How to make a powerful DCO ad – our expert guide to everything you need

DCO is the exciting future of programatic ad campaigns. Find out what you need to consider and create a powerful DCO ad.

As we explain here, dynamic creative optimisation (DCO) is becoming increasingly popular, and for good reason. DCO campaigns can serve tens of thousands of variations of an ad in split seconds, ensuring that people see messaging that is absolutely relevant to them at that very moment – and increasing the likelihood of engagement and conversion as a result.

However, too many brands are currently missing out on this opportunity as they’re not sure how to create a DCO campaign, and don’t have the correct assets. As DCO experts we thought it would be helpful to put together a quick guide.

So we asked our Technical and Creative Director, Adam Aspland, to outline what you need to consider when creating your DCO campaign brief, the assets you need and the technical details to be aware of.

The three things every successful DCO campaign needs

A successful DCO campaign relies on much more than just creative. There are, in fact, three important things you need to get right for DCO to work – the three core pillars.

These are:

  1. Technology (the tag that powers the clever stuff to happen)
  2. Audiences (insight from the tag)
  3. Creative (the layout and then the tech being inserted into the creative)

So before you go ahead and hire an agency to help you with DCO, make sure that, like Crimtan, they have the capabilities to get all three pillars right. (If you’d like to chat to us about how we can help you with DCO, just get in touch and ask to speak to one of our DCO experts.)

How to get your DCO brief right

Once you’ve found the right experts to help you with DCO, you need to prepare the right brief for them.

You know your audience, therefore you should have an understanding on what the audience(s)/profile(s) like about your brand. It might also be that you want to promote a message to new audiences who have similar behaviours to an existing audience, which can helpful as a starting point.

It’s always good to include content that is relevant to your audience alongside any new messaging, such as a new season, new route or promotional offer. The content you create needs to be appealing and engaging with them whilst not focusing too much on their demographic.

For any piece of dynamic creative content you create, you’ll have one or several core messages you want to communicate (your brief will help you identify these). The trick is translating these core messages into a simple story for the creative to demonstrate in a short and limited space across a small number of animated frames.

It’s not just about what you want to say to your audience: it’s also about saying it in a way that resonates with them that’s in their language (rather than your brands’). Though your ads should always retain your brand tone of voice.

Here’s what your brief should cover for your lifecycle marketing campaign:

  • Who are your audiences?
  • What are the important stages of the website journey?
  • What do you want your audience to do after seeing your ad through each lifecycle stage?
  • What do you want them to think?
  • How do you want them to feel?
  • What are the elements of the creative framework that you’d like to be dynamic?
  • Will the template work for future campaigns?
  • What other display creative do you like? Is there a particular animation you’ve seen that you like/don’t like?

The most popular DCO ad sizes

As part of your brief, you need to consider which ad sizes you will run. The main display sizes (based on most popular IAB sizes and where we see most delivery) are:

  • 160×600
  • 300×250
  • 300×600
  • 320×50
  • 728×90
  • 970×250

The assets you need to build dynamic creative

In order to build dynamic creative you also need the following assets:

  • Font files
  • Logo files
  • Brand guidelines
  • Correctly sized JPGS, PNGs or PSDs
  • Feed file (.csv, .xls, Google Sheets, xml, Shopify API, other options can be available)

The specifications you need to know for DCO

Before we get further into creating your DCO ad, it’s important to be aware of the specifications you need to adhere to.

The video general specifications are:

  • Aspect ratio: 16:9
  • Dimensions: 1920×1080 (1080p)
  • File format: .mp4
  • File size: varying from ~1.5.mb for display (in-banner video as the max limit is 2.2mb for display banners) to 10mb for pre-roll/CTV

Other general animation specs:

  • GIF files
  • Dimensions vary depending on the template chosen
  • File format will be .gif
  • File size can be more accommodating than video but the max limit is 2.2mb for display banners)

Length of videos:

  • 15/ 30 seconds in-banner video

The general process for creating DCO ads

Here’s the general process we follow when creating your DCO ads:

  1. Crimtan builds out mocks and gets feedback on designs
  2. Crimtan organises a call between all creative parties (agency/client/creative agency) to discuss amends
  3. We discuss the client KPIs and how we can match the KPIs, media targeting and match it to the creative lifecycle
  4. We build out Google Sheets for completion between all parties
  5. We discuss the animation and the number of frames and discuss the functionalities of the creative (such as backfill of products in the dynamic frames of the creative)
  6. Crimtan to send across preview link (sometimes is one master unit or all creative sizes)
  7. We receive feedback/make amends/sign off on creative
  8. Crimtan supplies a wireframe with the creative specs for any future image updates (to minimise any future campaign delays and allow for simple swapping of imagery and text, the latter being done through the Google Sheets system)
  9. Once all is approved, Crimtan works on all internal communications around QA, IAS tag wrapping and the media buying to creative setup (the internal logistics of running the campaign creative)

What type of assets to send across

A common mistake with programmatic is that it’s an afterthought to a marketing media plan. This is usually because its reach doesn’t hit the brief, and therefore display assets are normally social media sized assets and/or finalised assets such as JPGs or HTML5 banners, which can’t be made dynamic.

To avoid that mistake here are the type of assets you need to send across for a DCO ad campaign, and what to consider when doing so:

  • Lifestyle imagery to be used for hero frame (most likely to be the first frame and mirrors the message on the client website)
  • Ensure the imagery will work across all the different orientations of the creative
  • Make sure that the creative can tell a story that meets the KPIs and the lifecycle approach
  • Check that the creative and layout will work no matter what the promotion/message (elements such as the CTA text etc can changed to suit)
  • Do you have specific problems or issues that you can’t get your message across in other forms of media? Can these issues be solved with programmatic media (display and in-banner video content etc), if the answer is yes – it’s key to identify these issues and come up with a solution on solving them
  • Who, what and where the programmatic content is for (audience, open exchange or specific websites, desktop or mobile)

Ready to start creating your first DCO campaign?

If you’re excited about the possibilities of DCO and would like to talk about next steps, we’re the people to speak to. As we mentioned at the start, successful DCO campaigns aren’t just about the creative. Instead they depend on three core pillars: technology (the tag that powers the clever stuff to happen), audiences (insight from the tag) and creative (the layout and then the tech being inserted into the creative).

Crimtan are experts in all three pillars – a fact that is demonstrated in the results our campaigns deliver. We’re aways continually innovating and pushing the technology boundaries to create exciting new opportunities for our clients.

If you’d like to find out what our DCO expertise can do for your ad campaigns, get in touch and ask to speak to one of our DCO experts.