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Digital Essay: Algorithms vs the Human Element – Who wins? by Nader Bitar

By Nader Bitar, regional deputy general manager, MMP WorldWide

With the rise of automation in multiple industries including finance, retail, automotive and advertising, there are constant updates to improve efficiency and gather consumer interests and behaviour to better understand audiences for more effective marketing strategies. Machine learning has evolved over the years, which improved businesses and made revolutionary changes to industries. But what is happening behind the scenes?

Machine learning and algorithms are like recipes cooked well with talented chefs. The human element should not be undervalued either in a theoretical context or in an automated marketing campaign.

So where is the human element needed or used? Where does the human come into the picture when machines are put to work? There are stages throughout the flight time of a campaign when human intervention and input are highly needed. Until today, machines cannot address this.

Welcome to the world of optimisation.

Running a successful programmatic advertising campaign, requires proper media planning, well-defined KPIs and parameters, clear objectives, proper selection of technology platforms and goals established between the media agency, creative agency, client, and the supplier. Optimisation can be argued to be the most time-consuming and difficult, yet effective, stage of a campaign.

A typical programmatic campaign is composed of the following four stages. In each phase I will examine the human element and the algorithmic component.

1. The outline (planning) stage – Human

  • Selection of the targeted site list
  • What ad formats should be used?
  • Who is my audience? What audience data to target
  • Set the brand safety guidelines

2. The startup stage (campaign launch) – Human and machine

  • Generating tags and testing them
  • Tracking pixel generation and remarketing them
  • Setting parameters (frequency capping, flight time and date, spend, daily budget)

3. The strategy (setup) stage – Human and machine

  • Campaign setup (upload creatives, create placement, select supplier, export tags, set landing page )
  • Granular audience targeting (exporting audiences)

4. The QA testing (optimisation) stage – Human

  • Evaluate conversion metrics (viewability, CTR, eCPM)
  • Reporting
  • Assess the effectiveness of performance data (site-list, audience data, viewability, creative.

The human overview assigned to a campaign will determine the success or failure of the campaign with human input, insights and testing capabilities. The combination of algorithms and the human element will result in an efficient, performing, and highly effective optimised campaign. The adtech tools can process millions of impressions smoothly in minutes. Despite the errors associated with the computation and set up of the campaign, a human can guide the campaign all through the four stages of optimisation and ensure a correct course for the campaign. Any miscalculation can lead to big losses and wastage, and for this reason optimisation requires technical expertise and professionals.

Media buyers and clients are aware that there is no one-stop platform to sync all tech tasks associated with a campaign from data collection to inventory buying, remarketing and execution. For this reason, it is vital that experts and tech professionals sit behind these platforms and make sure all work together.

It is interesting that the industry survived without algorithms and artificial intelligence for decades. Why do we need them now? The media space has become so complex and it is now beyond our human capabilities to reach
an individual online via his or her device.

Thanks to machines and robotics we can now innovate online, and target users based on their surfing behaviour and interests. The dynamics of advertising today work beautifully around data powered by machine learning.

Marketers today are adopting new technologies for their brands to up their game in the era of targeting and achieve their objectives more efficiently. It is said that in 2018 more than 40 per cent of marketers deeply believe that AI will make big data work for them in targeting, in understanding the customer journey and in driving optimal ad-spend decisions. In some cases, they’re likely to be right. That is according Tune, a Seattle-based measurement company providing a software platform for helping marketers manage and scale their publisher relationships.

The true value and usage of technology gives marketers precision, effectiveness, and accuracy for our campaigns and strategies. Humans, on the other hand, orchestrate the full ad stack and make the impossible happen. Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said: “If humans are to survive, we must merge with machines.”

At MMPWW, we have a team of well-equipped professionals that ensure campaigns and strategies are properly adjusted, executed, tested, reported and optimised, and we fill in the gaps of what a computer cannot deliver. Finally, algorithms versus the human element: Who, in your opinion, wins?