Carat Digital Director, Anthony O’Callaghan, believes AI is more friend than foe for media agencies, with the potential to transform the way they operate, making space (in minds, as well as calendars) for more creative and strategic thinking.
There’s been a great deal of talk around artificial intelligence and automation as a threat to jobs and the survival of media agencies in the not so distant future. I certainly don’t disagree with its potential to kill off, or at the very least, drastically alter the agency model as we know it; I just don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing.
As anyone in an agency will tell you, there is a heavily process-driven side to the life of a media planner/buyer that can, at times, feel robotic in nature. This day to day ‘business as usual’ (BAU) activity – booking, reporting, auditing, finance, spot-checking; the list goes on – forms the backbone of any media agency. Without it, agencies simply couldn’t function.
‘Business as usual’ can, however, leave very little time in the day (or space in your mind) for the kind of innovation and future-focused thinking that inspires and excites not only clients, but the planners themselves.
What AI offers agencies is an opportunity to give BAU to the ‘bots; to look up from the day to day and make space in their minds and calendars for more creative, strategic thinking.
At the recent ad:tech in New York, AI was potentially the biggest buzzword being thrown around since we last talked ‘the year of mobile’. Whilst the discussion was thought-provoking, the majority of conversations focused on the benefits for advertisers and consumers, rather than the immense opportunity it offers for internal process improvement.
Less than ten years ago we were still faxing bookings to TV networks; today, our systems are semi-autonomous – we buy off screen, we self-serve biddable media, and can visualise and track real time campaign performance. Would it be so crazy to believe that in another ten years’ time, these tasks will be done solely by machines? One would think not.
IBM Watson, Amazon Alexa, Google Home – all AI-based platforms that are effectively only in their infancy. Infants mind you, that essentially curate your life, understand and answer your questions all whilst beating you at a game of chess. It’s scary to imagine what they could accomplish when they hit puberty.
Imagine if all of our trafficking, reporting and uploading was 100% automated, with AI systems talking to one another, sharing learnings, understanding our needs and wants – it would be a bold new world for media planners & buyers.
So what does this mean for those working in media agencies? Are we all no longer needed; will AI come along and make us obsolete?
Absolutely not. The platforms listed above are all forms of cognitive machine learning; the more you use them and feed them queries, the more they learn and get smarter with their outcomes. It is a tool; not a replacement for people.
What it does offer is an opportunity for media planners and buyers to impart our smarts to the machines and free up some space and brain power to focus on better-servicing our clients, effectively managing our teams, and creating amazing campaigns.
Give me a world where our reports are there waiting for us in the morning, our trafficking is done overnight, and finance always matches! These are just some of the possibilities that AI platforms enable, and it’s a damn exciting proposition. For now though, let’s face it – it’s not ‘Westworld’ just yet, and someone’s got to go to those Friday drinks.