How Brands And Agencies Can Better Sync Creativity, Data, And Location Intelligence

Veteran digital creative director Walter T. Geer III offers a checklist for those who are trying to get interactive advertising right.

“Personalization” is the goal of practically every brand’s marketing strategy to one extent or another (most are asking for more, not less, to be sure) these days. Location analytics and the patterns that consumers create in real-time are central to that demand for reaching consumers when, how, and where they want.

While mobility is at the center of location analytics advertising, and mobile as a medium is poised to overtake television within the next few years, the gap between creativity within the smartphone and the TV screen appear as wide as ever.

The reasons are plenty. And they’ve been enumerated often: Smartphones have a smaller canvas. Mobile and social media command a collective amount of time, but the intervals of use tend to be fragmented and resist traditional dayparting at scale. There’s also the legacy issues associated with internet ads (cheap, easily measured direct response) versus primetime (lavish, more nebulous accounting around brand affinity).

And yet, Walter Geer III, who has directed the creative digital strategies for such brands as Verve, Sizmek (PointRoll), The New York Times, Viacom, MySpace, among others, is fairly positive about the state of creativity.

“I believe that some people are getting things right, but I don’t think that anyone’s getting everything right,” Geer says. “And when I say ‘everything‘, I mean actually understanding who an individual is, what are the things they like, where do they spend their time, what have they purchased, how far along in the purchase funnel are they, what kinds of formats do they typically see and engage with, and how can we get them to make a purchase with as few steps as possible.”

The ‘Getting It Right’ Checklist

According to Geer, when you get it right, “you should be able to drive a transaction within 3-5 steps max.”

Here’s his checklist (with Geer’s commentary following):

1. Get the consumer to see your ad
2. Deliver a relevant content
3. Create a clever way to get the consumer to interact with your ad
4. Deliver a simple solution for the consumer to get the product as quickly as possible and with minimal steps

Step 1

Getting a consumer to see your ad means that it has to be highly relevant, and it has to be executed in a manor that allows that consumer to see it. By understanding the places I’ve been, the type of content I read and watch, and what I’ve purchased in the past, it’s highly likely you can deliver me the advertiser and product that makes the most sense to me.

The next problem an advertiser now faces though, is how do we get someone to actually see the ad. It’s not going to happen just by delivering an advertiser or product I might like. Publishers need to be smart about how they get a consumer to engage, by delivering a format that doesn’t necessarily feel intrusive, but does get the consumer to actually see it. Just because you’re running an adhesion banner or a native ad, does NOT mean I’m looking at it.

Step 2

Getting someone to interact with a brands ad is not easy. Snapchat does a great job of creating opportunities based off how their users are already engaging with their content; Swipe Up! Celtra created a native solution that makes a consumer feel as though the page is splitting apart momentarily, while revealing an advertisers messaging in what looks to be behind the page. Publishers need to understand how their users are engaging with content on their site/app and create opportunities that are cohesive to the device and how we engage with our phones every day.

Step 3

The information you give to a consumer within the ad is critical. What is too much? What is too little? Long form content for a studio might make sense, given the consumer has already engaged in the ad and asked for it. If it’s a product, what’s the smartest way to allow someone to engage and interact with it in the real world without actually having to go to a store? Perhaps an AR experience? This is where brands need to be smart about key factors that will drive intent to purchase.

Step 4

We live in a world where we can go to Amazon right now, tap once, and receive my item within 24 hours. Why is it that no one has figured out how to do this in a banner? In every banner I’ve seen, I need to leave the banner (and site that I was consuming content on), to go to another destination to then ad my item to my cart, put in my credit card information, name, address, and so on. That’s ridiculous!

On Matching Data With Creativity

Data is extremely important, because it allows you to understand everything about an individual. I just don’t believe we have been doing enough with data to empower creative to truly speak to the people that care about their products. I’ve always been a firm believe that data and creative need to play a closer role not only within advertising, but the entire digital landscape.

Even the very basic things continue to be executed in a poor manor. Think about how many times you’ve noticed an ad for a product that you’ve already purchased online? That’s horrible! Brands are throwing dollars out the window every time this happens. This needs to be fixed. You should know that I’ve already been to your site and made a purchase, and potentially figure out a smarter way to target me for possible upgrades, accessories, or items that relate to what I just purchased.

Let’s focus on the creative for a moment. If you are not able to deliver them an opportunity that makes sense for them, more importantly, an opportunity that they’ve seen, it does not matter.

Then people get caught up in the metric, visibility. So what! It doesn’t matter! There’s something called ‘banner blindness’. When you go to your favorite apps or sites every single day, your brain automatically starts to tune ads out completely. It’s why 99 percent of people simply can’t remember the last time they saw an ad. I love to ask people if they recall the last ad they’ve seen. If they remember actually seeing one, I follow up by asking if they remember the name of the advertiser. THEY NEVER DO! And if they do, it’s likely their company or client.

There’s one destination that does a better job at it then others, but it’s because their formats are closely aligned with how their content looks; Instagram. They do a good job with their creative formats, but I still don’t think it’s perfect.

Instagram recently said they’re going to be focusing on doing a full transaction with an app. And I think that’s brilliant. It changes the game completely for who they are and what they’re doing, and especially for what they’re able to do for their advertisers. It’s getting the holy grail, the ability to allow to engage someone with something that matters, and then get them to make a purchase immediately, right then and there, and then go about their business.

But what’s smart about Instagram is we spend time in that app, looking at pictures. Some videos too, but mostly looking at pictures. And as you’re scrolling down, and they understand the things you like, and then are able to deliver a picture of some type of product or an advertiser that makes sense for you, you’re going to look, and you’re going to engaged. How many times have you liked a photo on instagram by accident, and QUICKLY realize that you just liked an ad? It happens to me all the time, and that’s the only place where I can truly remember advertisers that I’ve seen.

How Location Data Can Influence Creativity

When thinking specifically about location data we need to work beyond location 1.0, which is about geo-fencing because no one is walking down a sidewalk, and gets an ad from McDonald’s, and says, “Oh my god, Big Mac is on sale. There’s a McDonald’s. I’m going to walk across the street and go in.”

More recently, the industry has started to shift and focus on foot traffic. Let’s understand all the different places an individual has been. That’s great because you can try to predict where you think they might go next based off where I live, work and places they frequent, but is that enough? Absolutely not.

There needs to be a stronger emphasis on getting the format correct, the CTA, the way someone engages with the brand, and you simply cannot forget contextual relevance.

Let me be VERY CLEAR here. Location data can tell you where I go, but it still doesn’t tell you who I am. Every Wednesday evening I go to my daughters gymnastics class with my wife, and afterwards we go to Buffalo Wild Wings. Does that mean my wife and I like the same things? Absolutely not.

When we go to Buffalo Wild Wings, she orders a salad or a veggie burger with no cheese. I’ll opt for extra crispy buffalo wings, hot! If you were doing location based targeting, you might serve my wife an ad for wings at Buffalo Wild Wings because she’s been there and that’s their most popular dish.

She might actually despise that ad, because looking at meat makes her cringe! Know the sites she and I have visit and the content we’ve read, and a brand would know exactly what types of foods or restaurants to target to her. And trust me…eating out as a vegan is very difficult, so an ad to help her find a vegan restaurant would be a blessing.

So if you start to apply all of this information along with purchase history, then you start to really make a difference.

But, you can still go further by understanding how someone is actually holding their device. What if we changed the format type based on the time of day and what I’m currently doing based off my accelerometer? For example, if you see me commuting on the train an hour and a half, every single day to my job, and my phone is at in landscape mode resting in a position that seems as though it’s on my lap. I am likely watching video content. Now you see me on my mobile device at night, and it’s 9:30pm, and my phone is in portrait mode facing downward in a 45 degree angle…because I’m holding the phone above my head while I’m in bed.\; I’m likely reading content. In each of these scenarios, you can deliver me a completely different kind of messaging, format type, and call to action.

Beyond just delivering that unit, you might understand that I’m a female because the device swinging forward and backwards in landscape mode, which means I’m likely in someone’s purse.

The Competing Challenges Of Creativity And Scale

Let’s be honest. Innovating and doing all this is not a easy feat, by any means and it’s difficult to do this at scale.

I’ll also go on the record as far as saying that I believe that programmatic is complete shit. It’s shit because again, we continuously, as an industry, make the same mistakes over, and over, and over. Programmatic today is basically what we were doing 15 years ago on display. It’s a direct response, spray and pray kind of mentality. Let’s just get this out to as many people as possible! And because you’re trying to do this at such a large scale, we end up going back to these formats that don’t mean anything, and these formats that no one looks at; 320×50’s that are essentially a 728×90 banner that we used to run on display.

This industry is sacrificing proper ways to engage consumers because they want to get their advertising (that no one looks at) in front of more consumers, and save a few dollars on doing something that might seem time consuming or less expensive. How is this beneficial to the advertiser?

I say it over, and over, and over, every single time I speak, is that none of us should be in the business of creating ads. We are in the business of creating experiences. And when you create an experience for an advertising, you’re allowing them to create an opportunity that’s tangible for a consumer. Get on stage, and talk to the people that really matter, and that is what it’s all about, at the end of the day.

About The Author
David Kaplan David Kaplan @davidakaplan

A New York City-based journalist for over 20 years, David Kaplan is managing editor of A former editor and reporter at AdExchanger, paidContent, Adweek and MediaPost.