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Remembering the Human Touch in Programmatic Marketing


There’s an ongoing discourse in marketing that machines are going to inevitably take our jobs. The advent of programmatic, now hitting double digits in age, has brought advanced machine learning processes that have automated a lot of what traders used to do. And this had to happen, because we are now able to reach customers and prospects at a scale that has never been possible before. Could you imagine managing an addressable supply change by hand or looking at every available impression, let alone scoring it?


OMD's Asia-Pacific CEO, Stephen Li, said in a CampaignAsia article earlier this year that “Human interaction and insight still sit at the core of the marketing challenge.” He argues that better implementation of data and real-time metrics should not forego building brand love, or remembering that we market to real humans. “


"We are at risk of becoming data day traders, hyper focusing on short-term performance and not thinking about long-term growth,” he writes.


Li is right. The building of increasingly intelligent machines was not done to undermine or eradicate the need for human skill or emotion—not in marketing or in other industries. Rather, machine learning can actually help us up our game by requiring us to do higher-order work that taps into other parts of our brains and expertise. For instance:

  • Account leads and media planners understand a client’s intention in their marketing campaigns so they can fine tune the right strategy for their goals.

  • Data scientists serve as the strategic brains behind the full potential of machine learning.

  • Sales teams focus on outcomes and customer lifetime value.

  • Traders bring smarter strategies to the table, not just the ability to execute.  

As machines get better at automating the mundane, we can get better at strategizing the sophisticated. It’s this mix of computer power and human intelligence—including the emotional kind—that will elevate marketing as both an industry and a profession.


Photo from Creative Commons