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I recently read an article on ComScore’s blog, entitled “Planning for the Future of Media Planning.”  The article asks what will happen to the human-side of the planning and buying process, as we move closer to utilizing real-time buying and optimizations and algorithm-based formulas that dictate trading and buying of ad time and space.

Tools, both digital and traditional, are absolutely necessary to massage all media buying numbers into a common denominator that allows buyers to look at the data and easily compare it to other media or the competition.  This is true regardless of whether we’re looking at GRPs, CPPs, impressions or SOV.

While these tools increase efficiency and productivity, the human element, simply cannot be removed.

Even if an agency subscribes to the best and brightest digital buying software (f.e. one that sends RFPs, automatically imports the proposals, analyzes them and then prepares a recommendation for a buyer to approve), some strategic opportunities are still inevitably missed.

The best sales rep doesn’t know the client as well as the buyer.  They may put a site list together that misses a small, but key, segment of your target audience.  In many instances, sales reps can’t describe the content all of the sites within a customized list they propose.  A digital tool can’t research each site and approve the content before our client’s ad begins running on it.

The best planning tool also can’t set up negative keyword parameters surrounding a buy.  If your client is a discount airfare company, you want to be sure that your ad is in front of consumers reading editorial articles about travel.  The worst placement would be in the middle of an article about a recent airline crash.  There simply isn’t a line item within a planning tool to account for the strategy about where you do not want your ads to be displayed, which can arguably be just as important as where you do want your ads to be displayed.

Finally, there are some circumstances in which a buyer may wish to pay a higher CPM that would be deemed efficient by a planning tool.  For example, if a small niche audience is difficult to reach, you can expect to pay a higher CPM.  If that audience is extremely valuable, the high cost is justified, although a planning tool wouldn’t recognize that as acceptable.

Tools are absolutely a necessity and tremendously help to improve the efficiency of buyers, which allows agencies to take on more clients.  We aren’t to the point yet, and I’m not sure that we’ll ever be, to completely allow a digital tool to take the place of the human strategy that goes in to all media decisions.

Comments(1)

  • December 21, 2011, 1:22 pm  Reply

    Human skills should be seen as complementary to any set of tools, digital or otherwise–strategic and creative thinking simply cannot be replaced. The virtue of media planning software is that it amplifies the efforts of the seasoned professional, rather than replacing them.

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