Time is a Valuable Asset in Digital Media – And Agencies Are Throwing It Away

Scott Neslund, EVP of Client Services at Centro, contends agencies are wasting time (and money) by ignoring the need to automate all the basic tasks in media buying. 


scott neslundAre outdated tools and tech creating job dissatisfaction in the advertising industry? In late 2015, when my company conducted a survey to take the pulse of the digital media industry, we found that almost 50% of those surveyed said they were ready to leave their jobs in the next year or less. As we ended 2016, many of them may have already followed through on those plans.

Our data found that employees in the digital media space are relying heavily on too many disparate, unconnected systems to get from one step in the campaign process to the next. If you were to ask about the day-to-day lives of digital media operations professionals, they’ll probably tell you that they’re slowed down by complicated, time-consuming, and chaotic workflow. As an example, programmatic advertising was created to enable marketers to efficiently target relevant audiences at scale, but it has become another tool to master, along with many others in the kit.

According to our survey, nearly half of respondents (45%) cited ‘amount of resources and tools’ as the most challenging aspect of their job. Of the respondents, 42% said they log into 4-6 software platforms, not including Microsoft Office and email; 29% said they use 7 or more.

This leads me to believe that there’s no ‘flow’ in our workflow. In order to plan, negotiate, send insertion orders, analyze, optimize and pay vendors, digital media teams spend entire days switching back and forth between Excel, spreadsheets, Google docs, Word docs, email, Outlook, AdWords, DSPs, DMPs, and more.

When I look at agency personnel (buyers, planners, analysts and directors), they can get bogged down with data entry and 100+ manual steps to execute digital media campaigns from start to finish. When this is the status of digital media operations today, when is there time to focus on strategic and creative aspects of an account?

Consider the amount of time wasted by this choppy process and silo’d systems. You’d see that not only does disorganized workflow cost agencies in terms of inefficiency and finance delays, but such bottlenecks can have enormous business impact—including delayed campaigns and clients’ missed revenue opportunities. We all burn money every minute we continue operating inefficiently.

What can agencies do to improve current workflow, minimize mistakes and get teams aligned and operating with speed and efficiency? Automate digital media planning, buying and execution from start to finish.

Wouldn’t it be great to streamline the disparate software and tools being used now, and execute digital media operations from one single place to automate the entire campaign planning effort? Marketers would save an immense amount of time accessing business intelligence if all data and intelligence existed in one platform. Think about all data relevant to your campaigns being accessed from one unified place, eliminating the blind spot of making assumptions.

Imagine quickly tracking internal and external communications, reviewing historical campaign plans and media pricing, pulling up information about how much was spent with a publisher, what ad units or creative proved most effective in the past. Post-launch, analysts could see if campaigns are pacing, how plans are performing and assess what’s working, what’s not – and make changes in real-time.

The day-to-day manual task of digging to find this type of information costs time, and also costs you. Small – but critical – human errors can potentially add up. And no matter how careful you are, that comes with the territory with 100+ step tasks. Let’s take, for example, setting up the advertiser’s media plan in the ad server. Couldn’t this manual process (of inputting the media plan and its corresponding creative assets to generate ad tags) be automated so as to reduce human error? There are dozens of these multi-step process that are ripe for automation if agencies cared enough to invest in improving them. Most importantly, improving these steps help an agency’s talent perform better, which, I believe, helps campaigns perform.

It begs the question: If adopting automated technology leads to aligned teams, fewer errors in work, better performing campaigns, and greater client satisfaction, then why aren’t we leveraging technology to help us fix these parts? Why aren’t we, as an industry, putting people at the center of everything we do? I believe in the benefits of automation — if it helps people gain back their time, which is an agency’s most valuable asset.

Prior to Centro, Scott Neslund was Mindshare’s CEO of North America, CEO of Red Bricks Media and President of Moxie Interactive.

The Cynsiders column is a platform for industry leaders to reach out to colleagues, followers, and the public at large. In their own words and in targeted Q&As, columnists address breaking news, issues of the day, and the larger changes going on in the ever-evolving world of television, video and digital. Cynsiders columns live on Cynopsis’ main page and are promoted across all daily newsletters. We welcome readers’ comments, queries, and column ideas at [email protected]

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