I’m heading to Vail on Wednesday, and according to this banner ad, it’s looking like I timed my trip well. Vail is getting socked with snow, and I’m getting real time updates as I browse the web. I took the screenshot below at 6pm on February 28th. The ads I’m seeing now tell me that the snowfall total is up to 24 inches, and the tally keeps rising.
So how is Vail accomplishing this little bit of marketing magic? Is some poor ad ops soul swapping banner ads every time another inch of snow falls? It turns out Vail has a clever solution for automating these ads. By working with a dynamic creative vendor called Spongecell, Vail is injecting real-time snow report data into their ads. A few components need to come together for this to work:
- Vail’s website has a page that includes the latest snow report. You can find a consumer-facing version of that page here and an XML version of the raw data here.
- Spongecell has a simple tool that retrieves raw data from a third party domain. Combining the Spongecell tool with Vail’s XML document yields a URL that can send live snowfall data to any object hosted on Spongecell’s domain.
- Spongecell can then build a Flash file that retrieves data from Vail’s XML document and uses this data to populate the ad’s message.
- Because the overall process relies on Vail to maintain a live data feed, there is a risk the dynamic snowfall data fails to populate. As a backup, Spongecell also loads a static ad in the background. That static ad can be served if the connection to Vail’s XML document fails.
The final experience is a dynamic ad that is populated on the fly with Vail’s latest snow report. Fingers crossed for another few inches!