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The great sucking sound: Automation has made media buying harder

January 14, 2020

By Seb Joseph

Unplug the router, cut the power cord, code the algorithm. Automation and artificial intelligence are becoming better at doing the jobs of advertising execs. The days of sealing ad deals by phone, emailed insertion orders and the occasional liquid lunch are no more.

While industry folks have deliberated the man-versus-machine question, automation in the form of programmatic advertising has upended the media buying process, changing many of the jobs required to run a campaign. Machines are simply better and faster when it comes to gathering insights, testing ads, learning what works and optimizing the result. But the dirty secret of programmatic advertising is that it still requires an awful lot of people.

“The promise of automation has led to more people needed to do more complex things but that’s because of the existing general infrastructure for campaign management that revolves around spreadsheets, notebooks and Post-it notes,” says Adam Ray, CEO of independent media agency 59A.

This is a story that’s largely played out across the global economy. While many preached doomsday scenarios for automation obliterating work, unemployment rates in most advanced economies are at historic lows. Economies tend to adapt to technological change and for every job lost to automation, a new one is often created, albeit sometimes requiring different skills.

This is broadly the story taking place in ad buying. By taking away the easy parts of running campaigns, automation has made the harder parts of an ad buyer’s job even harder. Dated campaign reporting methods still seem to be the norm rather than the exception, despite the automation of the media buying process. Half of the campaign reports assembled by programmatic advertising traders from November 2018 to January 2019 were created manually, according to 60% of the 93 respondents surveyed by ad tech company CtrlShift. Just because a job can be automated does not mean this will happen. A cacophony of economic and organizational factors within agencies has restricted the spread of automation to all parts of campaign management.

Tighter constraints on a campaign, whether its viewability, brand safety or the potential for fraud, mean more work; each one of those variables requires a report; such reporting is often submitted on a weekly basis, Faulkner says. Once fully automated, Mindshare’s campaign reporting will be available to agency execs from a dashboard that collates how the ads are performing in real time. Rather than spending all their time aggregating information from different sources, the agency’s traders can sift through the data and more quickly react to it.

“Automation hasn’t made the operational process of running campaigns any easier,” says Alexis Faulkner, who heads Mindshare’s performance division Fast in the U.K. In fact, her team is spending a considerable amount of time these days making sure campaigns meet advertisers’ specific needs. When advertisers want to be sure that a particular client has the best possible chance to see its ad paired with a news story from a trusted site and not one about a contentious topic, those conditions are often manually entered, Faulker …read more

Source:: Digiday

      

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