News & Insights

Media needs to rediscover the human touch

Automated processes are basis for doing business in many areas of media, and are on the rise. The algorithms and technology solutions underpin many media buying transactions and targeting decisions, and are used in qualifying content, detecting ad fraud and many other areas.

The promise of technology is not only to increase media efficiencies and effectiveness by improved and more relevant targeting, but also to realise this at a compliant quality standard in a brand safe environment.

What we find in reality can be very far away from this ideal. Stories about questionable content and inappropriate placements appear on a regular basis. Even the ANA could not prevent their advertising from appearing on Breitbart News.

Furthermore, different studies show the scale of ad fraud and budget losses on both publisher and client side. The level of transparency in the programmatic supply chain is still problematic, without a suitable solution on the horizon.

As an interim solution for some, human involvement is now required to oversee automation. YouTube recently announced their plans to employ thousands of human moderators to ensure brand safe environments for advertisers, just as Facebook had to admit that they are currently not able to prevent fake posts and profiles. It seems that even the tech giants with their carefully constructed walled gardens are struggling to police their own technology.

Believing in the promises of marketing automation too eagerly and wanting to be part of the hype has led some marketers to realise, to their discomfort, that not all that glitters is gold.

The result is that many marketers are now trying to take back control by handling programmatic increasingly in-house. The “Advertiser Perceptions DSP Report” found that nearly a third (32%) plan to bring their programmatic buying in-house.  Other less-resourced advertisers are, reducing their programmatic investment, or trying to avoid risks by limiting their engagement to proven platforms.

Current examples are of course P&G’s intensely discussed digital strategy, Diageo pulling out of Snapchat and numerous case studies that verify the trend. In the UK, 22% of brands plan to decrease their programmatic ad spend.

The second iteration of MediaSense’s “Media2020” survey also clearly shows the growing scepticism towards technology platforms. The importance for marketers of working closely with technology platforms has declined by 20% between 2015 and 2017.

Where does all of this leave us?

It is obvious that there is no stopping the general trend towards automated media. Nor should there be – the new technologies provide many opportunities for brands that were unthinkable until very recently. What is important is that brands stay in the driving seat and continue to oversee the application and rollout of these technologies for their benefit.
This means advertisers have to ensure that they:

  • (Re)gain control over their programmatic supply chain by insisting on only paying for compliant impressions
  • Benefit from the advantages of programmatic but are still guaranteed brand safe and fraud-free environments
  • Have direct access rights to all their partners’ technology and buy-side platforms
  • Put measurement in place that ensures on a Total Cost of Ownership level the investment still justifies the result

How can this be achieved?

Firstly, let’s accept, as Google and Facebook have, that human intervention is still an essential part of the media planning and buying process.
Even if systems get smarter and become more reliable the need for human intervention will survive for five main reasons:

1. Every system is only as good as the quality of the input
2. The best results stem from an individually developed strategy for a very distinct purpose
3. Machines have little or no ability to innovate
4. When it comes to negotiating conditions, accepting “what the system is willing to give you” will only realise standard terms. To get the extra, requires direct negotiations.
5. Machines are not capable of orchestration

Secondly, let’s recognise the increased value of objective expertise and information, whether it is available in-house and/or externally. Only by taking informed and neutral decisions will you be able to find the ideal way of making programmatic a part of your marketing mix.

Thirdly, start your planning now to implement the right managed solution that fits your organisation, its challenges and its business goals. If you want to maximize your success you need a customised approach and the right partners to analyse and implement the best set-up for your needs.

Katja Haars is managing partner of MediaSense GmbH and will be at the Deutsche MedienKongress event in Frankfurt on 16 and 17 January 2018.

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