"Data-Driven Thinking" is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.
Today’s column is written by Julian Baring, general manager, North America, at Adform
Amid all of this investment, there remains a need for brands and agencies to tell compelling stories. One emerging creative technique is the concept of immersive storytelling, using video to tell the consumer a multipart story as they move across formats.
While immersive storytelling may represent the future of compelling, lean-in video advertising, there are still obstacles in the way, including fragmentation, a wide gulf within agencies and bad ads.
Fortunately, there is a consistent solution to all of these problems: data.
Target’s 2015 holiday commercial series was a great example of immersive storytelling. The first spot introduced three children embarking on a journey, with subsequent spots following them while working in promotions, such as Target.com’s free shipping and returns.
The digital ecosystem is highly fragmented, making it a challenge to consistently weave creative like this together across different touch points. If ads are developed to play in a sequence, that sequence must unfold in order, no matter where the consumer interacts with the media.
The fragmentation of devices means the story has to be woven through desktop pre-roll, native, in-stream, mobile and in-app formats. Then there is the task of identifying the consumer across touch points and using data to string the story together in order.
It’s only recently that the industry has developed cross-device data to the point where it can consistently deliver these campaigns. Programmatic is an absolute must for this kind of storytelling, with extra emphasis on data to determine which consumers have started the ad sequence and where in the sequence they are when the next ad opportunity presents itself.
The Agency Data Gap
It would be easy to see fragmentation as a media problem that doesn’t matter to the creative department, but that only highlights a larger issue. Immersive storytelling requires all parties to be involved in all aspects of a campaign, from concept to development and execution.
Sadly, media and creative still exist in strict silos and rarely get together to discuss information or tools. The media department may understand fragmentation, but creative directors don’t, leaving them to build immersive stories without a full understanding of their abilities.
It’s unlikely these silos will break down immediately. At the very least, agencies need to bridge the gap and push for greater interaction between media and creative by giving creative directors access to the tools and data signals used to target and deliver a campaign. As technology gets more sophisticated, people need to also get more sophisticated, and the only way to do this is to expose creatives to the tools that help drive media decisions.
Creatives don’t necessarily need to become data analysts, but they do need to expand their focus to look beyond design and instead think about the entirety of the campaign. Creative directors should be side by side with media teams during the campaign, leveraging tools like data management platforms (DMPs) and demand-side platforms (DSPs) to better understand the different audience segments that are targeted, how those segments interact with the creative and how the DSP makes buying decisions based on those insights.
Creative absolutely needs to know and think about how each piece of the overall narrative impacts the consumer decision-making process. Better understanding the customer journey should in turn provide a fresh perspective for developing detailed stories that elicit a better response from the intended audience.
This brings us to the final issue, which is making sure that the story provides actual value to consumers. Remember, consumers don’t hate all advertising – they hate bad ads. Online video offers a great canvas for compelling and interactive storytelling because advertisers can use a DMP to identify smaller segments of the target audience. Marketers can then adjust the messaging, providing each segment with a facet of the story that appeals to their specific interests.
For an automotive advertiser, for example, that means starting with the typical glamor shots of the latest model but then adapting the story slightly, based on the target. A father of three may approach a purchase with a different mindset than someone looking for an environmentally friendly vehicle. Using audience data, the campaign can deliver the same story, albeit with slightly different creative for these consumer groups – one emphasizing safety, the other highlighting energy efficiency, but both meeting the consumer’s needs.
We are well past the era where brand storytelling could happen over the course of a few hours of primetime TV. Modern campaigns require synchronicity between creative and technology to deliver the best experience across all devices. The success of immersive storytelling comes down to a close alignment between the tech and creative teams, with both departments leveraging data to overcome fragmentation, planning and consumer fatigue with ad messages.