DCOs: Can They Really Do It All?

The Good, The Bad, and The Answer

Many brands across performance marketing use Dynamic Creative Optimization (DCO) platforms to manage and execute creative updates on a large scale. Brands that require high volumes of creative in-market seek them out, eager to realize the promise of generating mass creative variations for different target audiences with minimal input. 

While DCO platforms often pitch themselves as a solve-all for performance creative, very few things in life live up to that type of billing. The reality is that there are some very real limitations that can leave clients operating more slowly, at capacity or with unexpected expenses.

While DCO platforms often pitch themselves as a solve-all for performance creative, very few things in life live up to that type of billing.

TVGla works with many DCO platforms, and here we’ll give a rundown of their benefits and shortcomings. What are they good for, and where do they fall short? It’s important to be aware of these things when you’re considering signing up with one.

What DCOs Are Good For

  1. Personalization & Relevance: The ability to analyze performance data and adjust creative in real time for different demographics, psychographics, and ad placement.

  2. Centralization: Cross-channel creative management with reporting and advanced analytics centrally located in a single dashboard.

  3. Operational Efficiencies: Trafficking, tag management, and cross-team visibility under one roof that allows everyone to be working with the same information.

  4. High Volume / Always-On Campaigns: Brands that need to launch tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands, of creative versions for campaigns that are largely evergreen.

In general, DCOs work well for “set it and forget it” creative campaigns, outside of the occasional change of a word or number. An example of this is a CPG brand that sells a diverse range of products, each of which requires many creative variations. Most of the creative elements remain consistent, such as product name and product image, while the price fluctuates depending on the user’s location. A DCO can be an effective solution for this brand, because they can quickly update the price dynamically in a feed for all location-based variations, without impacting the design or other creative components. 

Where DCOs Fall Short 

  1. Rigid Templates: Templates often require a “one size fits all” approach for all creative elements to work together harmoniously. This lack of flexibility eliminates the ability to introduce new creative elements without developing a new build.

  2. Generic and Impersonal Designs: Despite the promise of personalization, many DCO-generated assets can feel generic. Some templates are preset, and creative elements are populated to fit a generalized design instead of the other way around. Automated tools can’t capture the nuances and care that a human designer can.

  3. Creative Differentiation: A diversified creative mix can be a key driver of performance. To build variety in an ad set, DCOs require individual template builds for each creative format. This often results in longer upfront production time and higher expense because of “per template” fees that can outsize the cost of developing that same creative outside the platform.

  4. Technical Glitches: Data feeds can be a single point of failure. One data feed that controls every element within each ad unit creates a risk that can impact mass creative versions. For example, if one background image is incorrectly defined, it will break all ads associated with it. Troubleshooting to find the culprit across thousands of creative iterations can be like finding a needle in a haystack. 
  1. Dependence on Data Quality: A DCO’s performance is tied to the accuracy and quality of incoming data. Inaccurate data can lead to misguided creative versions.

  2. Asset Ownership: Some DCO partners restrict creative exports, so brands don’t own their assets. As a result, they cannot repurpose and distribute them to other marketing teams such as affiliates or international regions.

  3. Cost: Brands should be aware of the residual cost of DCO creative. There is a substantially higher CPM associated with dynamic creative than traditional ad serving. As a result, after the initial creative template is set up, the brand pays a premium on each impression served for the life of the ad. This additional cost, if not tracked and considered carefully, could outweigh the benefits of the optimization.

How TVGla Fits In

To give some context, TVGla delivers performance creative with brand appeal, which means our clients need their creative to both drive growth and effectively reflect their brand. 

Typically we’re asking consumers to make an ongoing financial commitment to subscribe to a product or service — so the look and feel of that creative, along with the messaging, needs to be on point.

On more than one occasion, clients have come to us with a DCO already signed up and are facing issues because of the limitations described above.

Clients will often have a tech partner in the form of a DCO in combination with a more hands-on creative approach from an agency with experience handling large-scale performance creative campaigns and delivering premium creative across any and all variations.

At TVGla, this means we develop the look and feel of the creative assets, develop the templates for maximum flexibility, and deliver them according to requirements.

Advantages of Engaging a Performance Creative Agency

Overall: Whether we’re partnering with a DCO or not, TVGla’s rapid workflow focuses on the best possible creative output for brands, eliminating common headaches associated with only using a technology-first vendor. 

Team: Having a dedicated hands-on team of creative specialists offers a high-touch service and flexibility that an automated or restricted workflow cannot. This provides an in-depth understanding of performance creative while ensuring that every design and every word aligns with the brand’s core message. 

Speed + Design Care: TVGla’s proprietary workflow allows us to output a high volume of creative versions at a fast pace, while maintaining a high level of care and customization that is impossible with DCOs. 

Creative Flexibility: It’s important to have the ability to tailor each creative version so that it’s optimized for the specific environment that it’s going to live within. As performance results come in, creative is tweaked to reflect the learnings without having to consider the limitations of a template. 


If you’re looking for a way to manage a high volume of creative, there is a lot a DCO platform can do for you. However, it’s important to be aware of the common limitations. Based on our experience, having a creative partner in the mix who is both well-versed at executing on the platform and who is responsible for the overall quality of what the end-consumer sees can determine whether or not your campaign hits the mark.