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Rethinking creativity in marketing

2016, 09, 15

For years brands have been trying to “break the clutter” through creative ads and messages. Big ideas fueled cross-channel marketing campaigns. Rules of thumb like “sex sells” and “the power of repetition” would be the backbone of any campaign.

In today’s (digital) world, consumers are far more critical towards ads. 25% of mobile users are using an Adblocker (Digital trends). Ads are mostly annoying and interrupting the task somebody is doing. People just do not tolerate this. The traditional rules of thumb do not apply to digital campaigns.


Advertising technologies give marketers a lot more potential to work with nowadays. Ads are served in real-time through programmatic buying. Data about the person is gathered and stored continuously. Data management platforms give more context about the person receiving an ad. All these elements should fuel a new kind of creativity.

There is not one (Big) idea that applies to everyone. But all the technological opportunities can split a message into (a lot of) dynamic messages. Messages that are tailored to the context of the user at the moment of interaction.

There are different levels of context. The most accessible type of context is timing. Does your message change in the morning, afternoon and evening? There is also context that is created with your own data. Is the content of your ad different for an existing customer or for a prospect? And there is context created by external data. Do you show the same content when the sun is shining and when it is raining?

Example case: Waze


A very nice case is this campaign by Waze. They targeted their ads in 10 different cities at a moment when people are most likely to check the weather, traffic or news. The time of day, location and traffic info were all used to dynamically show content within the ad. Bringing the added value of Waze to the user through an ad, instead of telling people what the added value is in one general message. All the results are based on engagement (Conversions / Cost per install) instead of reach. Reach or impressions are not even mentioned within the results. That is a good thing, because this campaign is all about relevance.

Example case: Redroof Inn Hotels


Redroof Inn Hotels used data to target a specific audience at airports. They tracked flight cancellation data in real-time. Search ads were activated when there were flight cancellations at a specific airport. People searching for a hotel nearby were shown a Redroof Inn Hotel ad for their specific location. A good way to tap into a niche customer behavior. In a market where competition in ad spend is fierce, this is a nice way to set them apart from competitors.

Example case: AirAsia uses customer data


AirAsia used Facebook advertising to target existing customers. Difficult times for AirAsia when a plane crashed in Indonesia. In order to prevent churn they launched a campaign towards existing customers. Existing customers were split in frequent flyers, high value customers and people who were visiting the AirAsia website. This data segmentation was used within Facebook ads to create audiences. Even their behavioral data (e.g. which flights were booked) were added to create more relevant ads. The frequent flyers were engaged with dynamic ads that contained the routes that these people frequently flew. While high value customers were engaged with video content. And the website visitors were retargeted using dynamic ads, showing information on the things that they were surfing the AirAsia website for.

A new form of creativity

These creatives are good examples of adapting to the context of the user. There is still a lot of room for creativity in this way of advertising. Which message do you want to send out to whom in which context? Time to split up the ‘Big ideas’ and make them small but relevant. Let’s stop creating campaigns that focus on reach and are general to large groups of people. Instead, let’s create dynamic campaigns that focus on engagement and relevance to the user.

Maybe one day Adblockers will be deleted because people like the way ads are served to them.

Our experience

Contextually relevant ads show very good results in our experience as well. The starting point should just not be reach. Instead it should have relevance as a starting point. We have created dynamic ads based on website reading behavior and lead look-a-likes. But also campaigns based on a correlation between weather and turn-over data. Very different kinds of contextual relevant campaigns, but both resulted in far better results than any benchmark.

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