Future Of Advertising: Automated, Personalized, And Measurable

Automation—while still in its early days—will change advertising as we know it, according to a panel of nine speakers at Advertising Week.

Future Of Advertising: Automated, Personalized, And Measurable

This article is part of CMO.com’s September series on the state of media and entertainment. Click here for more.

Automation will change advertising as we know it, according to a panel of nine speakers at Adobe’s Think Tank event at Advertising Week Tuesday.

“We’re still in the early days of automation in advertising,” said Martin Khin, research VP at Gartner and moderator of the panel. According to Khin, just 10% of advertising processes are automated today, but that number will continue to grow.

Phil Gaughran, U.S. chief integration officer at agency McGarryBowen, made a bold prediction: By 2022, he said, 80% of the advertising process will be automated, “a threshold that will never be surpassed.” The remaining 20% will comprise such elements as brand value, storytelling, and other more experiential tactics that will always need a human driver.

According to Gaughran, this will mean a “changing job description in terms of what it means to work in advertising, unlocking a huge well of opportunity for advertisers.” He reminded the audience that data doesn’t deliver insights—people do. “The more automated we become, the more we need humanity,” he said.

Human Touch

Megan Estrada, VP of media and marketing strategy at MGM Resorts International, spoke about how programmatic will alleviate the grunt work of advertising so that teams can focus on what’s important. She provided the example of how MGM recently made the check-in process human-free for guests who want to skip the front desk line. To avoid completely sterile guest experiences, though, the hotelier is placing a human ambassador in the hotel lobbies of its properties. This person would greet guests, listen to their stories—such a what occasion they are celebrating in Las Vegas—and surprise and delight them, which a machine can’t do.

Sharmilan Rayer, vice president, audience and programmatic, at NBCUniversal, echoed Estrada’s thoughts about components of advertising that always will need a human touch. “You can’t automate love,” he said. Rayer also talked about data and the need for a very specific skill set to “derive insights from all this data.” Keith Eadie, VP of Adobe Advertising Cloud, agreed, adding that as automation becomes mainstream, the big differentiator for brands will be human insight and creativity. “Brands will always need human capital to innovate,” he said.

As such, companies will start to beef up their investments in hiring more creative and data-centric minds, predicted Kelly Andresen, senior vice president and head of GET Creative at USA Today Network. Companies also will invest more into technology that powers audience insights, she added.

“The reality is that automation is taking a lot of the cost out of advertising,” Eadie said. “It’s allowing brands to repurpose the resources and focus on higher value things.”

The Ultimate Measure

Measurement, the panelists agreed, is a huge topic in advertising today, and one that’s growing in importance as more advertising becomes measurable. However, one big hurdle standing in the way are “walled gardens,” such as Facebook and Google, which, according to Eadie, have scaled media properties and tons of data, but the data and its ability to be activated stays within these platforms. Eadie predicted that the walls will start to come down in as little as five years, as Facebook and Google gear up to compete against newer entrants.

“Amazon is a rising walled garden, and this rise will mean a new set of competition to the media landscape,” Eadie said. “If companies can’t get a sense of which garden is most impactful, they will move dollars to the platforms that do provide understanding of impact.”

According to Will Warren, EVP, digital investment, at Zenith Optimedia, measurement has improved with the onset of automation, since it allows companies to have a single view of their media. “Further digitization will allow more user level data, and we can tie that to an outcome,” he said. “[Automation essentially brings] multitouch attribution across the digital landscape. Consolidated ad buying means better measurement.”

In her point of view, National Geographic CMO Jill Cress believes the current state of measurement is more about “measure what you can” than “measure what you need to measure.”

“Today, [advertisers] are focused a lot on the vanity metrics, like views, impressions, and clicks. But we need to figure out how far down the funnel these things are taking people,” she said. “We feel like we are at a moment where we will see an ambition and a shift to emotional connection and the psychology of the consumer. That’s how brands will differentiate.”

From Selling To Telling To Doing

Cress also spoke about brand relevance and the importance of moving away from telling to doing. Aubrey Flynn, SVP and chief digital officer of REVOLT TV & Media (P Diddy’s media company), echoed her thoughts and said that Millennials and Generation Z want purpose in their lives. They also want brands that have purpose.

To understand each person’s individual purpose, brands need to move away from demographics and get closer to psychographics, Flynn said. That doesn’t just mean huge investments in data science and data analytics. In order to know people on an intimate level, companies will likely start investing in the study of human behavior to find authentic ways of personalizing experiences. The work that so many brands are doing with immersive technologies, including AR and VR, are a step in that direction, according to USA Today’s Andresen.

Authenticity also is key when it comes to advertising to Millennials and Generation Z, Flynn said. “We market a lifestyle, and bringing that to life means different things to different people.” Telling people about your company is one thing, she added, but empowering audiences to successfully pursue the purposes that are important to them is a totally different type of engagement. As companies begin to better understand what drives and motivates their customers, personalization will be key. Empowering people involves fostering a community. Flynn called it “social diffusion,” and it will mean identifying the ambassadors that can be leveraged as evangelists for the brand.

Tying the discussion back to measurement, Andresen added that emotional intelligence—or the ability to understand how an advertisement made someone feel—is the future of advertising measurement. A little bit of emotional analysis can happen today in a VR environment, but those technologies, and VR itself, is far from mainstream—for now.

Most of the solutions to measure emotions are in beta, so it’s still the early stages. But the ability to understand not only how long someone engaged with an ad for but also how it made them feel is going to give advertisers an unprecedented understanding of the effectiveness of their ads.

Watch the panel discussion below: