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Unlocking Creative Potential with Contextual Advertising and Creative Automation

May 26, 2023
Tabitha Winter, former Director of Creative Services at Entain, tells us why it is essential to embrace Creative Automation in order to remain competitive in the world of contextual advertising and streamline the creative production process.

Tabitha Winter shares her insights on how Entain harnessed Creative Automation to create relevant and contextual advertising at scale. She emphasises the importance of personalising campaigns, speaking directly to target audiences and the role of Creative Automation in freeing creative professionals from repetitive tasks. 

What brought you to Entain and what do you love about your work?

Wow. What a question. My background and what I do is about transformation. And that is the role I play within the team at the moment. I bring the best people together with the right skills. And I give them the tools and the ability to do what they do best. So what brought me to Entain was the opportunity to work with 27 different brands (including Ladbrokes and Coral), and each with very specific needs.  

How do you manage the balancing act with your creative team, Wave?

We really make sure the idea is pulled through the line, across the entire piece. We try very hard not to release individual assets. They need to be tied into an overarching idea. I don’t know of any other agency which actually offers that solution, and it requires a lot of coordination. It requires having big thinkers and creative ideation individuals at the top end. Then we need to understand where it is going, what platforms or channels, making sure the messaging is carried through and then making sure we’ve got the ability to produce it all at scale.  

How do you ensure your audience does not fall victim to ad fatigue?

It is incredibly important to speak one-to-one with your audience. We are lucky that we have some great brand marketers who we work very closely with. They make sure that anything we are producing has been very cleverly thought through across its various touchpoints with a coherent message across each piece. When you’re talking about the bits we do outside of Storyteq, we make sure we are developing creative assets which when placed within something like Storyteq, they have sufficient variants to allow the marketing team to generate interest all of the time. We’ll never just put one or two images up there; we’ll put 20 or 30 images for them to look at. So even though the message and campaign are consistent, there’s still this freshness because it can be adapted. 

“Don’t just try and continuously add people in order to answer a task that will ultimately kill the joy in everybody’s lives. Automation is not a bad thing. It actually frees up time to let people do more creative stuff.”
Tabitha Winter, Director of Creative Services at Entain

Were you hesitant to dive into Creative Automation? What helped with those concerns?

I’ve never been concerned about it, primarily because I’ve used it many times and I know how it works. It has a defined place within the process and is another tool in the toolbox you have to use. What I have found is hesitation on the marketer’s side of things and that has taken me by surprise because I’ve never experienced that previously. I have always worked in companies where the brand is very clearly set; the way in which it looked and the assets which it used were all very clear and defined. Within Entain, because of this situation where we had all of these disparate entities coming together, we found that there was a misunderstanding about how everything should tie together and how everything should look like a single campaign. The feeling was that if you use automation and templates you end up with work that all looks the same and they were concerned about “sameyness”. So we had to go on quite an education piece to show them that that wasn’t the case and why it was beneficial. 

Creative people see it differently. A lot of what automation does for us is that it frees us up from doing the daily, normal stuff. Also, we’re a massive test-and-learn company, so to have a designer producing all the variants for the test-and-learn activities is just insanity. So perhaps that we had years of experience already, when the invite was there to move to something that would alleviate that pressure and free them up to do something different and better, they jumped at it.  

How does Creative Automation enhance your creative and marketing departments?

It depends on what we’re doing. With Party Casino, we were doing something that was an incredibly samey task which resulted in incredibly basic assets, but we were able to put that into a template and save hours and hours of people’s time. Now the teams are recognising the place where it belongs and asking, “How do we get this into Storyteq?” 

What does a company need for Creative Automation to work well?

For the slightly more creative campaign-led stuff we are producing almost every asset under the sun through it because typically a campaign will result in something ridiculous like 800 separate assets across all of the different channels. We have a number of individuals within the team who are Storyteq-trained and in some instances, we still lean quite heavily on Storyteq’s Platform Services team for support. The tasks have changed from “Design me this asset” to “Write me the variants for the channel CRM” or “provide the image variants” or whatever the case may be.  

We also look at what is it brands typically need and how regularly they typically need it and therefore what a template would look like in order to answer that: sometimes it’s one, sometimes it’s ten and then we hive off resources in order to design that template. 

A creative asset from Coral where text, image, size and terms & conditions are element which have been rendered dynamic for contextual advertising.
A creative asset from Coral where text, image, size and terms & conditions are elements which have been rendered dynamic for contextual advertising.

Do you have tips for aligning priorities between marketing and creative teams?

Yes. Hire incredibly strong project managers who really know what they’re doing. Ours are amazing. We typically have between 600-1000 tickets or briefs per month across all of the brands. We have a very strong resourcing or trafficking team who are able to take on the most amazing amount of work and fit it into the schedule. There are incidents often where we have to push back and go, “look, that brief’s too late” or “there’s not enough time available there” or “we haven’t got the resources for this”. There’s always going to be that sort of concession occasionally. I don’t think in-house teams should ever be set up as capable of delivering everything they get asked for.  

Any advice for creative leads struggling with volume and personalisation?

If they have a set of requirements that lean heavily on a brand look and feel, and they are able to define certain parameters against that brand, automation is highly likely the answer. Release the concern of, “Will it be designed right?” Yes, it will, if you set the template up right. Release the concern of, “Well, if our copywriter didn’t write it, it’s not going to sound right”. Train your marketers to write. Or write headline variants or copy variants that they can test and learn with. Don’t just try and continuously add people in order to answer a task that will ultimately kill the joy in everybody’s lives. Automation is not a bad thing. It actually frees up time to let people do more creative stuff.  

Finally, what inspires your creativity the most?

I love plants, gardening and digging in the mud. You’ll often find me out at the weekend mucking about with horses at the stable. Almost like the total opposite of my job!  

Thank you Tabitha for an insightful interview. 

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