22 June

Winning Creative: How Creative Automation is Driving Better Performance

At the SBC Digital Summit for the betting and gaming industry, Spirable co-founder, Dave O’Meara caught up with Entain’s Head of Performance Marketing, Daniel Toledo. He reflects on their conversation.

The sports betting industry is going through a period of rapid transformation. Betting legalisation, the move to digital fast-tracked by the pandemic, and increased fan interaction driven by social media, has completely changed the game for sports betting operators. In this new digital-first world, operators need to be more agile than ever and think differently about how they attract and retain customers.

For Entain, market leaders in betting and gaming, the disruption of the pandemic actually ushered in a period relative stability. Daniel Toledo, head of performance marketing for brands such as Ladbrokes and Coral in the UK and Ireland, felt privileged compared to less fortunate industries, such as travel or hospitality. 

“Entertainment was well-suited to the lockdown, as people were stuck at home, looking for escapism,” he said. “However, the surge in digital showed that we needed a new way of working. I think a lot of marketing teams took the opportunity of a breather during lockdown to really consider how best to move forward in the future.” 

One of the major decisions that came out of this self-reflection was a move from manual to automated creative for paid social. “This has proved a game changer,” said Daniel. “Working manually cost us a lot of time, especially as we want to support every single sports event out there. Now, 95% of our creative is automated through Spirable, saving us time, budget and manpower. We can spend more time on data-led strategy than non-stop process.” 

Daniel sees the main benefit of automation as personalisation at scale. “Before, we might have to wait several hours to get 10 versions of almost the same creative. Now, we can schedule up to 100 creatives to appear over a week with just a push of a button. My target market is English-speaking, but I imagine creative automation would be even more useful when working across multiple geos, languages and cultural differences, where you need to tweak the copy and images many times.” 

The future is contextual

Entain brands are now better equipped to target audiences with up-to-the-minute data, creating a live connection to an audience on their preferred website. For example, customers are shown the latest odds on a football match at the Euro Championships in a personalised way. Importantly, these audiences can be reached using first-party data, which will prove more sustainable once stricter rules on privacy come into play.  

“We want customers to see relevant ads in a meaningful context, as that leads to less spend wastage on our side,” said Daniel. “It’s all about ROI for us – and this has increased by onboarding Spirable. Our conversion rates are very good and have improved in certain areas, which means that our cost-per-acquired-customer is pretty stable.” 

Brands today must coordinate different strategies across the funnel – and the direction of travel is yet more channels and yet more placements. A layer of automation can take away the complexity of keeping up to speed. With more smart applications in their toolbox, brands can start moving up what Google calls the Digital Maturity Benchmark to an advanced level where they really start unlocking performance. 

Test and learn, test and learn

The release of iOS 14 and the impending removal of third-party cookies has created deep uncertainty in ad world. Nobody can be certain on what is going to happen and Daniel won’t be drawn into a guessing game “It is beyond our control. As digital marketers, we always need to adapt. It’s part of the job description, right? If you don’t innovate, then you get stuck in old habits. By focusing on the customer experience, we can counteract any losses that might come from these new privacy changes.”

On a personal level, Daniel understands the drive to restrict tracking capabilities. “I don’t want my own data sold on. Who does? People shouldn’t be made to feel suspicious of marketing. We don’t know yet how this new protection and changes to the algorithms will affect sports betting advertising, but all we can do is test and learn until we do. That’s nothing new. At Entain, our mantra is that we are never satisfied with what happened yesterday. There is always scope for improvement.”

In our discussion, Daniel recalled the ‘old days’ of Facebook, when marketers could target micro audiences and build their creative accordingly. “Facebook is becoming a black box, just like Google: you pay your money and they do the rest for you. That’s fine. We just have to control the bits we can control. That means doing more with our creative. Automation means we can achieve creative at a scale that matches the way that Facebook wants to operate.” 

Could there be an unexpected downside to stricter data protection? “If the public are bombarded by irrelevant ads, then revenue streams will drop. You could then have a situation where users are offered gifts to opt into advertising. The only reason Facebook is free to use is because of ad spend. That business model could change. We’re on the edge of something interesting, although I don’t yet know what it will look like.”

Click here to watch the full recording of the fireside chat with Daniel.