Yes, again.

Advanced Banner Ads: The Remaining 30%

Last week I declared that making HTML banner ads is no longer a problem. You should at least skim it before reading this article. TL;DR — in 70% of use cases, all you need are Google Web Designer or Flexitive. This article addresses the remaining 30% of use cases.

As I have stated before, there are oodles of “programmatic creative” companies. These companies typically include essentially everything from Google Web Designer* and Flexitive but go further to support the minority of use cases in which, IMO, it is at all justifiable to say more is needed:

  • Creative asset management
  • Dynamic content

For reference, I define “programmatic creative” as using technology to scale the production of banner ads. This includes everything from automatically generating additional dimensions to retargeting templates.

Creative Asset Management

Managing the assets used across creatives is a legitimate pain point that I’ve felt several times myself. You’re making a few ads and you need to re-use some elements from creatives you made in the past but you can’t remember where you saved them and it’s a pain to hunt up the actual ads and pull out the images. The pain increases exponentially when you are sharing creative production between multiple team members. This pain point has been alleviated by what are called “Creative Management Platforms.” They are similar conceptually to “Content Management Systems” like you probably first encountered when you set up that a blog documenting your progress rebuilding a VW bug in 2004.

Social networks ad platforms typically have some creative management functionality built in but if you’re advertising out there on the full breadth of the World Wide Web you’ll need to find a CMP to solve the problem. A few companies bill themselves front and center as Creative Management Platforms, i.e. Thunder, Flite (acquired by Snap), Celtra

Dynamic Content

I have a love/hate relationship with ads that utilize dynamic content. Well, really, it’s more of a begrudging resignation to its ongoing existence. I think it’s at best a clever gimmick and at worst the tool of the devil. But I digress….

I define utilizing dynamic content as anytime a component of an ad template is modified at run-time based on some connected data source. This includes everything from changing an image based on the current weather forecast to site visitor retargeting.

The use of dynamic content is often referred to simply as Dynamic Content Optimization or just “DCO.” I consider this a misnomer because it suggests that any time content is being dynamically modified it is also being optimized against some pre-determined success metric. I take issue with pretty much all of the statistical methodologies I’ve seen applied to optimizing the creative so I prefer to leave the O in DCO out of this article.

Again, social network ad platforms typically have some degree of dynamic content support, even if it is only to match the “best performing” image with the “best performing” tagline or whatever. If you’re advertising on the broad expanse of the Wild, Wild West, though, you’ll need to work it out yourself. This will either be by working with a platform like Jivox, Spongecell, Flashtalking, Sizmek, Adacado, or even my company Adacus. I say “working with” deliberately because the chances are slim that you will actually just use an ad builder UI and do it yourself. The fact is, creative tech companies are the new creative agency.


If your need for creative asset management or dynamic content reaches a point at which you are willing to pay on a CPM basis, which I think is rarely justified, then you need to seek out a Creative Management Platform and/or Dynamic Creative vendor.

*Google Web Designer is a desktop app for power users that makes it easy(er) to create responsive, animated HTML banner ads. GWD doesn’t fit nicely into any category because you can do more than create animated ads but you need augmentation to do so, either by hooking it up to DoublClick Studio or by working with a developer. It provides convenient access to the code so if you have a developer on staff you can basically use it to wire up a dynamic template without going to an outside vendor. I’m in the enviable position of having access to great developers so I speak from experience on that point. If you are a developer yourself then you can cut at least one person out of the equation: me.

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