Better & Easier – How to Create 1,200 Different Ads For A Single Client

September 16, 2013 | Blog | By Lightbox

If you had to choose, would you rather make your life easier, or make your life better? Think about it carefully because at first blush though these two ideas may seem similar – they’re not. Luckily for us “better” and “easier” are becoming less and less mutually exclusive.

For the past decade as Digital Place-Based networks have taken hold, there has been a sense of untapped creative and operational potential just waiting to be unleashed. The unique combination of network- and computer-driven creative combined with locational awareness is the thing of media planner’s dreams. If you know where your advertisement is being viewed, down to the square foot, then the messaging should naturally take advantage of that information. But what has tended to hold back otherwise advantageous clients was a single word: scale. No matter how you sliced it, rolling out an ad campaign with custom location-aware messaging is a daunting task that requires weeks of laborious planning. So to make their lives easier, these clients sacrifice making their campaign better. 

It’s hard to blame anyone for making such a choice. If you were to truly take advantage of the ability to change messaging day-by-day and location-by-location, on a network of our scale, over the course of a month you’re looking at hundreds – possibly thousands – of iterations. In the Digital Place-Based world, that translates into gigabytes of videos, hours of rendering and exporting, and a content trafficking nightmare that is ripe for human error.

Over the years we here at Adspace have toyed with many solutions to this problem. Our content management software allows for some rather sophisticated logic when it comes to pulling data from a database, so we naturally started with that. Using spreadsheets of directional information we began customizing retailer’s ads to specify where in the mall they were located (e.g. “Lower Level Near Macy’s,” “Near The Food Court,” etc.). This was great because it took something simple – text – and overlaid it on pre-rendered creative. This meant that we (or the client) only had to prepare a single video file and single spreadsheet with the directional data by mall; the computers in the field handled the rest. It was a small change that made a big impact for shoppers who saw it. Rather than seeing something generic, they saw messaging tailor-made for that very location. We had made it both better and easier!

Retailers are perfect for tackling the issue of scale for targeted messaging. Also perfect are television networks. They’re already used to targeting their creative by market and day.

When FOX Broadcasting approached us, we were already very comfortable with using data to feed a template. However, their request went far above anything we had attempted up to that point. FOX’s creative used nearly every feature we offer advertisers:


  • Rotation – FOX ran creative for 8 different shows during their campaign, all 8 rotated in a single commercial position
  • Weighting- Their promotional schedule called for certain programs to get more exposure than others.
  • Location-specific messaging
  • ay-specific messaging

All told, we were looking at 1,200+ unique variations scheduled to run within a single month. It was clear the only way to approach this was by pushing our dynamic data system in ways we hadn’t imagined.

FOX has a specific font and lockup for their tune-in and affiliate logo information, so we consolidated all the differing information for each of the 1,200+ variations into individual image files. These image files (PNGs for those wondering), built the foundation of our system. Individual templates would be made for each of the 8 shows and those templates would be scheduled into every venue with the appropriate rotation and weighting as requested by the client. 

We then built 18 different databases – one for each market – and populated them with all the PNG images. Each image was then associated with information such as what show it was destined for and what its’ correct air date would be. When a template played, it communicated with the databases; telling it what show, what market and what day was needed. The databases responded with the correct tune-in information.

While this may sound like a lot of setup, it’s nothing compared to what managing over 1,200 video files would be like. Not to mention this is an order of magnitude easier on our network operations. By using databases, we send out several megabytes worth of data rather than several gigabytes. Asking our servers and players to handle thousands of videos at once is a good way to keep your operations team on its toes.

Thanks to the amazing cooperation of the people at FOX we’ve since run dozens of different shows for FOX broadcasting using this technique. With the right thinking, it can be pretty easy to make something better.