Views from Mediatel’s Automated Trading Event (Part 2)

Part 2: Remembering human logic
By Rachel Taylor, Multiply* Manager, Posterscope
Part 1 discusses the importance of complexity: The future of automated trading.
Part 2 discusses metrics with: Remembering Human Logic
Part 3 discusses: Closing reflections, the potential of automated guaranteed
I was lucky enough to attend Mediatel’s automated trading event where some of our industry leaders came together to discuss the future of automated trading and the advances we have made in the last year. This year the focus was on the potential of ‘automated guaranteed’ and how it might refresh interest in programmatic after a far from perfect initial exploration. The first part of this series looked at how complexity in the industry has raised trust issues which automated guaranteed might sooth. This instalment will consider the two other key themes which recurred through the conference, the need for a human logic to be overlaid on existing metrics and the tensions in the use of data for creativity.
So what was the panel’s conclusions on metrics? Across both debates there was an acknowledgement that our language surrounding trading and campaign effectiveness has been deeply affected by performance. This might make sense for technology giants, such as Google, where their entire business model is based on performance and naturally chimes with client priorities in an age when all decisions are scrutinised for ROI and the bottom line. However, we cannot forget that not all advertising works as direct response. Many clients still value the long term impact of branding but as an industry we undervalue these effects as we have no metrics by which to measure the impact to the same level of accuracy.
Hamish Nicklin (CRO, The Guardian) effectively argued for a revival in the value of context and content to be reflected in the automated pricing. Similarly, there was a call to balance targeting effectiveness with reach to inspire consideration amidst consumers. This prioritisation bodes well for the OOH industry where branding and reach are core strengths.
It was interesting to learn that dwell time, long a central factor in OOH planning, is being thrown around as a performance metric for digital campaigns but the panel concurred this was only an intermediary metric rather than a solution to the central question of the value of one to one versus one to many.
The solution inevitably lies in an improved understanding of how reach and targeting can complement one another. Dynamic DOOH campaigns which personalise at scale may be the beginning of this relationship. However, hopefully the coming year will bring increased cross media collaboration to deliver greater nuance to how cross channel plans can balance these factors. This nuance will always be difficult to code – but Catherine closed the first debate powerfully calling for us to remember we can always balance scale and targeting by overlaying technological developments with a bit of human logic.
Metrics were not the only area where the need for a human touch was emphasised. The interplay of data and creativity has been another central theme of marketing debates across 2016 and it is still present in a trading context. Steve Brown pointed out that the industry needs more buy in from creative agencies if digital formats are really going to take off.
This is merely the face of a deeper debate about where the creative responsibility will lie in a world which is increasingly wrapped up in data. When creative ideas can originate from a clever targeting approach and an understanding of how to appeal to individuals in a certain location there are tensions over territory. Nonetheless, it was refreshing to hear Mungo Knott re-emphasising the need for creative agencies to be partners in that journey. We need their creative ideas to draw attention to locations just as much as these ideas should be routed in the sophisticated data capabilities held within agencies.
There are some promising steps, Liveposter demonstrates how creative capabilities and automated trading models can sit hand in hand. Similarly, the Dentsu Aegis Network’s appointment of Rick Hirst as CEO of Carat indicates a move to fuse creative capabilities closer to the media agency expertise. Hopefully 2017 will see these bodies working more closely together and agencies will follow Steve’s advice and bring creative agencies closer to trading conversations.
Overall, it was interesting to hear an automation conference emphasising the need for human control and logic. It also demonstrates that automation has become a central part of the way media agencies do business, rather than being an experimental division in a trading team. This is highly encouraging for the future and only reinforces that automation will continue to grow in importance in years to come. In the next instalment I will look directly at automated guaranteed buying, specifically how it is spreading into the traditional media formats, and offer some closing reflections on the event.