Following up on the concerns about how to use Yahoo SmartAds, the answer is probably to use a souped-up creative optimizer, ideally hooked into the ad serving system itself. That way you can analyze your results and then show your most effective ads most often (or modify the less effective versions). Creative optimization has been around for a while for search campaigns, trying to improve performance for certain keywords. Advertising.com in November 2006 released a study of keyword performance using three optimization techniques.
It’s harder to find information about optimization solutions for advertising, perhaps because everyone is trying to keep their methods proprietary. WPP’s (Ogilvy’s) mOne developed a tool called mEuclid and publicized it in 2005. That seems likely to be the same tool mentioned in The Quest for the Perfect Online Ad (Business 2.0, 4/3/2007). The Atlas Institute of aQuantive has done some writing about creative optimization (also in 2005), though the referenced white paper says to worry more about ad placement than about exactly what’s in your creative.
Still, given the option to have potentially thousands of combinations of ad components, agencies that take advantage of SmartAds will need a way to manage and analyze the data they collect. Erick Schonfeld’s The Next Net picks up the same concern about how many items marketers will need to juggle. Seems like Ogilvy has a good setup already – I wonder whether the other agencies are behind or just quiet?