Programmatic advertising is the buying and selling of digital ad space using a real-time bidding system combined with algorithms and automation. In an age where programmatic holds auto-optimizations in such high regard, the human factor can sometimes be overlooked, which can lead to channel underperformance. The human factor, or media trader, understands what the client’s business and campaign goals are and how to best optimize toward these using a wide range of tools.
Auto-optimization options only function at a very high level, missing the granularity coming from large data sets that need to be analyzed by the media trader. They can shift budget to better supply vendors or cut sites that aren’t performing, bidding up and down on certain pieces of the campaign to get to a certain level of performance, and cycle certain creative that are performing better. Auto-optimization improves performance, but will miss things only a media trader can detect and optimize against. For example, with automated site lists, there will always be sites that are missed that are either drawing fraudulent traffic or are not brand-safe. Also, automated optimizations lack the ability to view the pieces as a whole and determine how they are supposed to come together to find that right person at the right time on the right browser.
The media traders who are the human components of this programmatic buying process spend their days sifting through vast amounts of data in order to provide the best optimizations for every scenario. They understand how all the campaign pieces affect one another. They uncover insights that can help a campaign perform its best – looking at audience performance, day-parts, inventory sources, data sources, creative rotation, operating systems, devices and browsers, setting different bids to help maximize performance on a more granular level than auto-optimization can do. The media trader does something a machine can’t do, which is provide context to all the moving pieces of a campaign. Without context, all of these pieces lose their meaning. Each trader has their own way of valuing and optimizing the moving parts. Although they all have the same goal, which is to get the best performance out of campaigns, they get there in different ways. Some will start with looking into ad format, while others will dig into time of day or browser. It’s an art form to these people. As much as we love having automated features, it’s just as important to never forget the most important piece of programmatic campaigns: the human behind the machine.