In the years of yore, if you wanted to produce a creative, captivating and memorable advertisement, you’d think “TVC”. Now though, digital platforms have changed the landscape, allowing for bigger reach, and smarter creative, at a lower budget. Today’s online technology can target and customise ads with unparalleled precision. And hardened users of online media are quite aware of that. So they expect ads to be not only relevant and compelling, but engaging too.

The nature of the online marketing beast is one that, by its own design, isolates users. There is a need for creative executions to live across platforms, from PC to tablet to smartphone. But some digital executions, like clever Display Ads for example, don’t display on most handsets. And really captivating websites aren’t always well presented via mobile devices, ultimately losing the impact of a truly brilliant design execution.

Or so we thought. Content ads will soon be as big a segment as video, display and social advertising. At least that’s what Zemanta’s Todd Sawicki told attendees of the Digiday Publishing Summit. The reason for this upsurge? Content ads are set to be the primary ad format for mobile.

Platforms aside, digital marketing efforts exist to elicit clicks. Clicks means cash in this business. Every click, like, retweet, vote, check out, and purchase is the butter to the bread.

However, if the trick lies in getting those clicks, having an intimate understanding of your target audience is the real magic. Once you know who you‘re looking to target, you need to go about changing the traditional way of reaching them.

This means prioritising focused engagement over broad exposure. In other words, adopting a ‘Less is more’ attitude. And the best way to do that is to start leveraging – forgive the corporate jargon – the technology and platforms available to the people you want to target. But how do creatives use that tech to make for more intelligent, and ultimately better, creative?

Static ads are dead. Literally.

The ad experience of today needs to be about great content. Advertisers must use creative formats and features in new and innovative ways to bring their brands to life. Not only to preserve their creative spirit, but also in order to respect the intelligence of the consumer.

New display ad formats allow brands to build rich, striking content with video, digital catalogues and more. They can expand and cascade, adding flexibility to the ad, and ultimately gaining on screen real estate. Moreover, this allows the creative to tell a brand’s story more effectively.

But creating brilliant, clever ads isn’t enough. To ensure your content is engaging, marketers must hand over some control to the consumers. It’s no longer just about delivering an experience – it’s about building in interactive features that let users choose what they want to experience.

Letting ads live on

Consider how a campaign engages your audience over the long term. Incorporating social media into a digital ad creates a community experience for individuals. We all want to feel like we belong. Ads should give users that feeling. A community will help consumers feel invested in a brand, not only for a momentary interaction, but as part of a cumulative experience.

You may get your ads in front of the right people in the moments that matter, but if your creative message isn’t relevant, you’ve lost your opportunity to engage with the consumer. Today we have tools and technology to help make sure that doesn’t happen. But agencies need to be willing to use not what is at their disposal, but what is at the disposal of their targets.

If not, consumers will likely just look the other way. Or remain none the wiser.