!

Like all good things in life, there are caveats!

With the development of a more privacy-centric internet, lazy marketers who used broad “set-it-and-forget it” programmatic campaigns with no personalisation, will soon be left out in the cold. Apple’s new iOS privacy changes and the inevitable death of the tracking cookie has forced marketers to make sure that they understand their customers before they use generic messages. Forward-thinking creative agencies will make sure that they understand their clients customers with the first party customer data that they have at their disposal and then design creatives that each market segment would find relevant.

Through a series of strictly monitored campaign iterations, agencies can see what creative executions resonate with particular audiences and then make adjustments to ensure optimal campaigns for their clients, whilst always maintaining agency standards of quality. In a world where there are thousands of ads shown every second, agencies need this data-driven process if they want their work to be relevant!

Technology has made it easier than ever before for agencies to create campaigns tailored specifically for each audience that they’re trying to reach through onscreen media such as video or social media. The data feedback loops from each and every touchpoint the customers encounter through their digital journey, provide valuable insights to the agency. Information such as how consumers interact online when viewing the ads, allows the advertiser to unlock valuable information around consumer behaviour, including purchase and upsell opportunities.

At the risk of over-stating the obvious, the future of digital advertising is the practice of data collection and interpretation in order to generate relevant messages in a creative way. The specific target audience, as oppose to a generic spray-and-pray method like broadcasting to a broad market, will lead to more successful advertising.

To the advertising industry professionals who cling too tightly to the past and advertisers who are not creative enough with their campaigns, digital, and more specifically data, provides hope for all. To the “Mad Men” wannabes who bemoan the “fact” that programmatic has killed creativity, and to the “lazy” spray-and-pray programmatic advertisers, I quote Bob Dylan: “If your time to you is worth savin’. Then you better start swimmin’ or you’ll sink like a stone. For the times they are a-changin’.”

About JG Bezuidenhout

JG Bezuidenhout is a founding partner of the South African subsidiary of, the data technology company housed in London, United Kingdom. Although based in Cape Town, JG is the global head of Offernet's advisory and innovation hub and, as such, is responsible for the monitoring and implementation of cutting-edge solutions, particularly within the digital marketing environment. Using advanced technologies such as big data and machine learning, as well as their bespoke Touchpoint Analytics™ system, Offernet can accurately and dramatically improve their clients' returns on advertising spend (ROAS). Their comprehensive approach to marketing, which includes advisory services, data analytics, and media buying, makes Offernet a valuable partner. If you want to take your marketing to the next level to achieve far more measurable results and align yourself with the growth strategies of the entire C-suite (and the company as a whole), Offernet is a logical choice.

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