Artificial intelligence (AI) is already reshaping how advertising is developed, planned and placed. The marketing applications being envisioned and adopted by agencies, consultancies, publishers and advertisers are nothing short of remarkable.
From the onset of “Big Data” it stood to reason that the concept of predictive analysis, the act of mining diverse sets of data to generate recommendations wouldn’t be far behind. Layer on natural language processing, which converts text into structured data, and it is clear to see that “deep learning” is on the verge of revolutionizing the ad industry. As it stands, algorithms are currently optimizing bids for media buying, utilizing custom and syndicated data to match audience desires (or at least experiences) with available inventory.
Effective, efficient, automated methodologies for sorting through vast volumes of data to evaluate and establish patterns that reflect customer behavior for use in segmenting audiences and customizing message construction and delivery holds obvious promise.
So, what does this mean for media agencies? Will they be at the forefront of automation technology? Or will they be swept away by the consultancies and ad tech providers that are already investing here?
If media agencies desire to remain in control as the industry evolves, there are real challenges that they will have to address to remain viable:
- Re-establish role as “trusted advisor” with the advertiser community. Recent concerns over transparency, unsavory revenue generation practices and a failure to pro-actively safeguard advertisers’ media investments from fraud and from running in inappropriate environments have created serious client/ agency relationship concerns.
- Attract, train and retain top-level talent to re-staff media planning and buying departments. The focus will need to be on bridging the gap between developing, and applying automation technology and providing high-level consulting support focused on brand growth to their clients. Presently, media agencies are not effectively competing for talent, whether in the context of compensation and or personal and career development options being offered by their non-traditional competitors.
- Provide a framework for addressing the compensation conundrum. Whether this is in the form of cost-based or performance-based fees tied to project outcomes, commissions or hybrid remuneration systems, tomorrow’s successful media agencies will need to establish clear, compelling compensation systems. These systems will need to reflect value propositions that will differentiate them from an expanded base of competitors, while offsetting (to some extent) non-transparent sources of revenue that many media shops have come to rely on in recent years.
This will not be an easy path for media agencies, particularly for those that are hampered by legacy systems, processes and management perspectives that may limit their ability to more broadly envision and ultimately, assist client organizations addressing their needs and expectations.
Either way, the race is on, as management consulting firms are acquiring various marketing and digital media specialist firms and as media agencies raid the consultancies for personnel to build out their strategic consulting capabilities. The key question will likely be, “Which business model holds the greatest promise, in the eyes of the Chief Marketing Officer, for improving brand performance?”