I’m heading out for Austin today for business and hope to catch a few bands at Austin City Limits. Waiting for my flight I decided to look through my music archives and came across R.E.M.’s Automatic For The People. It was a comeback album of sorts for REM, following their overly commercial Out Of Time. It was a magical album, with haunting melodies and dark references to many social challenges that remain today. For R.E.M., Automatic For The People represented the band’s need to evolve and come back with an album that proved their relevance.
It’s eerily similar to where we are as an industry. We sit at the cross-roads of art and science, coming off one of the most explosive growth periods in advertising history that brought with it crazy amounts of innovation, created many millionaires and built mega brands that now dictate the direction of the industry. Yet success for the industry overall remains a challenge. Evolution is a requirement, and technology stops for no one. We still to need to prove that digital media brings value to marketers and to the people.
Programmatic buying is here to stay. It is now the preferred method of buying for most agencies and spend is migrating daily. To some this is very scary. New ways of thinking are challenging the old ways and forcing change.
I’ll call this time Programmatic For The People. Automation doesn’t mean that people and art will be removed from the ad buying process. To the contrary, programmatic buying actually requires more human attention and creativity to drive dollars and provision inventory smartly to improve yield.
For buyers there is an increased need for better analytics, more transparency into inventory, simpler tools for planning and buying and, most of all, quality creative and clean, well-lit environments to reach audiences. The evolved buyer has an insatiable appetite for data to inform optimal media efficiency.
For publishers there is a tremendous amount of work involved. Deploying inventory on exchanges is not as simple as cooking on a George Foreman Grill. There are many considerations for allocating inventory; categorization, buyer selection, pricing, buyer bias, transparency, data control, geographic participation, creative format and constant input of data (both economic and environmental) informing optimizations.
What’s fascinating is that for both the buyer and the seller, once all the automation is in place, it’s the personal connection between buyer and seller that is still most important. Sure, you can make the automatic connection and see some revenue. But without the people connection, the revenue will remain flat and the inventory will go underutilized for both parties.
In our state of constant change, people are more important than ever. They are critical to communicating value, uncovering opportunity and ensuring success for marketers. So don’t forget people make the program go and without thoughtful and creative approaches to solving marketers’ business needs we, as an industry, are nothing more than a sophomore slump. What do you think?
Have a listen to Find A River by R.E.M. and maybe you’ll be inspired to uncover a new way to make a connection. http://soundcloud.com/user6668622/15-piste-15
The views expressed here reflect the views of the author alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views of 24/7 Media, its affiliates, subsidiaries or its parent company, WPP plc.
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