Opinions, ideas, creativity and more have become the battlegrounds in the war to figure out who is the better advertiser: human beings or robots? Think this is a scene out of some Mad Magazine parody that mixes The Terminator with Mad Men? It isn't.
For years, marketing companies have existed that solve a very tactical and analytics-based problem: how does one create the best ad for Google's AdWords platforms? When you dig deep and uncover who the best advertisers are on Google, more often than not, what you discover is a lot of technology driving the solution, and very little creative effort that is being used to create these text-based ads. It is a complex system that melds keywords, geography, time of day, competitive terms, random terms that are highly-trafficked, bidding strategies, and other more obscure data points to widdle down to an ad that converts the best (and costs the least). The brand behind these ads, care little about the creative direction and much more about how it is reacting in the live bidding environment. Google is not alone. Facebook served close to $4.5 billion of advertising in 2012 (can you believe it?). And, according to the Business Insider article, How Facebook Is Replacing Ad Agencies With Robots, a good chunk of that work is never touched by a creative director, an ad agency... or even a human being.
From the article: Never has there been such a gigantic volume of advertising displayed in which professional agency creative types have had so little involvement... In the agency business, those ads are largely regarded as replacements for the old classified ads that used to appear in newspapers.
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We live in a world where marketing pundits will publish articles titled, Customers Don't Want Ads, They Want A Conversation, but these sweeping generalities may not be reflective of this new consumer. What is abundantly clear is that advertising - as we have known it to date - slides into the middle of the publicity channel. It is no longer the 800-pound gorilla in the marketing mix. This does not spell the end of the "big idea," nor does it mean that the current slew of award-winning advertising agencies will be boarding up their doors any time soon.What advertising becomes. What we do know is that the truly effective advertising agencies of the day are having to up their game in relation to technology, performance, content creation and more. While it may be easy to rattle off those terms and put a checkmark against them in a credentials deck, being able to demonstrate expertise is going to be an entirely different story. We live in a world of retargeting and remarketing where brands can better understand the user's behavior as they are being tracked throughout their regular online visits and send them ads based on the content that they have consumed and the products they have seen. Again, the vast majority of retargeting efforts rely little on creativity and much more on data and automated services. Couple that with multivariate testing and suddenly, we're in a world where hip creative directors are being positioned against ad monitoring technology that is able to create and serve the best-performing ad... regardless of how lacking it may be of creativity and a big idea. The trick to advertising's future is going to be in how well these three stories -- automated marketing, content marketing and advertising agencies' offerings -- tell a bigger and bolder brand narrative that drives economic value. Mitch Joel is president of Twist Image. HIs first book, Six Pixels of Separation, named after his highly-successful blog and podcast of the same name is a business and marketing bestseller. His next book, CTRL ALT Delete, will be in stores on May 21st, 2013.