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Sep 7, 2021 | Strategy

The key values of
Dynamic Creative Optimization (DCO):

What it is and how it enables personalization at scale

How marketers are using DCO to fuel campaigns and bring their creatives to the next level.

Andreea Serb

Content Strategist at Storyteq

With insights from Brian von Mansfeldt, Head of Data, Analytics & Insights at Publicis Groupe

Brian von Mansfeldt from Publicis Groupe – the third largest communications group in the world – is responsible for both Spine & Epsilon as head of both departments.

At Publicis, the Spine department is divided into three data-savvy teams: Insights, Analytics, and Technology Activation, each containing specialists in their field.

On Technology Activation, Brian has been working with data-driven and dynamic creatives for the past 5 years and became passionate about the combination of creative/media and technology coming together.

Brian von Mansfeldt, Head of Data Analytics & Insights at Publicis Groupe

Today, modern marketing and creative teams need to create content at scale to foster experiences that delight and bring value. Yet, there’s a disconnect between how teams create content and how they connect with the audience.

Getting access to data is becoming more challenging and manually adapting content takes months, usually relying on many design iterations.

To solve this central pain point, we’re excited to introduce the concept of Dynamic Creative Optimization or DCO to help you create, test, learn, and act faster in your campaigns.

Let’s start by looking at what DCO is, why it’s important for your brands’ success and how it can effectively be used as a marketing method to create premium content.

From Spotify to Netflix, we’re surrounded by content personalization every day and consumers are expecting that same level of personalization from companies of all sizes.

To some, it’s a matter of voice and tone. Be friendly. Use more imagery. To others, it’s a spectrum of hyper-targeting. Use as many unique identifiers as possible. Both are right, but both could also miss the mark.

Creating assets is all about relevance – sending a specific, valuable message to the right person, at the right time and place. When done effectively, this type of communication prompts important behaviors like your audience engaging or buying from your brand.  

But the challenge today is that many brands still use generic ads that are shown on loop to generic audiences. The outcome is two common phenomena in the advertising world: ad fatigue and banner blindness.

So how can brands create more engaging content despite these challenges? There are a number of methods for creating personalized ads, and each is particularly useful depending on your goals and use case.

In this article, we’ll talk about one such method which is Dynamic Creative Optimization or DCO.

Meet Dynamic Creative Optimization (DCO), a way to automatically create personalized content

In advertising, Dynamic Creative Optimization rapidly builds multiple iterations of an ad using the same base creative, while tailoring parts of the ad based on audiences, context, and past performance. 

Dynamic Creative Optimization (DCO) combines ad creation with analytics: selecting, and optimizing dynamic creatives to better resonate with your audience. 

“DCO enables you to have multiple use-cases with test and control approaches that show significant difference in performance in engagement as well as on-site activities.”

Brian von Mansfeldt, Head of Data, Analytics & Insights at Publicis Groupe

Every day, consumers engage with brands on numerous channels hence each touchpoint is an opportunity for your brand to deepen your relationship with consumers. A successful DCO strategy will seek to do exactly that by meeting customers where they are with relevant content.

Though historically advertisers have used Dynamic Creative Optimization (DCO) primarily as a direct-response tool—for example, to re-market to consumers with a product they’ve previously viewed—savvy marketers are increasingly using this method to employ relevant messaging across the marketing funnel and improve creatives with relevant insights.

As branding and awareness tactics benefit from insight-driven creatives by using audience signals to provide different imagery or product features, DCO is a valuable tool to get your brand closer to your audiences.

But while sub-par attempts at personalization can give the practice a bad rap, this type of technology is becoming more sophisticated every day. New advancements in machine learning and AI are making personalization more relevant, less intrusive, and less noisy to consumers.

On the topic, Brian from Publicis Groupe, explained to us that “any brand that thrives for personalization in their omni-channel marketing activities should consider DCO. The reason is you enable your brand to have a better connection with your customers through relevant advertising.”

Brian’s team had multiple use-cases with test and control approaches that show significant difference in performance in engagement as well as on site activities.

And through a DCO strategy, they achieved creatives that can adapt dynamically at every touchpoint of the audience’s journey.

According to Brian, the misconception around Dynamic Creative Optimization is that marketers may not be aware that real DCO sits within the ad server itself.

“There are only a handful of tools that have the ability to link back impressions, clicks, leads, or sales data to the creative platform to optimize against the best performing ads”, said Brian.  

“And there is only one platform I know of that is also able to generate new ads based on that performance with minimal human intervention,” he added.

While creative automation is the technique of creating many creatives in a short period of time, some platforms integrate activation tools directly, while others require a traffic team to upload the creatives still.

Brian highlighted: “The big difference is that true DCO ad servers have the creative auto-optimization built in, whereas creative automation tools rely on the algorithms of the media buying platforms such as social, display, or video channels.”

Why use Dynamic Creative Optimization?

As an advertiser, you create content to attract and engage with your audience – and DCO allows you to create a multitude of relevant ads automatically.

For example, you want to experiment with 10 different background images in combination with 30 different CTAs. This results in a total of 300 combinations, which would be hard to produce manually. Instead of producing these variations manually, through DCO, you can automatically produce all these variations by pulling the assets from your feed.

The DSP (Demand Side Platform) then determines which combination to serve to which audience, not based on a visited URL, but based on a target audience and historical performance data of previous combinations on that audience.

There are numerous benefits for brands to undertake DCO, primarily because it:

  • Enables personalization at a granular level
  • Improves performance by identifying valuable audience groups and the combination of creative elements that resonate best with each group
  • Fosters creative flexibility as dynamic ad templates can be customized so advertisers have control over how the brand is conveyed and experienced by the consumer

So it’s no surprise that Brian’s team approach at Publicis is customer-centric based. “Our process starts with insights about customers and potential consumers we identify as growth audiences,” he explained. 

Your audiences may have different interests and behaviors which are segmented and each segment receives multiple creative combinations that the team lays out in the content matrix.

“Any brand that wants personalization in their omni-channel marketing activities should consider DCO. The reason is you enable your brand to have a better relationship with your customers through relevant ads.”

Brian von Mansfeldt, Head of Data, Analytics & Insights at Publicis Groupe

How it works relates to the fact that the creatives underpin a hypothesis in which you can add a base or test group to understand the true effort of DCO and impact of the campaign.

For Brian, the learning agenda could boil down to the simple question: “Does personalization impact performance versus baseline performance?”

The Dynamic Creative Optimization layers

To get started, you need to be aware that there are two levels of DCO you can consider: dynamic and static. Here’s a look at what each of these entails:

Dynamic ⚡️

Dynamic DCO refers to pre-made creative variants that feature specific data-based elements which are selected and controlled by an algorithm. This type of DCO is easy to set up and allows you to serve up optimized, engaging ads featuring rich media.

Pro tip: To create dynamic videos at scale, Creative Management Platforms (CMP) that focus on native video have the capability to render large amounts of versions of your ad with the click of a button.

Static 💡

Static DCO refers to the static ad units that use an algorithm to “decide” which creatives are shown to your target audience. Unlike dynamic DCO, this uses static creative templates, which put a cap on the number of variations you can serve.

Static versus dynamic banner ads


Static ads have been around since the beginning of online advertising, and as the name suggests, they feature a static or non-moveable image. Dynamic creatives, on the other hand, deliver a richer experience by featuring multiple products, images, and motion.

What’s more, dynamic ads are highly personalized and tend to have a much higher conversion rate.

When creating an ad, you can set criteria that you want to be dynamic, such as the product displayed, price, CTA, or discount. Since these ads change based on consumer behavior, they’re more personalized, increasing the likelihood a person will visit and interact with your brand.

The ultimate DCO would be combining dynamic creatives – pushing them to an ad channel – and automatically serving them, getting the results of each creative and using that as an iteration on your creatives.

DCO has a manual or automatic aspect of using your results on your ads to iterate on your creatives again.

Dynamic creatives versus Dynamic Creative Optimization

There are a lot of misconceptions surrounding the two terms so it’s important to differntiate between the two. First, dynamic creatives describe the process of dynamically assembling a collection of components that make up an ad, including headlines, descriptions, backgrounds, overlay text, featured images, video, and so on based on an individual user’s particular needs.

Dynamic Creative Optimization, takes it a step further by pulling from a variety of connected data feeds, using historical data, along with real-time testing and analytics to continuously improve the ad performance.

It’s important to note that DCO’s responsive feeds don’t change the individual elements used to generate an ad – as marketers, we still get to write the headlines, descriptions, and CTAs, and designers conceptualize the graphics, images, and videos, etc.

But through enhanced personalization and customized ad environments, DCO can improve consumer engagement and boost high-value metrics like click-through and conversion rates. Ultimately, DCO-generated ads tend to be more effective than traditional static ads.

The result is a double benefit: better performance and increased consumer trust and recall of your brand.

How Dynamic Creative Optimization changes the way your brand works with content

Example of Dynamic Creative Optimization, testing different CTAs, backgrounds and copy

Most marketers know that personalization is the most powerful way for your ads to stand out, especially in the noisy digital world of today. If your ad isn’t customized to what a consumer wants at a particular moment, it’s becoming essentially invisible.

So advertisers can use DCO for campaign types that adapt to audiences’ geo- locations, campaigns that vary by audiences’ interests, contextual campaigns that are dynamically tailored to page content, and product-based campaigns that take into account other products your audience has viewed.

In Brian’s case, DCO helped his team test a personalized message versus a standard message on a landing page for a Samsung campaign.

“The results showed us that having a personalized message does impact site engagements and therefore this was the start of a long relationship with Samsung on DCO activity,” highlighted Brian. 

To create a winning strategy, let’s continue by looking at why DCO is a win-win for everyone.

Remain agile to changing conditions

Using Dynamic Creative Optimization, your brand can change its message quickly to remain sensitive to changing external conditions, as many have already done to address current events like COVID-19.

The upside? Brands that use automation to create multiple ad variations can drastically cut down on production time, allowing them to deliver in-the-moment ad content in the right context.

At a time when information and context are changing by the minute, brands that have a presence across the globe need to stay agile in order to keep their messaging relevant.

Reduce cost through automation

Historically, the ad development process has been manual and time-consuming — with both copy and creatives being developed manually for each individual market, consumer preference, and location.

To personalize the message to an individual based on time of the day, day of the week, season, weather, temperature, or language, how many versions of the ad must the brand create to stay relevant to each consumer? As budgets shrink and demand grows, this process just isn’t realistic anymore.

By harnessing automation through DCO technology, brands now have the possibility to drastically reduce the number of resources they dedicate to ad creation through a modularized creative approach leveraging dynamic canvas technology and dynamic creative master development to quickly do the work of otherwise many team members.

Increase ROI through personalization at scale


Today, personalization has to go beyond retargeting – it’s more about understanding the mindset of your audience based on their online behavior and actions, and being able to predict the message that would resonate with them.

For instance, we recently talked to Aishwarya Bhavsar, Marketing Manager at Move Snapp, on the alternative of trafficking multiple individual ads by leveraging dynamic creative ads.

By experimenting with various ad components such as videos, images, animated ad creatives along with CTAs, and ad copy options, you get to optimize the ad components to serve the best combinations to the audiences that matter across several placements.

This option of delivering personalized creatives is great when you have multiple ad creatives at your disposal but are unsure of what would resonate with your audiences.

However, this still limits advertisers in the delivery of truly personalized creatives and isn’t scalable beyond a certain limit. Plus, there’s still the requirement of developing all the ad assets which likely would be costly at the creative shop.

“The option that I swear by and recommend is the dynamic creatives and/or Dynamic Creative Optimization,” shared Aishwarya. These solutions support true ad personalization and are highly scalable.

Dynamic creatives are basically built off of one main creative template that resonates with your brand identity – think logo, brand colors, etc.

This one base creative is then adapted into various ads using interchangeable components via feed/data sheet. These dynamic creatives are flexible yet consistent in the way they look and feel, hence delivering ads that resonate with the target audience.

“Sky’s the limit when it comes to delivering ads with targeting and creative combinations using dynamic creatives,” pointed out Aishwarya.

If there was ever a time to increase ad ROI, it’s now — and the key to heightened ROI is personalization at scale.

By harnessing DCO, your brand can deliver a personalized message through hundreds of thousands of ad variations and in real-time, based on the changing needs of their customers at that specific moment.

What’s more, a brand with a presence in another country is likely going to have a different message today than it would for customers in The Netherlands — and a completely different message in Italy.

By staying on top of these changes, brands can personalize their content in a way that resonates with individuals across the globe.

Achieve better engagement and reach through testing at scale

Consumers are engaging with brands across multiple devices and digital channels and they’re expecting a personalized, consistent, and compelling experience whenever and wherever they’re accessing brand content. This is truer today than ever before.

The fact that ad blocking and privacy laws are on the rise sends a clear signal that consumers are demanding better ad experiences.

Advertisers now have access to deeper audience insights than ever before and DCO allows advertisers to deliver relevant and engaging ad experiences, and in turn drive better engagement and performance.

But not just any ad will cut it. If you adhere to multivariate testing best practices and ask the right questions before running a test, you’ll learn what types of changes are actually worth your time and focus on projects that produce meaningful insights.

As Brian points out: “We work with standalone assets which we add in the feed and insert in the DCO shell/template to create a banner on the fly. We only traffick one creative shell which contains 3000+ variations that sit within the creative shell.”

Finally, generating dynamic ads allows you to develop and leverage many unique ad creatives while ensuring your ads are relevant to each person.

Every marketer has run A/B testing and learned that creative A could perform 10% better than B. Sometimes it’s 50% better. Sometimes it’s 100% better. Certain elements about A are different from B, and those can make creative A work better. And it’s only natural that the more variations you can explore, the more likely you are to find winning ads. 

Put another way, if you run the same kinds of ads all the time, you’re going to get the same kinds of results. This is why creative variety is so crucial.

Andreea Serb

Content Strategist at Storyteq

Andreea is a content strategist at Storyteq and is passionate about writing, storytelling, and cross-functional collaboration. When she’s not busy typing away, you will always see her reading a good book.

Andreea Serb, Content Strategist at Storyteq

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