Debbie Harvey
Debbie Harvey 14 April 2016
Categories Advertising, Technology

Programmatic advertising: where are the humans?

Programmatic ad buying isn’t a new concept but it’s been making big waves in the media industry during the past few years. So, why is this form of advertising getting so much attention and what does it actually mean for businesses today?

In its simplest form, programmatic advertising is an automated service, which allows businesses to buy adverts based on specific audiences and demographics. Audience targeting allows advertisers to focus their messaging, and real-time bidding allows them to bid on a per-impression basis. In essence, it’s based around using machines and analysing data to buy advertising space, as opposed to using humans. Entrusting your advertising budget to machines sounds scary, right? But it’s something many companies are investing in. Figures released by eMarketer last year suggest that by the end of 2016, programmatic advertising spend will exceed £2 billion.

Some of the reasons companies are using this service is because it’s often a cost-cutting route to advertising and data analysis can help businesses reach specific audiences. But many critics believe that programmatic ad buying is full of risks. Historically this form of advertising appealed to media companies, who were more interested in selling unwanted ad space than advertising the right message to the right people. It’s also a saturated service and with more and more competition for advertising space, some companies are ‘buying blind’. By relying on a programmatic service to run ads, companies can be left in the dark about where their ad is actually being served up.

Many critics also believe that the value of humans in the ad buying arena can’t be ignored. Not only do humans negotiate prices and outline strategies, they also create emotive ads and carefully select the right channels to promote them on.

Creating adverts that are meaningful and engaging is crucial, and the ROI of most campaigns can often be linked back to the creative. Programmatic advertising still falls down when it comes to quality measurement, and this is a vital part of the advertising mix to ensure campaign messages are making an impact.

With a specialist advertising team in-house, we deal with clients on a daily basis to help them create engaging adverts. Our service spans the complete advertising spectrum – from the initial creative design and copywriting right the way through to negotiating prices and highlighting relevant publications and online platforms.

Lauren Calamari, Advertising Traffic Manager at Kolab, says

“On average we turn around 50-100 adverts every week. We deal with online and offline ads in magazines, newspapers and in-house databases and we produce all of these by communicating with our clients. From the initial meeting to maintaining relationships, we invest a lot of time in rapport building, getting under the skin of a brand and really understanding what our clients are trying to achieve. This enables us to produce emotive advertising campaigns that really tell a story and engage end users.

We regularly collaborate with our internal team, to define the look and feel of each advert as well as the key messaging, before going on to negotiate rates and select relevant publications. I think creating relationships, with both clients and media outlets, is the most important part of what we do and I don’t think this is something a machine can do. Whatever it is you’re advertising, you’re asking a consumer to make an emotional purchase, which is why I think the approach to advertising should be a personal one too. By constantly talking to our clients we are able to understand their changing needs, monitor their campaign goals and make any tweaks to design and content if we need to. And by regularly negotiating with media outlets we can bring costs down and sometimes even secure free advertising space.

Although programmatic advertising can be cost effective, I think the return on investment you get from building good relationships is invaluable.”

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