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How adaptive and reactive advertising can enhance engagement

Finding the perfect piece of ad copy or creative for your promotional material is no easy feat. People are all different, so it isn’t easy to work out a line or image that will speak powerfully to as many different people as possible.

A/B testing can help, and you can always look back at the results of a past campaign to take on board results and gather learnings, but that’s a little rudimentary. Gladly, there are other, more sophisticated techniques that allow businesses to automatically adapt their advertising and reap the rewards. In this article, Mporium explores what these are.

What is adaptive advertising?

As we’ve explored in previous blog posts, adaptive advertising is all about being reactive. Our Micro-Moments landscape has fundamentally shifted the way people interact with brands, and they now expect to be able to find what they want in the moment they want it.

What’s more, with people now able to react to major events instantly through social media, it’s become more important for brands to react to those major events too. So, for example, when the lights went out at the 2013 Super Bowl, people took to Twitter to discuss the unusual event, and when the quick wits at Oreo posted a funny tweet that referenced it, it generated a huge amount of engagement.

This kind of reactivity isn’t easy though. In fact, with teams of staff needing to be on hand to react outside of working hours, it can be expensive and disruptive, and can sometimes not even deliver the necessary results: for every Oreo, there are others who haven’t quite got it right. A more automated way of delivering this kind of reactivity is what’s needed, and that’s something Netflix has found great success with.

How Netflix adapts to your taste

If you’re a regular user of Netflix, you may have noticed something slightly unusual about the artwork thumbnails they use to promote the shows and films they have available: they change. This isn’t by accident, and nor is it a glitch – they’re meant to change and they change depending on the content you watch. As the Netflix Technology Blog explains:

“If the artwork representing a title captures something compelling to you, then it acts as a gateway into that title and gives you some visual “evidence” for why the title might be good for you.

The artwork may highlight an actor that you recognize, capture an exciting moment like a car chase, or contain a dramatic scene that conveys the essence of a movie or TV show.

If we present that perfect image on your homepage (and as they say: an image is worth a thousand words), then maybe, just maybe, you will give it a try.”

Going into further detail, the blog explains how exactly this works. Using the example of the ‘Good Will Hunting’, Netflix says that users who have watched romantic films in the past will likely be shown a thumbnail featuring stars Matt Damon and Minnie Driver kissing. Meanwhile, users who have watched a number of comedies are more likely to be served a thumbnail featuring Robin Williams, who also appears in the movie. “By personalizing artwork,” the blog states, “we help each title put its best foot forward for every member and thus improve our member experience.”

How can this work in advertising?

A large inventory of imagery is needed to do this, and while that sounds intimidating, it’s just a case of preparation. Businesses should evaluate whatever they are looking to advertise around, create a library of images, copy or both that can apply to various scenarios and get set up with an automated advertising platform that can push out ads reactively.

Let’s look at an example in sport. Perhaps Manchester United are playing Manchester City. This is a great opportunity for businesses to get involved through advertising, and as reactive advertising can be critical in a live and unpredictable arena like sports, it’s critical to be reactive, especially for a betting company, where in-play gambling is so popular. So let’s focus on a gambling company.

This gambling company wants to update their advertising every time a major incident happens, so they craft ad copy such as the below:

[INSERT PLAYER NAME] has scored! Bet now on what the final score will be!

It’s a red card for [INSERT PLAYER NAME]! How will that affect the game? Bet now!

This is where the automation comes into play. If David Silva were to score, then his name would be added into the first piece of ad copy and that would be activated. If Lukaku were to be sent off, his name would be added into the second piece of ad copy and that would be activated. Imagery could be used in the same way. It’s all a case of being prepared, getting set up right, and letting the technology do the rest.


There is no one single perfect image or piece of ad copy: it varies from person to person and moment to moment. Reactivity is the key and, as Netflix has proven, great reactivity is about great preparation. Work out what you want your reactive advertising to say and get it lined up ahead of time.  


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