American Marketer


How we did it: Reaching advertisers with advertising in new ways

June 3, 2024

Justine Frostad Justine Frostad


By Justine Frostad

When it came time to create our first-ever branding campaign, as the leading deep learning advertising platform, the bar was set high. The campaign needed to express the value of our technology, which is built on super-advanced AI. The goal was to increase brand awareness with the world’s toughest critics of advertising: advertisers.

To make it all work, we took a decidedly different approach, moving away from more predictable business-to-business marketing norms, using AI to design unique, appealing imagery, and testing out more emerging ad formats such as digital out-of-home (DOOH).

Coming from a company that inherently challenges the status quo, it was natural to come at our campaign from a unique angle.

Our approach was about focusing more on expressing outcomes versus products and reaching our audiences organically throughout their commutes, which was effective, and speaks to the value of remembering that B2B audiences are also people who value a clever or captivating creative like anyone else.

Rethinking B2B ad creative
One of the biggest opportunities we identified with this branding campaign was the freedom to take creative risks and think through how to express the feeling of day-to-day life when working with our tech.

Many B2B ads end up looking more like a reformatted version of a sheet from a conference than a memorable concept. I say that with great appreciation for the complex challenges that B2B marketers face, having been a part of many well-meaning one-sheets-turned-campaigns earlier in my career. Think blue, gray and white with a stock photo of a business person or a chart with a bit too much text.

Our business is decidedly unique. We are using sophisticated AI to help advertisers drive business outcomes with nuance at a mind-bending level.

We build custom AI algorithms and have technology that “reads” content on a page – across the entire Web – to determine where the right context and audience might be to showcase an ad most effectively. It is futuristic and, although complex on the back-end, simple to activate as an advertiser.

There was no way our team could default to generic imagery and copy if we wanted our ads to reflect our brand and business.

We are also selling to the world’s most discerning buyers: advertisers and brand marketers with budgets that they are responsible for justifying and optimizing, and who have a ton of partnership options. They can pick from thousands of different advertising partners, and, understandably, have little patience or time for lackluster offerings.

The “aha” moment for me was when we determined, with our agency partner, that our approach needed to think way outside of B2B norms and instead appeal to advertisers emotionally and viscerally, such as the best-in-class business-to-consumer advertisements.

Instead of trying to explain our products and capabilities, we turned the tables and focused on the single most significant benefit to our audience: one clear message per creative, that is it.

Design AI with AI
After a deep dive into the needs and mindset of our target audiences, we landed on the concept of empowering advertisers to “reclaim your brain.”

Our AI gives advertisers time back in their day, new insights and new opportunities. This allows them to move beyond a lot of manual work and fire-drills, providing them the ability to focus on the things that matter to them and the business.

As an AI company, it was natural for us to turn to AI tools for concepts and design.

We focused on colorful, memorable renderings of brains in all different fun scenarios with short statements that matched the sentiments we heard when we interviewed our prospects.

Rather than talking about deep learning, data and algorithms, we showcased what our clients are doing with the time they gain back. They are able to be more “collaborativ,” more “inventiv” more “responsiv” and the list goes on. Intriguing, playful and memorable was ultimately what we wanted more of in our campaign.

Smart placements
While we, of course, included digital advertising in our media plan, one option that sounded immediately appealing was digital out-of-home (DOOH) advertising.

Over the past decade, many billboards and signs around major cities, including New York where our headquarters is based, have gone digital.

Digital signage opens up a ton of different possibilities to make an out-of-home (OOH) campaign more effective, from targeting to interactivity.

We were able to use AI again to analyze data about our target audience and triangulate on a media plan that would show our ads in the right places around the city at the right times of day.

We evolved our campaign over time, shifting with the seasons and updating ads based on ongoing analysis throughout the campaign.

Committing to best practices
Investing in a branding campaign can feel like a leap of faith for a data-driven B2B company like ours.

We did not want to over-correct by playing things too safe.

Testing and experimentation is a big part of our company culture – it is how we learn and improve quickly and it is how our technology works. It was hugely helpful to have that mindset with our own campaign, too.

AS THE RESULTS continue to come in, we are measuring our success through research and inbound pipeline analysis, but we know it will take time to measure the full effects.

We are also committed to investing in long-term branding to maintain momentum.

I am excited to see what worked well, and where we might make changes next time to be even more effective at reaching advertisers with advertising.

Justine Frostad is senior vice president of marketing at Cognitiv, New York. Reach her at