The Simple 10 Step Guide to Dynamic Creative Optimisation (DCO)
4 min read

The Simple 10 Step Guide to Dynamic Creative Optimisation (DCO)

Dynamic creative optimisation (DCO) is a practice that although many marketers are familiar with, very few actually apply to their digital marketing campaigns.

There are many reasons for this. However, one of the most common barriers for marketers is the knowledge gap between idea and application.

In fact, according to a recent study by Sizmek, 37% of 522 brand marketers in Europe and the US confessed to not having sufficient knowledge to apply DCO technology to their campaigns.

In this article, we wanted to remove the mystery behind DCO advertising. Therefore, in this step-by-step guide we will show you how to set-up a display advertising campaign from beginning to end using DCO.

Dynamic creative optimisation: The case

For much of the set-up, the process is the same as it would be for an ordinary display campaign without a DCO set-up. It’s only when you get to the final stages of the process that the application becomes more advanced.

Here we break down how to create the ideal DCO display advertising campaign from start to finish, step-by-step, as simply as possible!

Setting-up a successful DCO campaign

Before you even begin with DCO, it’s important to have the right foundation in place. Your foundation is your data; it is needed for targeting, shaping messaging, and understanding audiences. Without the right data, and strategy, to inform your DCO engine, your DCO campaign will be too broad and ineffective.

Step 1:

If you haven’t already, set your buyer personas for each of the audience you’re attempting to reach. Consider factors such as job role, companies, goals, challenges, where they like to consume media, personal background, and shopping preferences in order to get a full picture of who and where you should target your ad towards.


(For more information, read the full guide to setting up a buyer persona here).

Step 2:

Identify what their particular interests might be and where they might typically be browsing online in the lead up to a purchase. Whether that’s contextually relevant sites, or comparison sites, and especially your own website – all of them provide a potential location to reach this particular consumer.

Step 3:

It’s important to use historical data to work out what devices your buyer persona browse on and then testing which devices achieve higher conversions. For instance, brand awareness campaigns might work better on mobile but low-funnel tactics on desktop. Plus, consider geo-targeting your ads to keep them as relevant to your target market as possible. This will help you identify where your ad spend is better targeted.

Step 4:

Get into the mindset of these consumers by working off previous insights from your customer data platform (CDP). What targeting strategies work best for this demographic, what devices are they most commonly browsing on? What CTAs work best for final conversion? In this process, the more data you have the better! This will guide you on both where to target your ads and how.

Step 5:

Of course, you can expect your consumers to shop around. Indeed, according to ThinkwithGoogle, the average consumer will have around 3.4 touchpoints on their consumer journey before making a final decision. Therefore, make sure your messaging and creative is tailored as they progress through the buyer journey. Clearly outline your USPs and how you stand apart from your competitors.

Applying DCO effectively to your display advertising campaign

Once you have the right foundations, you can then begin to set-up your DCO campaign. Note, there are different ways in which DCO can be applied.

In our example, we will guide you on how to produce DCO with a creative management platform (CMP) – creative DCO. There is also template-driven DCO, this requires advanced coding skills and has a low creative output.

(Read, Dynamic creative optimisation: What you need to know, to find out more on template-free DCO campaigns.)

Step 6:

Once you have all the information and messaging you need mapped out, this is where the dynamic creative optimisation platform comes in. To set-up your DCO platform you need to first make sure it’s connected to your DMP.

“…we use the information from our customer relationship management (CRM) and data management platform (DMP). This means we can build creatives that are more focused on the users’ needs. By doing this we can reach our goal of even greater ad personalisation and increase ROI.”

Sergio Fernández Vidal, Digital Design and Production Specialist.

Step 7:

After that is done, your team can create the decision tree within the platform which will determine which ad is presented to which viewer at a certain time in their user journey. Your DCO platform will ask you to set this up once you begin the campaign and each process will be different depending on the solution you choose.


An example of a decision tree by SmartInsights.

Step 8:

Next, pair each junction in the tree with a creative. This is where the CMP comes in. It allows you to build, design, and scale the required creatives for every stage of the user journey in a matter of hours. This avoids the common error when applying DCO, by using static templates for personalised, yet boring advertising. It will also save a lot of time too!

Step 9:

By using a CMP, you can mass-produce and control all the design variations you might require for a DCO campaign – without the need for boring templated designs. Via the CMP, you set up guidelines, enable data feeds, and all creatives needed to set-up. Plus, if you’re using existing platforms such as Adform or Sizmek for your DCO serving solution, then applying a CMP to the process should be just as easy.

DCO with a CMP explained graphic

Step 10:

Once this is in place, you can execute the campaign! Ideally with increased display advertising performance, as you are now providing the right ad, for the right user, at the right time.

Don’t forget!

Once your campaign is live, be sure to test and optimise your messaging, creative, and targeting throughout the process.

For more information on how to optimise campaigns effectively, read the full guide to A/B testing here.

Next steps

DCO is certainly an advanced technology, yet this doesn’t mean its application has to be difficult.

Using a creative management platform such as Bannerflow, both marketers and designers can easily apply the technology to their existing display advertising practices.

Read the case study with Meliá Hotels International for more information on how a CMP can help brands create effective and engaging DCO campaigns.

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