The digital marketing community is no longer talking about having to prove the value of design to get a seat at the table. Creatives have demonstrated that design should be a central pillar of an ad’s success. But they’ve also lost something along the way. In this article, we’ll shed light on how creative automation comes into the picture.

One of the recurrent mantras we have here at Storyteq is “We want to help creative teams be creative again”. But how can we achieve this?

It’s a fundamental question that every brand who runs ads at scale needs to ask themselves.

There are plenty of layers to peel until you come to a good outcome but the challenge goes back to the current demanding ad landscape we’re in.

With competition, customer expectations, and ad personalization on the rise, we see one fundamental issue: companies need a better way to effectively create and deliver ads while keeping their production capability lean.

But anyone who creates ads knows this is easier said than done.

While more teams invest time and money in advanced marketing tools to automate campaign development and delivery, they end up blasting ads with a single message and hope that it stands out to at least some of their audience. 

This model is wrong because it’s missing the context of consumers’ behavior and the multiple channel requirements for different ad formats, sizes, and markets.

Consumers want personalized experiences – they are the ones sending clear signals about where they are in their lifecycle, their preferences, and their intent, so companies should tap into these data points to produce ads that match their audience’s intent. And with the right tools and mindset, this is actually achievable. 

But one major challenge that keeps you from reaching your audience this way is the actual ad production process.

In this article, we’ll talk about how you can make the ad production process more effective and shed light on how creative automation comes into the picture.

Let’s dive right in!

Short on time? 

Check out the trio of creative automation: what it is, the drivers behind it, and its benefits. ⤵️

What is creative automation?

Creative automation is the process of leveraging technology to scale certain aspects of your video or banner ad such as size, format, CTAs, graphic elements to enable high-volume ad creation for high-volume demand.

What drives creative automation?

  • The evolution and diversification of ad channels
  • Auction algorithms forcing you to make better ads
  • Consumers demanding personalization
  • Marketers pushing advanced ad strategies 
  • Increased demand in volume 
  • Ensuring brand homogeneity on a global scale

Creative automation benefits

  • Rolling out dynamic creatives (videos and banners) at scale to serve your global markets by making changes on the fly to include multiple languages, headlines, descriptions, CTAs, backgrounds, overlay text, featured images, etc
  • Tailoring your ads on a large scale to match your audience’s intent and reach people at the right time, on the right channel, with the right message
  • Focusing on the storytelling aspect to drive your audience through the funnel with personalized experiences
  • Cutting cost on the production process without adding headcount and helping your team focused on creative ideation once they automate tedious and repetitive tasks

How creative automation works

Now that you’ve seen what drives marketers to adopt creative automation and the benefits associated with it, let’s go through an example of how it actually works.

Creative automation occurs in four steps:

  • Create a strong, creative asset that serves as your base creative
  • Use tech to transform your existing creatives into custom, reusable templates with dynamic elements. Or build your templates from scratch using a template builder.
  • Select dynamic elements, such as text, images, complete scene, etc. and link your data (product feed, spreadsheets, or manually) to each variable element
  • Generate all media versions you need in just a couple of minutes, and share them with your customer or use them for split-testing

💡 Platform tip: You can use our After Effects extension or Template Builder to scale, recycle, adapt, and repurpose your creatives.

What is creative automation?

Ad production, with its breadth and depth, can feel overwhelming. But you can make it easier by removing its manual aspects with the help of creative automation tools.

Creative Automation example consisting of 6 steps: 1) 1 base creative template; 2) 10 different products; 3) 3 CTAs; 4) 4 ad formats; 5) 4 channel placements; 6 output = 480 different ads (10*3*4*4)

Creative automation is the process of leveraging technology to scale certain aspects of your banner or video ad such as size, format, CTAs, graphic elements to enable high-volume ad creation for high-volume demand. 

In a nutshell, creative automation helps marketers and creatives to scale ads automatically.

By removing time-consuming tasks from creatives’ work, creative automation helps you scale your ad volume and reduce the overall costs associated with campaigns that need to be tweaked to address elements like language nuances, CTAs, messaging, product images, etc – all while maintaining brand consistency and scaling up.

Why do you need creative automation?

As advertisers, you create personalized experiences that bridge the gap between your product and your consumers’ interests, behaviors, and expectations.

From targeted search keywords to relevant ads, marketers can create tailored funnels based on what’s most important to their audiences in order to help connect the dots for future customers – and help them easily understand the value of your products.
For example, a brand needs to create an ad campaign that targets consumers from a specific age group, in a certain country, on specific channels.

From a production perspective, this means thinking through your ad’s format, language, and messaging from the ideation stage. But most likely your creative team will end up grappling with producing multiple ad variants. While this sounds achievable, it starts becoming an issue when you want to follow the same workflow for 20 different countries or audience groups.

The beauty of creative automation is that it takes all of the components of that ad – the messaging, images, CTAs – and creates all the variations you need instantly for all your markets (language adaptations), audience groups (stance, copy adaptation) or your products (product inventory and product sheet adaptation).

If you peel all the layers of design work, it can be easy to forget that the most important thing for a designer is simply having more time to conceptualize and design things that stand out. After all, aren’t we all visual beings?

This type of issue left unchallenged can quickly increase your need for resources and higher budget, burn out your employees, and derail goals. A single weak process like this can create a ripple effect that impacts the performance of the whole company.

But if you tap into creative automation and understand it can be a great time asset to nurture your creative processes, you’re thinking from a business perspective and that is a perspective of measurable and quantifiable results.

What drives companies to scale their ads?

The need for creative automation primarily comes from the challenges of having high editing costs, a slow time-to-market when it comes to launching ad campaigns, or lacking control on the creative output which is generated by your creative teams or agencies.

These challenges become more visible when either the marketing or media department start demanding more content because they develop more advanced ad strategies or when ad channels require different types of output in terms of size, formats, types of creatives, etc.

In this section, we’re going to break down the real drivers of creative automation and the need to scale your ads.

Ad channels and formats

As channels have evolved and multiplied, they also started to introduce more formats. Social channels like YouTube, TikTok, or Instagram now handle videos, which offers flexibility to use them across many stages of the marketing funnel.

This has a cascading effect on marketers, who now need to consider what the right way to communicate with their audience is. Is it through banners? Or videos? And should these be generic or should they be personalized?

Consumers increasingly expect to see this video content from brands. But on the production side, this is always more challenging.

💡 Platform tip

While you can easily generate banners on the fly on the server-side (programmatic), this cannot truly be done with videos unless you create dynamically-generated video overlays. Creative automation allows for full flexibility when it comes to generating videos without the need of using your computer to make the changes.

Personalization for consumers

Ad personalization is another driver not only because it’s a great opportunity for you to turn audiences into customers but it’s about leveraging your knowledge of your audience  to create highly relevant experiences for them. 

Creating a thoughtful and targeted ad experience helps reduce friction for your audience, connect the dots for them, and hopefully help them to convert more easily too.

People are demanding more relevant content and this equals more personalized content. And this means that you need to adapt your content to people’s wishes. The downside? It falls back on more demand for creative teams to come up with the right assets.

Short on time? 

Check out the trio of creative automation: what it is, the drivers behind it, and its benefits. ⤵️

Advanced ad strategies

Not too long ago, advertising was all about mass targeting on TV, creating online campaigns, and then running some follow-up retargeting ads.

But the story is quite different today. We’re dealing with more channels every day and this spirals into and how we move through these channels as consumers. 

If you look at all the algorithms that ad channels are applying, you’ll see they’re cross-testing ads the whole time against certain segments.

Algorithms are getting more precise and advanced so if you want to be on par with them, you need to make sure you’re not just testing one piece of content across multiple segments – you’re testing multiple pieces of content across multiple segments.

For instance, Facebook’s Pitch, Play, Plunge concept pushes you to differentiate your content and derive your creatives in different formats based on the stage where your audience is, whether they are scrolling or are more engaged.

“Looking at the main trends, the need for content will simply increase and there’s a limit to which you’ll push the creative process to scale your production.”

Guido Derkx, CCO at Storyteq

Ad fatigue

With creative automation, you can repurpose, recycle, or reshuffle the elements in a creative. This way, you can turn an old creative into a new one (for example, by swapping scenes in the case of a video) to combat ad fatigue.  

💡 Did you know?

Ad fatigue is not limited to the audience growing tired of your ads and not clicking on them anymore. We’re also seeing ad channels increase the costs of impression to penalize advertisers for using the same creative for too long.

Benefits of creative automation

For many people, making a move into creative automation can feel like meeting a fork in the road – it feels like a choice that cannot be taken easily. That doesn’t need to be the case, however.

Here’s how we think about the benefits you reap when you take the creative automation path.

The creative is king: Engage your audience with creative visual ads

Design matters. When you run a visual ad campaign, most of your performance is typically driven by the creative concept. 

With the nitty-gritty out of the picture, you can focus on getting your design ideas out.

By having extra time to conceptualize your creatives, you will give them a longer shelf life, all while keeping your design team focused on what matters: the creative process.

 In the end, however, the success of an ad comes down to just two critical elements:

  • Great creatives, which includes the copy and the design of the videos or images – this attracts users’ attention while creating the desire for your product
  • Laser-focused targeting – by displaying your ads only to the right audience

Tell stories: Create your ad funnel with sequential storytelling

Storytelling is a key element you should try to infuse in your ad campaigns. When stories resonate with your audience, it becomes far easier to motivate them to act.

Dynamic messaging in your ads allow you to target audiences at any stage of the customer journey.

In a TED talk by Andrew Stanton, the storyteller behind Toy-Story and Wall-E, introduces the idea of telling effective stories with “The Unifying Theory of Two Plus Two.

“Make the audience put things together. Don’t give them four, give them two plus two. The elements you provide and the order you place them in are crucial to whether you succeed or fail at engaging the audience. It’s the invisible application that holds our attention to the story.”

The secret to crafting a good story is by giving the audience’s natural desire to problem solve and to deduce and deduct. Don’t give the audience the whole story all at once.

With this in mind, how can you leverage the power of dynamic creatives to create ads that tell stories?

Sequential storytelling enables your audience to see a series of stories in a given order, enabling them to follow them as if they were going through a journey.

As a creative, this provides new opportunities to put your imagination to work to rethink ad stories that work together, not just alone as singular creatives.

However, doing this manually is not an option because creating all this versioning takes too much time.

Scale your approach

In his book, “The Mythical Man-Month”, the software engineer Fred Brooks found out how adding more people to a team often drove inefficiency, increased communication overhead, and had little impact on the team’s efficiency level. 

According to the Brooks’ Lawsimply increasing the number of people at your company or working long hours to offset inefficiencies doesn’t guarantee a return to effective, co-ordinated work. 

On the contrary, it can actually make things worse by creating multiple communication lines, which can increase the possibility of misalignment.

Brooks' Law: increasing the number of people at your company or working long hours to offset inefficiencies doesn’t guarantee a return to effective, co-ordinated work.

In digital advertising, you can apply the same law. There’s also a limit to what a designer can do with one keyboard and one brain and 24 hours.

Even for the best in the world, accelerated progress comes from increasing the amount you can get done per unit time. 

Now imagine this scenario. Say you need to launch a digital ad campaign for a new video game. 

You’d need to create ads for a variety of concepts, run A/B tests, create different ad formats, consider localization, and ensure all ads are reviewed for errors and brand consistency. 

Having taken all these aspects into consideration, you’d need to also traffic them to the relevant ad platforms.

Now, imagine launching products with multiple titles and CTAs while ensuring that each ad reaches the right person. Finally, you’d need to manage your ads after launching the campaign to ensure they are error-free.

If you were to simply create variations for the different markets that you advertise in, that would result in more than 40 variations. So 40 unique versions will need to be created by your design team and then trafficked by your marketing team.

In addition to this effort, any change that will be addressed would also have to be introduced into each ad version and subsequently checked for quality control.

Most importantly, even a minor modification in a single creative – such as an asset change – will involve making modifications within the entire ad unit. 

In this case, using creative automation could save you a massive amount of time for the 40 creatives you were already making, but also enable you to produce and try out more versions at a fraction of added costs.

This shift in advertising represents an enormous opportunity   allowing us to go beyond standard marketing tactics to make a different impact on our audiences.

And by acting like a media company, you’re no longer limiting yourself by the number of ads you can produce in a given amount of time.

If you have good quality content and a system to scale it up, this strategy can turn out to be more fruitful than all of the optimization marketing you’ve been doing thus far.

Guido Derkx
CCO at Storyteq
Together with his team, Guido is dedicated to digitalize the way creatives are created. After earning his stripes in other industries, he decided to further explore his fascination for making thing better and simpler within the creative industry.

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