Man Versus Machine

When should marketers automate processes and when should they consider taking a more hands-on personal approach? There has been considerable press about programmatic real-time ad-buying and technology that tracks behavior to determine the ads and content to serve up next. 

I don't understand the hoopla around programmatic media-buying, because I think experts across the industry should have been smart enough to put the complete system in place from the get-go, rather than take 15 to 20 years to do display advertising the correct way, including collecting data.

In many ways the delay has been a good thing. Learning from mistakes often provides valuable benefits. They make it easier for developers to find what they need, set the standards, and enable comparison of all their options.

Some automated functions are easier than others, like automating customer service by matching a consumer's issues to a customer service agent's skills and availability, per ClickSoftware. The agent can begin with an appreciation for the customer's business, but keep the greeting short. Customers no longer expect to hear a live voice on the other end of the phone when they call an automated system, so any company that offers up a live pulse is viewed as having superior customer service.

It also helps when the automated systems works as it should. Automating social media posts work well some of the time, but not always. It seems like someone at Domino's Pizza thinks the company only gets bad reviews. A fan wrote to Domino's Pizza "Best Pizza Ever! Pan Pizz. Keep up the good work guys!" The automated reply said "So sorry about that! Please share from additional information with us and please mention reference #XXXX so we can have this addressed."

The Apple Store is one of the most profitable retailers playing attention to automated customer service by taking online appointments, offering in-store queues, diagnosing repairs, and following up. Most Apple stores average more than 20,000 visitors weekly, per ClickSoftware. Sales associates do not automate how they welcome consumers into the store and present solutions when possible.

Some ad units could hinder the growth of automation, especially native ads slowing the growth of programmatic media buying, per Keith Petri, SVP strategic partnership at Human Demand. He doesn't believe any "truly" native ad can be programmatic because the native ad gets tailored specifically to the publication in which it appears. "You're giving up ad space in the middle of your text or search results," Petri said. "A Web site integrating a programmatic ad unit, completely in real time and filled within 200 milliseconds, means a real-time auction, which can't possibly be totally customized for that specific audience on that site. It can't possibly be native."

What processes does the advertising industry still need to automate -- and how should they do it?

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