The onset of programmatic buying heralded the age of the machine. While humans still need to play a role, nearly all media buying is transacted in some technology-enabled, automated fashion. What programmatic buying truly ushered in was the opportunity to value each ad impression and target audience with granular precision – in real time. Those two factors are what drove early adopters to latch on to programmatic buying; and these buyers typically focused on very bottom funnel objectives such as retargeting or user-matching. In this new world where the buying of an ad impression can be automated, and audiences can be pinpointed – creative and creatives (the people) are left on the sidelines.

Owing to its strict standards, the perception was that “the pipes” of programmatic squelched creativity, and would not accommodate custom high-impact formats. This perception was driven in part by the profile of programmatic’s early adopters as well as a general lack of knowledge of the underlying technology and emerging RTB standards. However, times change. Programmatic buying is now being adopted by nearly all marketers and used for purposes that go well beyond retargeting or user-matching – programmatic, today, is used throughout the marketing funnel – and is being used for higher funnel purposes including awareness and consideration.

In this new world of programmatic buying creativity does have a role – and is accommodated. Technically, the OpenRTB spec is a broad standard that does not restrict marketers to non-descript creative using a limited number of ad formats. The OpenRTB spec provides for a wealth of information within the bid request that can enable custom high-impact creative, including: banner ad type, creative attributes, expandable direction, and the API framework (including VPAID).

You can see some examples below of creative that can be placed programmatically. The Norwegian Cruise Line example is an expandable ad unit; the Bravo is an ad unit that leverages a smartphone’s accelerometer; and Halo is an in-banner video. Click on any of them to see them “in action” via our Creative Gallery.


So what has to be done to get creative in a programmatic world? First, creatives (the people) need to understand the underlying technology and the OpenRTB standards. With that knowledge they will recognize the creative opportunity. Second, buyers – brands and agencies – must better align programmatic creative execution with marketing objective. This alignment is essential to achieving desired campaign results whether the desired KPI is top of funnel (awareness) or bottom of funnel (acquisition). Lastly, providers of custom high-impact ad formats – like RhythmOne – must make it as easy as possible for buyers to access great creative programmatically. We see the best way to do this is to offer not only a consolidated programmatic technology stack, but to marry that stack with creative resources.

RhythmOne has always offered our clients rich creative experiences – some of which can be seen in our gallery. Many of the highly customized executions we build for clients can run in a programmatic environment. Yes, there are some limitations, and yes these efforts are best accomplished in a closed programmatic environment (a Private Marketplace) versus an open auction, but the opportunity to marry the precision targeting programmatic allows with the creativity consumers expect is powerful. So the next time you think the only option you have for programmatic creative is run-of-the-mill banners – give us a call and we’ll show you a whole world of high-engagement, high-impact programmatic creative.