Machines Vs. Media-Buying Jobs: Is Your Position On The Line?

andrew-pancerData-Driven Thinking” is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.

Today’s column is written by Andrew Pancer, chief operating officer at Dstillery.

The robots have arrived, quipped a very recent Newsweek article, and they are “coming to take your jobs, your homes, your children.” Should you be scared?

Given the massive wave of innovation and disruption in the advertising and media industries, it is no surprise that robots and the artificial intelligence (AI) that powers them are playing an active role in the ad tech ecosystem. Using robots and AI in the form of auto-optimization tools and capabilities is a huge leap forward for the industry.

Ad tech data scientists deploy the combined power of scientific methodologies, algorithms and massive data sets to develop smarter and more impactful insights for their marketing partners. Add to that the machine learning and predictive modeling of auto-optimization tools, and the advances in technology are poised to enhance campaign performance across multiple media channels.

For marketers, this is great news. For some practitioners, however, this raises concerns about the impact on their day-to-day work lives and livelihoods. Media buyers and brand managers may be wondering about the future of their jobs in the wake of automation. But there is no cause for alarm, says Newsweek, assuring us that while the rise of the robot is real, the culmination of this revolutionary story has a happy ending.

Technology Will Create More Jobs

In the context of continued technological advances, the US has actually seen a wealth of jobs created – approximately 3 million jobs between 2014-2015 – and the largest drop in poverty in more than a decade, according to US census data. The good news is that data strongly suggests that more jobs will be created by innovating and moving forward on the propulsion of new technologies like AI.

This is relevant to ad execs and media buyers because while some industry jobs may be lost to automation, many others will be created, maintained and enhanced. It is often stated that the power of AI is only as strong as its human workforce. The very goal of ad tech is the same of other industries: to harness AI and enhance daily programmatic workflow to improve campaign performance, not to minimize the human analysis and input necessary to deploy AI effectively.

Automation will not eliminate the need for humans in digital advertising. Talented, creative and thoughtful thinkers continue to be critical to campaign success.

Where Do Humans Fit In?

Machines cannot function independently and without human oversight. Algorithms optimizing to clicks and high-frequency visitation by retargeting can lead to increased spending on exchange-based nonhuman traffic. Humans need to interpret results.

For example, a client may want greater-than-70% viewability and the lowest possible CPA. The parameter fed into the system states that viewability must be greater than 70% and the machine will optimize within these confines. In reality, however, the best-performing alternative might be a 69% or 60% viewability rate. The nuances of balancing primary and secondary KPIs further highlight the need for intelligent and thoughtful human involvement.

In an AI-enabled industry, human curiosity and analysis is still needed. The combination of machine-driven optimization with human oversight and scrutiny is where the magic really happens. Machines can optimize toward outcomes, but mental and manual labor is required to hypothesize desired outcomes that drive the initial inputs. As the Newsweek article underscores, “AI cannot think about data it doesn’t have. … The most valuable people in an age of push-button answers will be the people who ask the most interesting questions.”

As agencies and their trading arms embrace the robots, AI and its auto-optimization tools and concepts, the key will be learning to balance their use and effectiveness with the intelligence and insights of the existing workforce. The right balance and deployment of AI will minimize the time spent pulling levers and maximize the time spent strategizing the success of their clients and partners.

Follow Dstillery (@Dstillery) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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