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If you ask the experts to name the most important aspect of today’s complex online advertising landscape, it’s a pretty safe bet you’ll hear a myriad of buzzwords, including big data, omni-channel, personalization, marketing cloud, customer journey, and so on.
In fact, our industry is so cluttered with trendy buzzwords that it’s fairly easy to forget that a human being still stands at the center of this technology-dominated environment. Because no matter how data-and-tech-driven marketing and advertising has become, they will always remain conceived by a human and aimed at a human.
Now, before you point the finger at me for dismissing the importance of algorithms and technology, let me explain a bit further what I mean. The profound evolution of online marketing and advertising would have been unthinkable without automation and harnessing the power of big data. Humans, however, are far from obsolete and we still have an instrumental role in all stages of the process.
While programmatic advertising delivers efficiency at scale, marketing and advertising have always been about addressing human needs and desires. The message an advertiser delivers needs to be engaging, creative, and, most importantly, has to influence emotions. So, even with a full arsenal of targeting capabilities, a campaign may still fail to “reach” its audience. Outstanding design and copywriting cannot be automated, but combine them with the ability to deliver the message to the right person at the right time and, voila! The rapid growth of programmatic native advertising is a great example of the successful symbiosis between machine automation and human creativity.
2. Analytical thinking
Online advertising highly depends on technology to gather and process data, but all those figures still have to be converted into insight. Therefore, strong analytical thinking is an integral part of the process, regardless of whether you buy or sell media. The proper interpretation of numbers makes a big difference in both yield management and campaign optimization, so this task calls for human expertise and know-how.
In addition to that, machines would often take too long to make sense of certain patterns, and considering the volumes of programmatic media trading, such delays may prove to be quite costly. Expert analysts are essential in fraud detection and forecasting, as well as adding external factors to the equation, such as real-live events which could affect overall results.
3. Going beyond yes/no answers
There’s an inherent issue with the algorithmic if / then structure, which can lead to only one of two possible outcomes. The lack of human input may leave an algorithm too liberal or too restrictive, which could lead to lost opportunities.
Let’s imagine you’re a publisher, who has invited a new advertiser to the private marketplace. At some point, you notice that a big part of your inventory is being bought by this new advertiser at a rate which is slightly higher than what your other partners are willing to pay. The algorithm is relentless in its search for the highest bidder but as a person who values long-term business relations, you might want to step in and tweak the rules in favour of other partners who have been with you longer and contribute much more to your overall earnings. Which brings us to the next point:
4. Machine efficiency depends on the human
Algorithms do the hard work for us but then again, they are just tools in the hands of yield managers, media planners, and ad ops experts, who translate the requirements of both publishers and advertisers into machine language. Computers are still incapable of applying “common sense”, taking into consideration external variables and unstructured data.
So, when speaking about the automation of marketing and advertising, we have to remember that machines have those restrictions and without the aid of human expertise, we risk missing those subtle signals that can lead to major differences.
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