Social Advertising: Making Creative Work Across All Platforms

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Adaptly co-founder and CEO Nikhil Sethi recently caught up with Adotas to discuss the evolving social ad landscape, how advertisers can optimize creative at scale, and the future of marketing.

Q: How have you seen the social ad landscape evolve and where are we today?

A: We started from a world with essentially three digital platforms – AOL, MSN, and Yahoo. Then we moved into a world with millions of sites, where every publisher standardized creative and media buying abstraction layers developed into networks, exchanges, and demand-side platforms. Now we’ve kind of gone back into a world of 5 or 6 key platforms, where 80-90% of mobile consumption is happening in the context of Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, Pinterest, etc., and each platform has a unique voice and canvas best designed for their particular consumer experience.

So what really has to evolve now is the creative process. We can’t take a bad piece of content, or even one that wasn’t particularly designed for a specific environment, and repurpose it onto these amazing distribution sites expecting it to be successful. Advertisers have to think not only about how we develop and design creative that is platform-specific, but also how do we use the incredible trove of information from inside each platform to rapidly learn and iterate on creative in real time.

Q: How can advertisers scale creative for social ad formats?

A: The creative process, for formats like TV and print, used to be about building one big asset, launching it, and hoping it worked. There’s very little you can do in that case once the creative is live, because in TV or print there’s no real optimization and it’s very expensive for advertisers. With social, we’ve moved beyond this idea of “build it once, run it everywhere,” and creative can now be customized to different platforms, changed over time as new data comes in, and even personalized to specific people or audiences. We’ve been running social campaigns for brands for over 7 years, and recently we’ve started using that experience to help advertisers optimize ready-made creative for social. One of our advertisers saw over 30% higher click-through rates as a result of platform-optimized creative, while another saw 11x more sound-on video views.

Q: What’s next for social advertising

A: Personalization is an area where we’ll continue to see advertising evolve, especially when it comes to social video. Advertisers have to stop thinking about creative as “one Super Bowl ad for everyone in the country” and start thinking about how they can create a unique Super Bowl ad for every person on a smartphone. Optimizing at an individual level shouldn’t just take consumers’ likes and interests into account, but rather look at their purchase behavior – how they buy products, at what frequency, etc.

We’ll also see the platforms continue to evolve, as they’ve done constantly for the past decade, and new players will begin to emerge. Amazon is becoming relevant for brands, for example, as they begin to push more and more into the social and digital ad landscape. There are also emerging platforms like Snow, that while unfamiliar to US audiences, are dominating the social landscapes in other countries.

Q: How can marketers future-proof their teams for those new platforms?

A: What advertisers really have to focus on is: How do we build for a world of rapid change? When every platform, every capability, and every format is changing, brands have to think about organizational design with a high level of flexibility. A few years ago, everyone was talking about building out a specific social team. Now brands are thinking about social holistically, not as a separate medium but as an ingrained part of everything they do. Social is quickly becoming the top focus for marketing and advertising teams at the world’s biggest brands, and having flexible, technology focused partners helps them take advantage of all the new capabilities the walled gardens offer.

This interview originally appeared in Adotas.