Ashton Media
Marketing & Customer Experience Hub

Ad tech and the art of storytelling…

Programmatic technologies need to become part of a brand’s rhetoric

As a kid, my favourite time of day was always story time. My particular favourites were those of Roald Dahl and Hans Christian Anderson. Whether reading them in books, or later watching adaptations brought to life on TV and the cinema screen, their ability to conjure images and create characters fascinated me. I was always keen to go on the journey, intrigued as to how the story would develop and excited to find out what would happen in the end. I think years later, I was ultimately drawn to a career in marketing for that same reason, having the opportunity to tell stories for brands.


At the core of every company there’s a message, an authentic story that inspires and speaks to their employees and customers. The DNA of household names like Nike, Apple, Coca-Cola, Disney, and McDonalds is constructed from a central story that inspires the vision, actions and development of the brand. With the rise of advertising technologies in recent years, the ability to target and measure activity has rightly become a very attractive prospect for many brands. The level of insight we’re able to garner from digital activity in particular has become advertising catnip for marketers, allowing unprecedented visibility and learning opportunities. Ad tech’s ability to supercharge the broader message, (the traditional TV spot), by engaging consumers in a more tailored way, or reaching those not exposed to the ad on TV, via other screens, is also highly desirable. However, despite the obvious advantages and ad tech’s continued popularity, we’re continuing to see cracks appear in the already fragile relationship between creative and programmatic.

Bridging the worlds of creative and technology

Obviously working for an ad tech company, I’m not saying that we need to choose storytelling over metrics, or vice versa. Far from it. What I am saying is that the emergence of ad tech should be used to the advantage of the creative agencies, working closely together throughout the campaign lifecycle, from beginning to end, to maximise the effectiveness of both. Brands need to utilise ad tech as a tool, not depend on it as a strategy and bring the two worlds of creative and technology together. Now, I’m aware that ‘putting storytelling back into marketing’ isn’t a very revolutionary concept, however applying the interactivity, flexibility and addressability of digital to the creative process creates huge opportunity for brands.

Attending Ashton Media’s Programmatic Summit, at the end of last month, there was a real sense in the room that technology and creative not only needed to play nice, but importantly, they actually wanted to. There was an increased number of delegates in the room from creative agencies, eager to ask questions about when and how to get involved with ad technology. A promising sign of things to come for the industry. I think one of the best examples of successfully merging creative and tech came from Expedia’s, Vic Walia. He showcased a number of Expedia’s recent brand campaigns, designed to bring out the emotional side of booking travel, but what really hit home for me was the focus he put on marrying that emotion with technology, or data sciences as he put it. A huge amount of testing, encouraging trial and error scenarios through programmatic to find the sweet spot of emotional response from their customers. An inspiring glimpse into the future of cohesive working for Australian brands and agencies.

The excitement of involving creative agencies

So what does all this creative and technology hand-holding actually mean? I think it’s important to clarify that when we talk about technology in the context of campaign delivery, we’re often talking about programmatic. This word has been banded around so much in the industry that it has many different meanings to many different people. Programmatic in this case is about technology’s use of data to decide whether or not to show an ad. By using the levers at our disposal, ad tech is able to serve the right ad, to the right person, at the right time. The excitement of adding creative agencies into this mix, is that technology can be used to enhance creative and campaign messaging, at relevant and newly discovered data touchpoints throughout the consumer journey. Instead of serving one creative, programmatic could be used to serve a series of creatives, sequentially to tell a story, on different screens, via different formats to maximise engagement and conversions.

So why, despite all the conversations and good intentions, haven’t we seen a more widespread collaboration between creative and tech up to this point? As a relatively new concept in the grand scheme of advertising, I think the popularity of programmatic, and all of its efficiencies, metrics and insights, has until now been focused mainly around the science. But as we move toward mainstream acceptance and understanding of programmatic technologies, the wider benefits are becoming clearer for a whole different industry set. We’re seeing programmatic move up the marketing funnel as creative agencies look to engage with technology to help supercharge their campaigns. We’re going from the concept of serving the right ad, to the right person, at the right time, to developing the right story, in the right ad format, delivered to the right person, at the right time.

Creating a powerful story

The ideal scenario for a collaborative future would be to have everyone around the same table when planning a new campaign. Brand, creative agency and media agency, working together with the help of ad tech experts to identify not only the best creative ideas, but the best execution plan across screens and formats. Figuring out what’s possible, but more importantly what’s not. Understanding the limitations or barriers, and planning for them ahead of time. The most powerful creative campaign is only successful if people have the opportunity to emotionally connect with the story, tailoring the creative to suit the environment, giving it the best possible chance of resonating with the intended audience. By utilising a brand’s first party data, we’re able to fill in the gaps in understanding around consumer behaviour along the path to purchase, using the insight garnered to adapt to consumer cues in real-time, optimising creative to the highest performing segments.

Ultimately, how much of this will become reality is anyone’s guess, but the initial signs for a collaborative future are positive. Creative and technology’s love story is only beginning, but by investing time, skills sharing and education into the relationship, they’re sure to live happily ever after.

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About Rikki Webster - Head of Marketing, JAPAC, Videology
Rikki is Head of Marketing, JAPAC at Videology, a leading software provider for converged TV and video advertising. International marketer with over 15 years experience in developing strategic solutions for both B2B and B2C organisations across the JAPAC and EMEA regions. Analogue by birth, digital by design.