Responsive advertising is far from the buzzword it once was. The Interactive Advertising Bureau has been strongly recommending aspect-ratio-based ads since late 2017, and many publishers and vendors have made plays at the one-size-fits-all ad to meet the demand of cross-platform consumers.

But in a cluttered ad tech space focused on LEAN (light, encrypted, ad choice supported, and non-invasive) ad principles and optimised screen formats, there is room for ad innovation that is as responsive to the advertiser as it is to the advertisement. This is a key differentiator of Bloomberg Media’s in-house ad innovation, ad.apt.

The early success and ongoing evolution of ad.apt is solid evidence to the market opportunity — an opportunity that makes our work in developing ad.apt’s code base continually exciting. Since its launch in the second half of 2018, ad.apt has been one of the highest-grossing products in Bloomberg Media’s ad innovations repertoire for the year.

The component-based ad.apt system lets advertisers submit assets and extend the elements dynamically to any screen or device in a variety of formats.
The component-based ad.apt system lets advertisers submit assets and extend the elements dynamically to any screen or device in a variety of formats.

What is ad.apt and what makes it so remarkable? From a tech perspective, the natively designed, component-based ad system extends brand elements dynamically, flowing into any screen on any device. But the full answer is more complicated and hinges on ad.apt’s ability to shapeshift into whatever the client needs.

The cross-platform ad unit lets advertisers submit a set of assets — a headline, subhead, logo, brand images, video, and a call to action. Using ad.apt we can simply apply the brand assets to one of four formats (three sizes each) and the underlying logic will style the ad based on what it is given.

The platform can style ads based on attributes like the proportions of a logo or the length of a headline, while also allowing clients to own the experience by using their brand colors and fonts throughout. Assets can be turned into data, video, or Bloomberg-related articles to deliver on a full spectrum of brand objectives without additional lift.

Clients can style ads based on attributes and use their brand colours and fonts. This collection of images shows the evolution of an ad.apt format through feedback and learnings.
Clients can style ads based on attributes and use their brand colours and fonts. This collection of images shows the evolution of an ad.apt format through feedback and learnings.

From a business standpoint, ad.apt is enticing because of its efficiency on the client side and its ability to leverage the Bloomberg Media audience and aesthetic to create a seamless web experience. But the true differentiator is that from the beginning, ad.apt has been a product built to grow and change as we receive feedback and observe user interaction.

The product’s evolution started early and led to many of ad.apt’s key features. Through early testing with our ad traffic team, we used Bloomberg as our first advertiser to hammer out the process of how to build an ad.apt unit.

On the more technical side, we owe quite a bit to our friends in Bloomberg Engineering for helping us build tools that run big parts of ad.apt’s backend, allowing it read and interpret data, stories, and even video for user consumption. As Bloomberg Media sits within Bloomberg LP, a technology company at its core, we were able to collaborate and innovate on our product quickly.

Early testing led to important findings. For example, we found that we couldn’t have one style for every logo without getting giant squares, small rectangles, and other wonky sizes. This evolved into the more complex system that we have now where every logo gets a catered size.

Our first post-launch update was based on advertiser feedback. We heard early on from clients their desire to use their brand fonts and more custom styles in the experience, and created a set of customisation tools as a result. These tools enable us to tweak the design, seamlessly integrating the client’s brand into the existing structure of the ad and allowing an added degree of variety within the set style of the experience.

Most recently we’ve taken client and internal feedback to heart and rolled out larger changes focused on improving the overall experience. We’ve retooled the structure and animations of several formats based on what clients considered would be a better or more streamlined experience and launched alternate versions of existing templates focused on showcasing advertiser-provided or advertiser-chosen content using the existing ad.apt format and style.

Bloomberg’s unparalleled understanding of its audience will drive ad.apt’s future innovation. We expect to one day be able to tell a client that not only is this the most effective design profile, but it will yield the best results with your target audience. This service would not only provide more efficient personalisation inside the ad product, it would be paired with an unmatched level of insight rarely seen in a product of this caliber.

In reality, innovation happens in increments. Every small problem along the way is a chance to get creative. Looking back, many of the difficulties in developing ad.apt made its current form stronger and more versatile. If that’s any indication of what’s ahead, I can only imagine what incredible new tools and features will spring up on the way to the next big code update.