Don Sklenka

SVP, dentsu DCO Solutions


Dynamic Creative Optimization (DCO) is a technology that enables more efficient paid media strategies through data integration. Many brands are starting to use or consider DCO because of a few key benefits.

  • DCO drives creative relevance.
  • DCO helps scale creative across channels.
  • DCO drives increased media performance.
  • DCO decreases time to market.
  • DCO provides performance insights for creative.
  • DCO helps orchestrate audience and data strategies.
  • And much more!

However, DCO can feel a bit overwhelming. So, if you’re thinking about diving in, here are a few tips and best practices that can help set your program up for success.

1. Don’t bite off more than you can chew.

With scalable solutions in particular, it can be tempting to go all in right out of the gate. However, when you’re implementing DCO for the first time, it’s important not to bite off more than you can chew. Start small so you can iron out kinks, address gap areas, and identify learnings. Think of this as your opportunity to fine-tune your blueprint for success before building the whole house.

We recommend starting with a few medium-sized campaigns. This should allow you to gather sufficient performance data without investing too much budget into a new endeavor.

2. Create a clear plan with defined KPIs, what success looks like, and milestones.

Brands use DCO for a variety of reasons, across numerous platforms, with different methods for evaluating performance. Before taking any tactical action, it’s important to have a clearly laid-out plan that provides alignment across all involved stakeholders. Your plan should answer questions that include:

  • Is this considered a pilot/“prove out” program or the start of an always-on tactic?
  • What is the core DCO strategy use case: data integration, creative production, or rapid optimization?
  • Are there specific markets supporting this DCO initiative?
  • What is the media budget and timeframe for the initial launch campaigns?
  • On which channel(s) will you launch DCO?
  • What is the main KPI defining DCO and/or paid media success?

Once you’ve answered some of these foundational questions, clearly outline the next steps after launch. What conditions will trigger a change in strategy? What channels or audiences will launch in phase two?

3. Start with content, then design a template.

DCO will require you to adhere to a template that makes rapid creative iteration possible. But content is still king - it’s the foundation for all your ads and what will ultimately educate, excite, and convert shoppers. Rather than start with a template and wedge your content into it, try the opposite approach: begin with the content, then find the template that can accommodate the messaging and creative that your audience needs. We suggest you identify content needs quarter by quarter rather than plan for an entire year at once.

4. Simplify. Simplify. Simplify.

Just like we want to launch DCO with a limited number of campaigns, we also recommend starting with a limited number of audiences. Yes, DCO is highly scalable, but it can quickly get overwhelming if you’re trying to create content templates across a large number of audiences. Once again, starting small allows you to test, learn, and optimize while you’re still working at a relatively small scale.

5. Rapid optimization requires agility.

One of the key benefits to DCO is the ability to leverage “rapid optimization.” It allows you to preset algorithms to automatically drop creative from the rotation as it underperforms which will maximize impressions (budget) and generate learnings quickly (vs. exporting data and trying to dissect a pivot table). However, in order to use this feature, there needs to be creative/content agility to produce content iterations to test, test, test, and test some more.

At the end of the day, standing up a new DCO program should take around 4 weeks. Our DCO solutions team can help determine the best path forward to ensure the steps above are met and that we are building a solution that is best for you and your campaign, not what is most convenient. Please reach out if you’d like to talk more about your DCO initiatives and goals.