Automation is currently the word on everyone’s lips – and our industry has arguably experienced some of the most seismic changes thanks to new intuitive data and technology.
Programmatic has been one of the biggest disruptors to the marketing industry over the last few years, and has had huge benefits. It makes ad buying far more efficient by cutting out the middle man, giving buyers direct access to data and the ability to buy media inventory in real-time. But as with any revolution, it has also created new issues we need to look at. And one of those is engagement.
Advertising relies on getting the right message, to the right people, at the right time But are we at risk of relying too heavily on technology? With programmatic marketing, have we forgotten the importance of the human touch?
Man vs machine
Programmatic has great potential to enhance the creativity of campaigns through the clever use of data and targets. For example, a fashion brand could serve a different variation of a clothes ad depending on the type of holiday a consumer is looking to go on, and adjust the creative in real-time according to the weather forecasted for when they arrive at their holiday destination, switching from sunglasses to raincoats at the drop of a hat. That’s really exciting.
This technology means we can make ads fully automated – and there is certainly a place for that. Producing feed-based ads is often sufficient for price-related campaigns where the message is purely transactional, for example, meaning both the content and channel can be managed in an automated way.
But whilst technology serves as an excellent vehicle to deliver the right message to the right person, at the right time, the message itself should always be crafted by, and created for, humans, not machines.
The human touch is essential when it comes to creative, emotive and high impact campaigns - and machines will never replicate or substitute this. Why? Because the beauty of human nature is that it is ultimately unpredictable. No amount of data or analysis of historical trends can tell a machine what a consumer wants today with 100% certainty… at least not yet. Google is currently working on all sorts of clever tech such as Deep Mind, which may, one day, be able to do just that.
But for now, technology still can't accurately anticipate human emotions and behaviour. Take a smart fridge as an example; it might know that its owner is running low on bananas, but it will never be able to predict whether that person is in the mood for a banana that day. Marketing has always worked best when it surprises. A risk of ‘YLTYMLT’ - you liked that, you might like this - is that consumers will never make that great leap into the unknown, instead just discovering brands in increments. And that can mean a race to the bottom when it comes to creativity.
Instead of trapping consumers inside the internet bubbles that we’ve been hearing so much about, brands should use their creativity to surprise consumers and inspire them to break free of the bubble.
In times when internet users are overwhelmed with advertising, using adblockers or just ignoring ads altogether, take the leap of faith and encourage consumers to come with you – give consumers a reason to pay attention and don’t let a reliance on data take over.
The changing face of talent
So what does all this mean for us as an industry? With the explosion of programmatic, there has been a significant change in the types of people the industry needs to fuel it. Rather than hiring creative and analytic types individually, we need a new kind of hybrid marketer that can seamlessly blend these two skills to tackle this new way of working. Not only does this new talent need to be analytically and technically literate, but they need to be curious about the human element of why people behave the way they do, and have some creative flair to boot.
Marketers shouldn’t be afraid of looking beyond the traditional media talent pool for this elusive talent. In fact, it’s essential to do so. Considering people with transferable skills – whether it’s someone with a background in film or philosophy – can really pay off. Making sure your team is also set up to work in this new way is also key. Integrating teams and looking at training and development to plug any skill gaps will help the technical and creative functions to work much more in sync.
Automation; data; smart technology and tools – we’re only going to keep seeing more of this as the industry continues to evolve. But remembering the importance of the human touch will be key for marketers to reap real results from their activity.
By Alessandra Di Lorenzo, chief commercial officer at lastminute.com group
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