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Guest Blog: Why Data-Driven Video Is Essential for Brands in the ‘New Norm’

Now more than ever, brands find themselves having to quickly adapt their campaigns in order to ensure their messaging is timely and relevant for consumers dealing with ever-evolving change and uncertainty during COVID-19.

Dynamic creative optimization (DCO) allows brands to use data to serve more personalized, relevant creative. In display campaigns, doing so can boost click-through rates (CTR) by more than 70%.

While brands may not be able to recreate those stats in every video campaign, using data to execute real-time personalization at scale will indubitably improve performance while allowing brands to tap into video’s intrinsic benefits, such as the immersive and memorable storytelling power of sight, sound and motion.

But data-driven video is not the same as display DCO. It requires strategic upfront planning with a partner that has the technical and creative expertise needed to execute intricate campaigns, often involving tens of thousands of video versions. Here’s what marketers need to know—and may not know—about data-driven video to get the most from creative optimization.

Les Seifer is senior director, VP and head of creative for Tremor Video

Guest blog author Les Seifer is senior director, VP and head of creative for Tremor Video. (Image credit: Tremor Video)

The benefits of data-driven video

The benefits of video are well-documented. It’s the most powerful way to tell a story and connect with an audience. When you layer video with DCO technology, you combine immersive storytelling with data—unlocking further benefits and making your story more relevant to the viewer. By updating your creative in real time based on relevant triggers, you improve your ability to measure and optimize your campaign and increase key performance indicators (KPIs).

Unlike display DCO, data-driven video is still an upper-to-middle funnel strategy—not a pure performance-play. But data and personalization allow you to improve campaign efficiency and glean valuable insights, if you look for bigger-picture learnings that are unique to data-driven video campaigns. For example, a retailer dynamically changing its video creative based on weather and location might discover that CTR increases 60% on rainy days in the Northwest. Learnings like this can even help inform future marketing decisions.

How to execute a data-driven video campaign

Too often, marketers who have worked with display DCO approach data-driven video with the same expectations, not only for performance and insights, but also for campaign execution. But display and video are two different animals.

Display is a turnkey, conversion-based strategy, in which much of the creative optimization can be automated or done quickly. Video is more challenging, from both a creative and technology standpoint. You need the means to create and execute dynamic video edits in real time—which not all display DCO partners have. Additionally, each change to the original video needs to look elegant and polished, as if the brand's creative team produced and edited it personally. When you're producing tens of thousands of versions, this takes a great deal of creative planning and design to pull off.

There are two components to consider when planning a data-driven video campaign: data triggers and the elements of the creative you want to dynamically change based on these triggers.

Be sure to start with a core concept for your default creative, then choose data triggers that will help you connect with audiences in the most relevant and meaningful way. Some of the most common and effective data triggers are:

  • Geo-location
  • Time
  • Weather
  • Audience Segment

Once you determine the data triggers for your campaign, decide which video elements you would like to change based on the various triggers. Some common elements that can change dynamically are:

  • CTAs: How they're worded and where they drive to
  • Messaging: Special offers, language, location-specific references, legal copy, etc.
  • Imagery: Highlighted features, product versions, end card backgrounds, etc.

While it can be tempting to create myriad combinations of triggers and dynamic changes, it's best to align them with your media goals and budget. The more triggers you add, the more versions required, which in turn requires more budget to support effective delivery.

Understand from the get-go that video DCO budgets should be higher than display.

Throughout the campaign, measure performance and be prepared to adjust your strategy accordingly. For example, you may determine it makes sense to add or remove a trigger or update creative during the campaign’s lifecycle. Staying flexible will help you get the most from your spend—as long as you have the production support to make changes on the fly.

Word to the wise on creative customization

Although the ad tech ecosystem had some trepidation about GDPR and CCPA’s impact on DCO, the vast majority (90%) of EU domain site visitors have opted to share their data with GDPR-compliant sites, according to research from Quantcast.

Another major industry shift on the horizon is Google Chrome's plans to phase out third-party cookies within the next two years. This will cause a shift away from third-party data to first-party data when developing digital campaign strategies. The shift will happen slowly, but brands should look for partners who are already planning for the change, and who are prepared for a future in which they make data-driven video campaign decisions based on different data pipelines.

As brands leverage first-party data, they should always be mindful of user privacy and preferences. In Q4 2019, Tremor Video did a comprehensive survey of American consumers and discovered that 81% of the population is familiar with the concept of customized ads, and 61% of consumers ages 18-54 are comfortable with them—as long as the ads don’t include their personal information outside the walled garden environments in which they shared the info. That caveat is important. A video ad on a publisher site should not explicitly reference personal info a viewer shared on Facebook. This can feel invasive and reflect badly on the brand.

So, focus on providing relevant value that reflects your understanding of the viewer, without crossing the line. If you can do this, you will create videos that resonate with viewers—ads they will remember and act upon. Then, the extra effort that video DCO requires will prove well worth it.