Media's Third Wave: Buying More Creatively

The process of media buying has changed enormously over time, moving from a simple demographic approach to today’s data-rich, AI-infused programmatic buying. As agencies and brands have gained a deeper understanding of how to use data, their ability to deliver more relevant, more personalised messaging has improved dramatically; and a key driver of that improvement has been the forward evolution of media buying. Writing exclusively for ExchangeWire, Mark Grether, CEO, Sizmek, explains why the third wave of media buying centres around creative.

The onset of evolution

The evolution of media buying is a journey comprised of three distinct waves. In the first wave, buying was strictly media-based. Brands simply chose where they wanted advertising to appear based on the people they wanted to see it and what media channels were best to reach them. If you were targeting stay-at-home moms, you bought a full page in Family Circle.

In the second wave, advertising began its migration to digital. Instead of making buying decisions based on the relevance of a particular media outlet, marketers began to think about focusing on audience-based buying. This reduced costs and improved efficiency by eliminating impressions wasted on non-receptive audience segments. With the advent of audience buying using programmatic tools, the decisions driving what got delivered to whom shifted from media providers to agencies and programmatic spending grew to over $10 billion its first few years.

Mark Grether, CEO, Sizmek

As advertising inventory increased exponentially, ad exchanges began to broker multiple ad networks. This led to the evolution of the demand-side platform, providing advertisers with one simple interface to plan and buy inventory from a variety of sources. It also extended an advertiser’s total audience beyond those associated with any one media outlet – but there was one drawback. To take full advantage of audience buying, agencies had to spend a lot more on customised creatives or risk lacklustre performance by showing the same creative to everyone.

But change is on the horizon.

Entering media’s third wave

Now we are entering the third wave of media buying. The third wave isn’t rooted in media or audience buying, it’s about extracting key attributes from the creative that defines the ideal audience, optimal media context, and other crucial success drivers. Thanks to recent advances in AI, ads can be analysed to isolate these specific characteristics so the creative is delivered to the right person, at the most opportune moment, via the best media environment.

Creative buying is a significant departure from the previous two models and offers key improvements. Perhaps the greatest benefit of creative buying is improved performance stemming from enhanced consumer experience.

For example, the agency for a soft drink brand identified five to six key attributes from the creative describing brand personality, mood, and emotion, and relevant consumer lifestyle situations. The agency could execute a creative-based buy, by selecting both the audience and the media environments that most closely match the attributes found in the creative. Are the results worth the extra effort? According to Nielsen-Catalina, agencies that align the attributes of brand, consumer, the creative, and the media environment can see ROI increases of
36% or more.

Creative buying is the next logical wave in media’s evolution. It puts the emphasis back on an agency’s most important differentiator: the creative product. It points to a future of tighter, more effective integration between data, media, and messaging. Ultimately, this leads to enhanced ROI for the agency and brand and, for the consumer, a more personalised,
relevant experience.