Brands looking to connect with online audiences are often faced with the challenge of striking a delicate balance between efficiency and creativity when it comes to their advertising efforts. To succeed there is a need to maintain creative edge amidst efficiency and ensure that ads not only resonate with their audience but also deliver tangible business results.

To delve deeper into this topic, MARKETECH APAC sat down with Thomas Haugan, head of APAC at Bannerflow, a Creative Management Platform (CMP) enabling in-house marketing teams to take control of their digital and social advertising. 

In this exclusive interview, Haugan shares his expertise and insights on leveraging technology and automation to drive efficiency without compromising creativity in digital advertising.

The vital role of creativity in digital ads

“Beyond ensuring that the ads do justice to the brand itself, which might be more of a subjective matter of opinion, it is equally important from a business perspective”, Haugan said.

Google says that 70% of performance is determined by creative and according to Nielsen creativity drives 56% of a campaign’s sales ROI, while Kantar and WARC gathered evidence showing that the most creative and effective ads can generate more than four times as much profit. Similarly, a study by Yahoo and Magna Media Trials found that “quality creative is an effective KPI driver for brands compared to ad media placement, driving top-of-mind ad recall (79%), brand favorability (77%), and purchase intent (76%).”

Conversely, under-optimised creative can result in wasted media spend, representing a substantial loss in marketing investments. Some reports claim this wastage is as high as 55%.

Looking at this data, Haugan commented, “Think about how crazy that is—wasting up to 50%+ of the media budgets, according to industry reports, and, as an additional consequence, also wasting much of the effort and budgets used to create those ads in the first place. It is needless to say that this is less than an optimal return on marketing investments, to put it nicely.” 

He further emphasised that brands must optimise creative content tailored to specific channels, audiences, and contexts. Automation and direct integrations with ad networks can facilitate this optimisation, ensuring that ads deliver maximum impact and ROI.

Streamlining creative production with technology and automation

Haugan emphasises that technology and automation play pivotal roles in enabling brands to streamline their creative processes while maintaining a high level of creativity. 

By leveraging automation, brands can eliminate repetitive and manual tasks involved in the design and production of ads, allowing creatives more time to focus on ideation and design. Utilising technology and automation streamlines the process of scaling an initial master design into all the various sizes and versions needed for a campaign, across all the different channels and languages. This efficiency drives up to 80% of time savings compared to traditional manual methods.

“It is, however, important to automate without limiting the flexibility a brand needs to create the ads exactly how they want them to be. Or, said differently, don’t sacrifice creativity just for efficiency alone, that’s not going to deliver the results you want either. This is why we don’t believe in having rigid, templated solutions, but rather enabling a brand full flexibility to apply changes at scale or in individual ads at any point during the creative process, even after a campaign has gone live,” Haugan stressed. 

Technology is also a significant aspect of driving efficiency, as it fosters better collaboration between internal and external teams. It optimises workflow by eliminating inefficiencies such as sharing files back and forth and receiving feedback through multiple channels, thus saving more time for the campaign preparation process.

Another aspect of driving efficiency is dynamic creative, which utilises automation to enhance efficiency and performance by automatically updating elements such as pricing and availability without manual intervention. 

Through Dynamic Creative Optimization (DCO), brands can tailor multiple versions to different target audiences, utilising a base template to display relevant combinations of creative, messaging, and offers. This streamlined approach generates numerous ad variants effortlessly, maximising effectiveness across various ad sizes and digital ad channels.

Key challenges and solutions for balancing efficiency with creativity for brands in APAC 

Across numerous meetings with hundreds of brands in APAC that connected with Bannerflow, Haugan was able to pinpoint a recurring challenge where many brands struggle to create rich content at scale within tight timelines and budgetary restrictions. Consequently, many resort to suboptimal content or less content than desired to meet campaign deadlines and be able to work within these budget constraints.

Automation solutions offer a viable path to overcome these challenges by enabling the rapid creation of premium content at a fraction of the time and cost associated with manual methods.

According to Haugan, brands need the right tool that can help them create premium, rich content at scale, at a fraction of the time and costs it would take to do it manually and/or via external partners.

In Bannerflow’s case, the platform enables designers to create rich, interactive HTML5s without needing to write a single line of code or having to do it one by one. 

Automating repetitive tasks, especially adapting ads to various sizes and languages, significantly saves time. This allows designers and marketers to focus more of their time on creativity, leading to more effective ads that offer better value for their media spend.

Secondly, by enabling flexibility throughout the entire process, technology can help brands not be locked into one creative design at the beginning of the process, but rather continue to adapt and optimise throughout the entire campaign lifecycle, even after the campaign has gone live.

Lastly, DCO, a longstanding industry buzzword, presents both a priority and a challenge for many brands. While some effectively utilise dynamic creative, a significant portion falls into two categories: those disappointed by previous DCO platform experiences and those lacking the capacity to implement it. Generating enough creatives remains a common issue, where automation offers valuable assistance.

Leveraging automation for continuous improvement

Haugan believed in the transformative impact of automation on campaign management, particularly in terms of measurement, optimisation, and personalisation. 

Direct publishing revolutionises campaign management, offering innovative optimisation methods. In contrast to the traditional approach, where changes entail a lengthy process of design, asset exporting and sharing with a media team or agency for manual uploading; direct publishing enables swift adjustments based on real-time performance data, cutting down on turnaround time from days to minutes or hours.

Haugan shared, “One of our regional airline clients shared how this process [the traditional approach] prevented them from capitalising on certain tactical sales opportunities because, by the time they would have refreshed creatives in the market, it would be too late. Or, in other words, losing out on revenue-generating opportunities because of manual workflows.” 

With automation, this all changes dramatically. Firstly, it eliminates the manual publishing process, allowing for direct submission of creatives to the preferred advertising platform. 

Secondly, as soon as a campaign goes live, close to real-time creative performance insights become available, providing a valuable understanding of campaign performance and audience engagement with the creative content.

Thirdly, should a change be required, one can promptly access the platform, implement modifications, and swiftly update live ads in near real-time across multiple channels, drastically reducing the time required for such tasks from days to minutes.

Haugan shared that one of their clients at Bannerflow, CMC Markets, saw a 23% increase in post-click conversions by being able to update their campaigns in real-time and be more topical in their messaging. 

“This completely changes how you think about the management of campaigns, where you can go live with an initial design and then continuously optimise for as long as the campaign is live and as you get feedback from the audience,” Haugan remarked. 

Additionally, automation further extends its capabilities by enabling dynamic design elements sourced from a feed, facilitating the rapid creation of thousands of ads tailored to each viewer. This Dynamic Creative Optimization (DCO) ensures that the most pertinent combination of creative, messaging, and offers is delivered automatically. Moreover, updates to the feed source automatically reflect changes in information such as price or availability, streamlining production, enhancing content relevance, and minimising media spend wastage.

“With the right technology and automation platform at your fingertips, brands have an opportunity to drive real efficiency and relevance, but importantly, without having to sacrifice creativity,” he concluded. 

Ahead of the upcoming Chinese New Year festivities, many luxury brands are embracing the cultural significance and immense consumer enthusiasm surrounding this year’s well-known occasion through their creative energies translated into campaigns. For these brands, such types of campaigns not only aim to resonate with Chinese traditions, values, and aspirations but also aim to capture the attention and loyalty of affluent consumers during this pivotal time of festivity and renewal.

For MARKETECH APAC’s latest What’s NEXT Interview, we spoke with Nausicaa Charrier, Marketing Director for Moët Hennessy Singapore & Malaysia to learn more about how luxury brands can create authentic campaigns for the Chinese New Year, and what outlook can the luxury marketing industry in Asia-Pacific expect this year.

For Charrier, creating engaging campaigns is not all about who’s making the most out of new marketing mediums to execute their stunts but rather using these mediums as a way to create narratives that resonate with audiences. Recently, Moët Hennessy created a drone show with 500 drones painting the sky, symbolising the brand’s unique alchemy obtained from the art of blending singular eaux-de-vie to create cognac masterpieces.

Moët Hennessy recently did a 500-drone show in the Marina Bay as part of the brand’s Chinese New Year activations

“Technology isn’t just a tool; it is a platform that allows us to reimagine traditions and elevate how we are telling our brand stories,” she said.

She also added that they firmly believe that luxury is not just about opulence but also about showcasing authenticity and that this principle is particularly crucial when integrating cutting-edge technology into their branded experiences. 

“Rather than using technology for the sake of using it, we strategically utilise it to complement and amplify our narratives in an innovative way. It will always go back to our Maison DNA and the story we want to tell. Technology is a mean, not an end. Ensuring authenticity means that each technological endeavour seamlessly aligns with our partnerships, reflects our cultural essence, and reinforces the genuine connections we foster,” Charrier explained.

When asked about the key trends for luxury marketing in Asia-Pacific, she notes three things: a rising demand for immersive, personalized experiences, driven by a quest for exclusivity; sustainability taking centre stage, emphasising eco-conscious practices and responsible event management; and the use of advanced technology, including virtual and augmented reality, as a way to revolutionise event boundaries.

“To stay ahead, our brands adopt a versatile approach. We focus on innovation and curating personalised experiences that highlight customisation and exclusivity. Sustainability takes a central role, emphasising ethical practices and minimising environmental impact. Our commitment extends to engaging with our communities, both fans and consumers,” she explained.

Charrier also highlighted the importance of advanced technology for future luxury brand campaigns, adding, “The integration of advanced technologies is strategically woven into our events, ensuring a seamless blend of tradition and innovation. In alignment with emerging trends, our brands strive to deliver unmatched luxury experiences that resonate with the evolving preferences of our discerning audience.”

In terms of advice brands should take note in executing their future marketing campaigns, she states that navigating the luxury brand industry in APAC will bring a mix of challenges and opportunities. In Moët Hennessy’s case, the challenge is maintaining the brand allure across diverse markets with unique preferences. However, she offers an actionable insight despite this challenge.

“To address this, we focus on authentic collaborations that go beyond typical endorsements. Our strategy involves integrating seamlessly with local cultures, creating genuine connections that resonate with our discerning audience. This ensures our brands align with the nuances of each market, enhancing desirability in the ever-evolving APAC luxury scene,” she said.

Charrier also added, “Moreover, the industry faces the challenge of adapting to changing consumer expectations. However, this challenge offers an exciting opportunity for our brands to lead through innovation. Embracing technology is crucial to enhance customer experiences. Our commitment is to stay agile, addressing evolving trends in the region and keeping our brands at the forefront of the dynamic APAC luxury landscape. This approach positions us not just to meet but to exceed the expectations of our discerning audience, driving continued success in the coming year.”

The recent pandemic subjected the healthcare industry to a trial by fire revealing loopholes that were otherwise shoved under the rug. If there were one obvious transformation that had to be quickly thrust into reality, it would be the digitisation of healthcare. 

In an interview under the What’s NEXT Interview Series by MARKETECH APAC, one of the leading healthcare services providers in Asia – Zuellig Pharma – shared with us its insights on digital experience innovation. The firm activated incredible pivots within its ecosystem during the pandemic, starting with a B2B e-commerce platform called ‘eZRx’. 

Right off the bat, its Head of Product & Engineering, Digital & Data Solutions, Preetham Nadig, encapsulated in a nutshell what had been the state of affairs over the last two years. 

“I think the pandemic has given us [an] overview of what happens when [we’re] not prepared, and how businesses had to transform overnight,” he said.

“Healthcare has gone [through] a tremendous digital transformation journey, and [with] [Covid], we have really catapulted into the next phase of our transformation.” 

Watch the full interview with Zuellig Pharma’s Preetham Nadig here.

Nadig shared that at Zuellig Pharma, they have seen customers demand more personalised and accessible experiences.

“In our part of the world, in Southeast Asia especially, healthcare is fragmented, [and] we still see the same challenges of having access to better [data], to [better] healthcare, and having the trust in [the] products that we consume.”

Meanwhile, on leveraging Sitecore’s composable solutions for their digital experiences, he commented, “Zuellig Pharma leverages Sitecore CMS across our ecosystem of Digital & Data solutions. Sitecore has helped us to deliver a better customer-centric digital strategy, which leads to driving revenue and conversion, and improving customer loyalty and marketing efficiency, to name a few.”

Nadig cited two crucial things for brands in delivering an excellent digital experience – personalisation and convenience

“Personalisation and convenience [stand] out. For that to happen, we need to really look at having composable solutions.”

Further, he believes it’s customer-focused innovation that’s going to be the key differentiator as brands continue to elevate and bring to newer heights their digitisation efforts.

“Continuous investment in [composable] solutions helps us to be prepared, be agile, [and] be very customer-focused.”

He also advised brands, “Start with the customer, understand their pain points, understand their journeys, and contextualise your experiences to your customers’ contexts.”

This interview was conducted in partnership with Sitecore. Sitecore is the leading provider of end-to-end digital experience software; its SaaS-enabled and composable platform empowers brands to deliver unforgettable customer interactions.