Programmatic ads cannot replace sales teams

The automated system of buying and selling ads is still in its early stages, but it has raised a storm of questions over several issues - primarily, if it will replace sales teams

e4m by Abhinn Shreshtha
Published: Sep 8, 2014 7:49 AM  | 4 min read
Programmatic ads cannot replace sales teams

Any new technology that seeks to change the system is viewed with scepticism, especially if it appears that it may lead to manpower redundancy. Even advertising is not exempt from it.

Programmatic buying, which has been a topic of much debate in recent times, has thrown up several such questions of whether it will replace human resources, trained and skilled to do the job which the automated system purports to do. The scepticism and resistance may seem justified, given the jargons that come with the territory -  Real-time Bidding (RTB), Demand Side Platform (DSP), Supply Side Platform (SSP). 

In a recent report {}, exchange4media had highlighted how the industry was still sitting on the fence over the technology, and the resistance to embrace it that arose from the lack of adequate knowledge of how it works. 

Simply put, programmatic advertising is the buying and selling of ads through automated systems. This is intended to remove inefficiencies, make things quicker and, through targeted advertising, give the advertiser the perfect ad placement that will capture the attention of the intended end user.

In a more indirect way, it could also take away the need for sales representatives and direct sales, or, at least, it is tempting to assume so. After all, if all you need to do is set the parameters and preferences and let a machine do the math, it could be handled internally too. However, agencies and publishers maintain that this is not the case.

Still relevant

When asked for his views on whether media agencies would become redundant if ads become automated, Swapnil Shrivastav, VP (Ad Tech) at Times Internet compared it to Google AdWords or Facebook advertising. “With agency trading desks becoming prevalent, they (media agencies) will morph to agency 2.0 and hold relevance. In general, the hand holding an advertiser needs is hard to bypass. A lot of spends, even on super-automated tool like AdWords or Facebook, is still managed by agencies or resellers rather than advertisers themselves,” he said. We have already seen this with larger organisations like WPP and  Omnicom, that have their own trading desks or programmatic divisions, he pointed out.

Zafar Rais, Founder and CEO of Mindshift Interactive, also opined that the process is slowly evolving into an automated system of buying ads. “However, this doesn't completely take away the manual route of conducting ads. Over the next two years, we’ll definitely see India adopting it and using to a certain limit, but activities such as events, detailed campaign messaging, would still require a manual intervention,” he added.

Staying in control

One of the questions that comes up is, if advertisers are willing to lose control over selection of premium inventory. Also, not all publishers make premium inventory available programmatically. For example, Shrivastav said that since currently their premium inventory has a fairly high fill rate, there is no real need to expose it programmatically. So, does a marketer trust in the programmatic platform to target the right consumer on the basis of the data available, even though it might end with the ad being on a web page that would not be traditionally be seen as ‘premium?’

According to Sanjay Tripathy, Senior Executive Vice President and Head (Marketing, Product, Digital & E-Commerce) of HDFC Life Insurance, the marketing game remains the same everywhere - anything that helps you target effectively, quickly and in a transparent manner will be adopted sooner than later. “In its current form, there are of course some limitations in the areas where it can be applied – like complex and deep integrations. But I see it going the way of the many technologies that have replaced inefficient manual interventions,” he said.

The trick will be to find the right balance. For a publisher, this means deciding which inventory would be most efficient when sold via SSPs or DSPs. For the advertiser, it is a case of defining objectives and expectations clearly. But there seems to be consensus on not all ads to be necessarily automated.

As Narayan Murthy Ivaturi, Director - Global Sales & Strategy, said, “The mantra of success in these technology led initiatives is 'setting clear objectives' at the outset and increased focus on data-led media buying and planning. In the year 2015, we believe this will substantially grow as the paradigm has shifted from scale of inventory to scale of 'relevant' inventory.”

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