Build bridges, not walls

By Kunal Gupta, CEO, Nova

The time is here to build bridges, not walls.

The walled gardens first lured in advertisers with the promise of reach. They delivered on that promise, and then innovated with beautiful creative formats that until now, have been stuck within their walls.

The past year has made it clear about what matters in advertising.

Creative matters

Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Pinterest, TikTok, LinkedIn and more each have their own proprietary creative specifications. From the dimensions of a photo, to the length of a video, to the character count of captions, and more, everything has been designed to be proprietary.

Marketers are tired. It is exhausting to be creating for each of the walled gardens, and by the time they come around to building creative for the open web, they are out of time, budget and interest.

Who is excited to design another 300x250 banner ad? Who wins an award for a 300x250 banner ad? Who gets promoted for bringing to their manager yet another 300x250 banner ad? The answer is clear. No one.

Creative is the most important ingredient to effective advertising. Without it, brands do not stand a chance. And today, the best creative is sitting within the walled gardens. Marketers need solutions to unlock the full value of their creative investments.

Attention matters

Advertising on the open web has been designed to earn clicks, where advertising within the walled gardens has been designed to earn attention.

Pop-up ads, content recommendations and fake news are all designed to earn clicks. Whereas beautiful Instagram photos, engaging TikTok videos and thought-provoking Twitter posts are designed to earn attention. They are visual first and copy light, thoughtful and tasteful.

The bar is high for creative in the walled gardens, as users can comment, like and share ads. This environment inspires marketers, with a small carrot and a large stick, to be more intentional about the creative they build.

Engagement matters

The business model for advertising within the walled gardens is designed to optimize for better creative. There is a real economic incentive to build better creative.

Walled gardens transact on an engagement model with advertisers, not on an impression model. The price to advertise on Facebook is determined dynamically based on how engaging the creative is. This is why an insurance brand will have to pay more than a sports brand to reach the exact same audience. It is simply easier for a sports brand to build engaging creative. The algorithm then rewards the brand with a lower cost of media.

The business model for the open web is fundamentally different, which transacts on an impression based model. This is why two decades in, banner ads still look like banner ads. There is no economic incentive for brands to build better creative. And there likely will not be, due to the legacy of how advertising infrastructure has been designed and deployed at scale.

This is why the creative built for the walled gardens will almost always be better than the creative built for the open web. It just needs a bridge to be available in more places, as it works so well.

Experience matters

The average person scrolls the height of the Empire State Building each day in feeds. Some people likely scroll up and down the building. There is a familiarity with the creative formats that people have. It is trained behaviour that is easy, known and comfortable.

People are not afraid to engage with a Facebook or Instagram creative, unlike the fear often associated with clicking a banner ad and having no idea what might happen next. This is a built-in benefit advertisers enjoy, that historically has only been available to them in the walled gardens.

Advertising needs to work first and foremost for the people it is speaking to. And if it speaks to them in a way they expect, then brands can expect advertising to work for them as well.

Customers matter

Marketers can fall victim of thinking their customers exist in silos. However, customers are customers and they exist everywhere online.

The walled gardens and the open web are free and accessible for everyone. I do not need to speak a specific language, have a special device or have gone through training. The customers brands want to reach are people, who like and enjoy diversity. People do spend a healthy amount of time browsing the open web and are not locked into scrolling the feed as their only option.

The same customers that are available in the walled garden are also available on the open web. It is time that the same creative, that customers like to engage with so much, is available without walls.

Standards matter

The cross-border lockdown the world is experiencing with much frustration and disappointment right now is what has quietly, and gradually, happened with creative in the walled gardens over the past decade.

Imagine not being able to run a TV commercial across different broadcasters. This is the state of advertising creative today in the walled gardens.

If a 300x250 banner ad was never invented, then every ad on the open web might be different. Brands would become more selective about who they worked with and media spend would consolidate on the websites that offered the biggest reach. This sounds a lot like the state of the walled gardens today.

The walled gardens intentionally do not support IAB creative standards. The past chair of the IAB board was a Facebook executive. Facebook does not support a single IAB creative, and likely never will. And now, the other walled gardens are following Facebook’s approach to invent their own standards, not the IAB’s approach to create industry-wide standards. It is time to accept that Facebook has created a new creative standard for advertising that works better than what we once had.

Results matter

When advertising begins with the best possible creative, the results flow more easily.

To reach customers is no longer enough. Brands must leave an impression.

To engage with customers is to earn their attention. The bar is high.

To convert customers starts with finding them. They are available everywhere.

When advertising works for the customer, it works for the brand. The creative built for the walled gardens works for customers, that is why it works for brands.

It is the time for that same creative to work for customers, and brands, everywhere.

It is time to build bridges, not walls.


About Nova

Nova’s mission is to build bridges, not walls. Brands and agencies use Social Display with Nova to repurpose social creative built for walled gardens like Facebook and Instagram to run programmatically, at scale, on the open web.

Amazon, American Express, L'Oréal, McDonalds, Microsoft, P&G, Samsung, Spotify, Starbucks and Walmart are some of the 5,000 brands that activated 12,000 campaigns in 30+ countries with Nova in the past year.

Nova is the leader in Social Display, with 75 people in 16 countries.

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