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A new creative renaissance

With the rise in privacy regulation and removal of audience identifiers, advertisers are forced to shake up their strategies and mindset. Quintesse CEO Doug Stevenson shares 5 operational, creative and privacy-safe tactics leading the way in this new era.

4 min read

Marketing Strategy

A new creative renaissance

Arek Socha / Pixabay

Advertising has historically been romanticized as an art form. However, for the past decade, the heavy focus on audience-based targeting steered the industry toward data science and away from that creativity.

Data-driven marketing was able to maximize its optimization because heavy investment fueled innovation and creation of an entire industry of companies and services to support the approach.

It was simple to let data drive media buying instead of inform thoughtful media planning.

The rise in privacy regulation and removal of audience identifiers from Google, Apple and others, forces advertisers to let go of the audience-based targeting crutch and run again with thoughtful strategies. Those who will be most successful embrace that a new renaissance for creative media planning is upon us!

Rather than just being hands on keyboards, there is an extraordinary opportunity for agencies to reemerge as their clients’ heroes by offering creative plans with an optimal connection between advertising and context. These strategies now can be driven by advanced artificial intelligence and machine learning technology, so what is happening is much more than just a cyclical trend of “what’s old is new again.”

Clever advertisers are starting to adjust their operations and test new strategies now, so that their shops and their clients are well prepared for the new era of digital advertising once cookies disappear. There are five key creative, operational and privacy-safe efforts I’ve seen that others can immediately put into action:

1) Focusing on first-party data

Marketers are all working to build their first-party data assets. To help clients harness these data pools in an impactful way, agencies are launching data consultancy businesses, most recently WPP Choreograph. However, the advertisers who will be most successful in collecting and leveraging first-party data are the ones that treat those assets with care as consumers’ data first and foremost.

2) Conquesting

There is a resurgence of conquesting advertising, or advertising adjacent to editorial on competitors, as media buyers are getting more creative with placements. Amazon and its private label products deploy aggressive conquesting campaigns on its platform. Advancements in contextual targeting make it easier for advertisers without the dominant advantages that Amazon enjoys to deploy digital campaigns on articles about their competitors.

3) Marketing to moments

Instead of trying to target the ideal audience, smart advertisers are now reaching customers at the perfect moment, a tactic that will prevail without identifiers. Planners are spending time determining the best environments to reach engaged and qualified audiences. For example, a luxury goods brand deploying an out-of-home campaign in airports to reach affluent travelers with pent-up dollars to spend. Or a rock climbing gear brand placing ads in Outside Magazine beside an article on Yosemite’s El Capitan.

4) Hiring talent with different skills

The marketing industry saw a shift from “Mad Men” to “math men,” but now demand is resurging for media planners and buyers with qualitative skills. Successful media teams have historically had a deep understanding of brand management and keen ability to identify the best advertising environments. The rise of programmatic shifted focus to scalable audiences and data science. However, now there is an uptick in the need for those media planners who are able to empathize with a brand and are the experts on the environments where they are buying inventory to return to the trade.

5) Targeting on retail ad networks

There has been a boom in creating and advancing retail media networks. Retailers’ direct relationships with consumers and troves of first-party transactional data allow marketers to personalize advertising in a privacy-safe way. Using these networks, marketers gain a deeper understanding of buyer behavior and can more easily make connections between advertising and sales. It’s no surprise that many CPG brands like Kellogg’s, and agencies are increasing their investment in retail media networks.

The privacy and policy changes that are currently underway are no doubt causing many challenges for our industry that has grown accustomed to a data-driven and audience-based approach. However, I’m excited to see the revival of creativity that comes from those who embrace these obstacles and the path ahead as we set a new precedent of respect for consumers’ privacy.


Doug Stevenson is the CEO and co-founder of Quintesse as well as Vibrant Media, which is powered by Quintesse. Doug and his co-founder launched Vibrant Media in 2000 as a pioneer in contextual ad tech. After a brief stint away, he had the foresight to see that GDPR would lead to a resurgence of contextual targeting. In 2017, he began to build Quintesse with a team who has 21 years of contextual experience and holds 13 patents in the space.