Last week, a Forrester Consulting report about Rocket Fuel touted the benefits of going all-in with automation. The report stated that programmatic platforms entirely powered by artificial intelligence deliver "substantial increase[s] in average campaign ROI" when compared to campaigns that use a mix of automation and manual optimization. That statement raised an increasingly important issue within the industry. How much automation should there be? Rocket Fuel likes the idea of total automation, but others think that humans have certain intuitive qualities that will always be neccesary when trading media. RTM Daily spoke with Richard Frankel, Rocket Fuel's president and co-founder, and Andrew Casale, VP strategy, Casale Media, to figure out what the proper balance should be between humans and machines.
Casale Media is a partner of Rocket Fuel's, and Andrew Casale said that "there's so much room for automation to take over." However, Casale remains a firm believer in the importance of human interaction.
"I stick to my guns on this point," he said. "Advertising has always been human driven. The reality is that it's a very high-touch model of trade. Robots, outside of the data, don't really have the same innate ability that the humans have."
Frankel believes that going all-in with automation is the way to go, though. He likened it to a group of people digging a hole with regular shovels. "Then you have a guy come in with a steam shovel," he said. "It used to take you a month. Now the guy with the steam shovel can do it in a day."
Casale had his own hypothetical situation, but his highlighted the importance of the humans. "Let's say you had a machine that was tasked with automatically buying impressions with no human intervention at all. It would literally go out and buy and buy and buy, and through that process it would potentially spend quite a bit of money," he said. Eventually, the machine will figure out how much to spend and what to spend it on, but "it will spend a bunch of money [just] trying to figure out what's going on."
Most impressions bought in real-time are still remnant, but Frankel expressed an interest in letting the machines learn from premium sales, too. "[The industry] wants the AI to learn from all of it," he said. "Even if they are running premium deals with high-end publishers, they are still going to want to plug the interaction the consumers have with the premium experience into their machine so that the machine can learn from it."
So what would happen to ad sales teams if even premium inventory were sold programmatically? "Nobody agrees with me, but I think that for very large publishers…they'll still have their sales forces. Mid-size and down, nobody will have their own sales team," he preidcted. "AI-powered is going to be able to find value in their media so much better than their own sales teams will be able to. We've already started to see this."
Frankel concluded, "AI-powered media is much more efficient than human powered." However, Casale had a different thought. "Human strategies can narrow it down faster," he said.
So who is right? Do we go all-in with automation, or do we keep the humans around for the intimate touch that Casale talked about? For the time being, I side with the idea that a mixture of automation and manual optimization is neccesarry. With the way things are going, though, it wouldn't surprise me if close to 75% of media is sold programmatically 10 years from now. I just don't think it's smart to cannonball into the pool of automation; I'd rather take the steps. The machines offer the power and the humans offer the strategy. It's a match made in heaven, which is why I don't think we need to go all-in with automation. Everyone should have a steam shovel, but it's not time to get rid of the rustic old ones just yet.