Why Automating Your Advertising Is A Bad Idea

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Photo: AP

Over the last year there have been many articles written on real-time bidding (RTB), automation and the publisher’s need to connect to trading desks and buying platforms.  This has stirred an interesting conversation around whether or not publishers even need an ad server anymore and what value an adserver brings in our new, automated world.   

Some even suggest that all a publisher needs to do today is dump their inventory into an exchange or sell-side platform (SSP) and then use a demand side platform (DSP) to buy back their inventory for direct sold campaigns. 

This argument is one that is likely being promoted and spurred by the sell-side platforms that have wedged themselves between the ad server and exchange.   Whereas once SSPs brought value by optimising the 200+ advertising networks, they are now quickly seeing themselves becoming less relevant and therefore looking for new places to grow.  

Additionally, these same companies promote RTB as the “be all, end all” for publishers to generate 100% of their revenue.  While this may be debatably true for a publisher who has valueless inventory, it is not true for highly differentiated, branded content publishers, like Business Insider, Monster.com, WebMD, MTV, etc.

Publishers with high quality content and strategic sales teams have needs that go far beyond automated transactional buying based solely on audience and “cookies” to discern value.  They have highly contextualized placements, big ideas on where marketers can run brand campaigns and messages that can be integrated within the content experience. 

They also have high-impact creative executions providing brand experiences, allowing for maximum time spent and many more engaging programs that cannot be replicated on sites where 99% of the traffic is generated from search. There is also a need to service the marketer with programs that are transparent, meet exactly their goals, can be guaranteed to deliver, and that have appropriate pacing, targeting, share of voice, etc., along with optimization across placements, creative and devices.    

This notion of committing 100% of your inventory to an exchange and then buying inventory back via either a private exchange or dynamic price for direct sales is ludicrous.   There are multiple places where this could go awry; sponsorship placements, cross-device delivery, share of voice placements, rich media executions, text-links, guaranteed pacing and delivery, road blocks and advanced targeted programs based on proprietary data just to name a few.  

Most publishers use the ad server to manage more than just standard display and it is the backbone of their digital business.   To think that they would outsource this to a system that is, by its nature, dynamic and based purely on price is a far cry from being efficient and does not instill confidence for the seller and more importantly the client.

An ad server is the life blood of the publisher operation and needs to support every facet of the business from guaranteed placements to analytics, optimization to workflow, automation to rich media.  If your ad server and the company that makes it are not supporting your business, I’d recommend you have a conversation with them or look for a new vendor that can evolve with your business and your changing needs.  

The ad server should be a gateway to revenue, giving you full control, transparency and the ability to manage your operation on your terms and those of your advertising clients. Before you fully automate your inventory think about the needs of your clients and the commitments you make every day. Your ad server plays a critical role in delivering on those promises and supports you in achieving your business goals.   What do you think?

The views expressed here reflect the views of the author alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views of 24/7 Real Media, its affiliates, subsidiaries or its parent company, WPP plc.

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