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Responsive design has been a boon to publishers, but what about advertisers?

With the proliferation of devices–especially mobile devices–publishers have had to manage how to display their content across devices with many different screen sizes. The publishing answer is “responsive design”, which automatically re-sizes the page layout based on the screen size. While I know a lot of publishers find it costly and difficult to deploy, many more are eagerly using the technology.

devicesWhile responsive design has been a boon to publishers there isn’t anything quite comparable on the advertising side. Advertisers still need to produce lots of different ads in lots of different sizes against lots of different specifications (eg, rich media, flash, static, etc.). As you can imagine, this situation has exponentially increased our clients’ production budgets. The more devices we use for advertising, the more ads we need to produce. Native advertising platforms are making the situation even more complex because now we need to create ads specifically for one platform (eg, Facebook and Twitter). Clearly this is an inefficient marketplace that’s ripe for innovation, which is exactly what’s starting to happen.

It appears that there are two kinds of innovations that are starting to occur. The first is what’s called “dynamic creative optimization”. The second is that companies are beginning to enable message distribution across multiple platforms.

Dynamic creative optimization (DCO) has been around for a few years. Companies will allow an advertiser to build an ad on the fly based on the audience the ad is reaching. Ensemble, Teracent (bought by Google) and Dapper (bought by Yahoo) are examples of companies that can manage DCO.

For instance, when a user requests a page from Yahoo, Dapper will examine the user’s behavioral profile and then serve the user an ad based on where he/she lives, age and recent browsing activity. This ad will be very different and probably include a different offer than another user coming to Yahoo seconds later. You can imagine how a company like Travelocity could use this technology to serve someone in Florida a different ad featuring a different travel destination than someone coming from Utah.

The second way to more efficiently manage ad production when multiple versions are necessary is by working with companies such as Adaptly. Adaptly enables advertisers who are focusing on social media campaigns to quickly distribute messages across platforms with different size requirements. All an advertiser has to do is send Adaptly the ad copy and image–and they will re-size the ad and distribute across platforms such as Facebook, StumbleUpon, LinkedIn and others. This is a much newer space than DCO and there are far fewer companies doing what Adaptly is doing. Inevitably this will change as more and more money is spent on native advertising platforms.

Sadly, DCO and companies like Adaptly have not eliminated all the friction for advertisers. We still need to produce way too many ad sizes to work across all the different devices. What’s started to happen is clients have reduced the number of creative units they are willing to produce, which has lead to less experimentation.

Hopefully someone will invent a technology that will allow for better message distribution across devices so we can fully take advantage of all of the targeting capabilities that are available through these devices. If would be a shame if we had to pick one platform simply based on coverage.

 Photo courtesy of Roger Schultz via a Creative Commons license.