Almost two-thirds of marketers are prioritizing creative more than they were last year, and close to 6 in 10 say it’s very important to their customer experience strategy, according to Merkle’s “Q3 2022 Performance Media Report” [download page].

The analysts note that “in a time when personalized experiences reign supreme, creating scalable, relevant content is top-of-mind for advertisers.” Indeed, when presented with a list of 5 areas of creative and asked which two are most important to them, a leading 47% of respondents indicated the use of machine learning tools to aid in imagery selection and message execution.

This speaks to the difficulties faced in personalizing content and digital ad creative, even as enterprise advertisers recognize that the biggest opportunity to improve ROAS is to scale up their creative capacity. There are rewards for getting this right, as consumers associate creative quality with brand trust.

Separately, some businesses are making strides in using machine learning and automation as it pertains to digital marketing: 41% share said they’re starting to take action, while another 38% report having made significant process.

The biggest challenge to the use of automation and machine learning in marketing is ensuring the machine-led practices are ethical/responsible, per the report.

Performance Media Trends

The report also examined trends in other performance media, including search. When it comes to paid search, retail and CPG respondents indicated that their biggest priority is improving product data quality for visual ads, with the second being combating rising competition and cost per click. Interestingly, the lowest priority was leveraging automation in ad copy.

Similarly, relatively few said that a priority is to manage audiences and first-party data, even with 3rd-party cookie deprecation looming. The analysts indicate that this is because search marketers don’t seem to perceive this as an immediate concern, noting that only half separately strongly agreed that they’re confident in their organization’s use of audiences for targeting across marketing channels.

As for organic search, while marketers have been enjoying increased traffic, this was one of the lowest-ranked digital areas for business prioritization. Among the priorities for organic search, the largest portion of respondents pointed to streamlining their site architecture and content or preparing for/working through a site migration.

Unlike organic search, the greatest increase in prioritization among digital channels was for paid social. And as far as important areas within display and paid social, respondents placed two far above the others: determining how and when to active across connected TV (CTV), over-the-top (OTT), YouTube, and online video; and targeting users effectively in the face of new privacy regulations and tracking changes.

The full report can be downloaded here.

About the Data: The results are based on a May survey of 250 marketing decision-makers in the US from companies with more than $100 million in annual revenues. The Retail and Financial Services industries were the most heavily represented, while organizations spanned B2B, B2C and DTC business models.

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