Dynamic creative optimisation (DCO) technology combines online media’s rich data resources with creative in an incredibly powerful way. Rather than build one single ad that is delivered to all consumers, creative agencies can develop a number of concepts and use technology to serve different permutations to varying audiences.

However, digital advertising has caused a power struggle between media and creative agencies, leaving DCO caught in the crossfire. While it has the potential to revolutionise advertising, many creative agencies still don’t feel comfortable or empowered to use the technology. There are several reasons behind this: they are introduced too late in the timeline, they don’t know what they can do independently of the agency, or they feel their pricing model is threatened by technology. Fortunately, all of these hurdles can be easily overcome.

The timeline issue is one that’s prevalent with creative agencies. Often, they are brought into a meeting too late in the process to make any impact on the campaign, especially the personalisation component. There is a difference between targeting media and targeting creative, but this is often ignored by all stakeholders, much to the detriment of the campaign. When dynamic creative strategies are built solely around media targeting, it’s impossible for the creative agency to have an impact on the campaign without media agency collaboration at the outset.

This is one of the harder problems to solve, but it’s not impossible. The meeting timeline is a people problem, so open communication is necessary, and creative agencies need to voice their desire to get involved earlier. They should be working directly with vendors and media agencies from the very beginning of the campaign planning process. It’s also important for vendors to advocate on behalf of the creative agencies, understanding that cross-functional campaigns are most successful when every party contributes from the beginning.

The second potential issue is that creative agencies are often unclear on the actions they are able to take, independent of what the media agency tells them. This is especially apparent when it comes to developing creative concepts. There is a prevailing feeling across the creative landscape that agencies can’t proactively ideate things during initial process. This is partly caused by the problem we just discussed, as well as the tendency for creative agencies to receive the campaign brief separately.

Creative teams may be excited to learn that they don’t need to know everything about the media targeting in order to get started. For example, media doesn’t need to be targeted to individual cities or states in order for creative to be targeted that way – the creative targeting can function on its own. At the same time, contextual targeting can be done regardless of where the campaign ads run, and can be used to personalise the creative. By educating themselves on what’s available, creative teams can push the boundaries of what’s possible, developing unique campaigns that do not rely solely on the media agency’s plans.

Finally, there’s the familiar problem of creative agencies feeling threatened by what they see as technology’s encroachment on their territory. This is fueled in large part by historic pricing models – many creative agencies still bill clients on an hourly basis. In some eyes, production leads to billable hours, and efficiency is a threat to the bottom line.

The unfortunate truth is that those clinging to this old-school model are only highlighting the fact that they still rely on outdated production models. Creative agencies should be compensated for the value they add, and the agencies that add the most value should be able to charge top rates.

DCO needs to be seen as a tool that helps creative agencies achieve their reputation. If creative agencies’ goal is to create value, then DCO is a powerful tool for creating relevancy within ads, which is more valuable to brands. It also takes hands away from keyboards. By adopting this technology, creative agencies will spend less time on production and more time on developing the concepts around the ads. Agency time and thought power can therefore go toward creative messaging, not technical assembly. In the end, they should be able to charge their clients the same, if not more, for developing richer, memorable concepts, rather than building them.

Successful creative agencies are already getting around these issues and using DCO to their advantage. If more agencies take the time to educate themselves on DCO’s potential, and then use that knowledge to drive conversations with their clients and vendors, they’ll find themselves on the road to exciting creative possibilities.

Michael McNulty

Michael McNulty


Michael McNulty, Product Marketing Manager, Rich Media, Sizmek.