How Advertisers Can Use Automation to Lift Shrinking Ad Budgets

By Tyler Kelly, President at Basis Technologies

Whether we officially hit a recession or not, inflationary fears and economic anxieties are causing brands to slash ad spend. But at the same time, brands expect better performance than ever, and they often want to reach people on an ever increasing number of channels.

To deliver on these promises with limited resources, media agencies need to streamline their workflows to reduce friction, save time and money, and optimize results.

But what should agencies consider as they explore the many options for boosting productivity and streamlining workflows with automation? Which cost centers most urgently need to be addressed? How can advertisers most effectively use automation to make productivity gains?

Let’s cover how agencies can implement automation to boost efficiency, decide what to automate via external partners and what to automate in-house, and identify next steps to reap the benefits of automation.

Automation to boost efficiency

When looking to increase productivity, agencies should consider automation along each step in the entire media process, from planning and buying to campaign reporting and financial reconciliation. Whether you’re working to automate your in-house processes or leaning on outside partners who automate your workflows, weeks of work can be shaved down to hours with automation.

For example, in media planning, media professionals often have to slog through seemingly endless repetitive work. It may involve copying and pasting past campaign plans into new plans that have a similar framework and goal but may need some slight tweaks. Without too many keystrokes and clicks from the copying and pasting, could this data be automatically imported into a new plan, saving time and reducing the chance of human error?

The same logic can be applied to the copy-and-paste drudgery in reporting and reconciliation, which is ripe for human error because people’s focus tends to lapse when doing work that isn’t fun. Automating this process ensures accuracy, which is crucial for reconciliation, where precious dollars are on the line (and partners need to get paid).

In direct deals with publishers, automation can relieve the traditional headaches of email chains and phone calls associated with RFPs and negotiations by centralizing all of the information (and requirements) that all possible vendor partners need. This will be an increasing focus as more agencies look to secure CTV inventory, where a significant amount is only available through direct deals.

Agencies can also use workflow automation as a lever to combat employee burnout and mitigate labor costs. Up-and-coming media professionals didn’t go to college to sharpen their cut-and-paste skills. When agencies empower employees to find their genius by focusing on strategic thinking and creativity, they are strengthening their foundation and investing in their future.

In reality, most agencies are likely already working with multiple software tools to solve different parts of the media process. Efficient workflow automation also means taking a hard look at the interactions between those tools and proactively seeking further integrations to consolidate the information that teams need to access and to ensure that data transfers accurately through each phase of the media process.

In-house versus outsourced automation

As agencies aim to automate more of their tasks, they’ll wonder how much of media buying processes, including programmatic, should be automated in-house, and how much they should delegate to outside partners.

The advantage of outsourced partners is that they are paid on performance and are thus incentivized to be as automated as possible. Agencies put a dollar into their partner, and they expect to get two dollars’ worth of work back. The partner has every reason to be as efficient as it can.

However, there are reasons to “in-house” as well. Paramount among them are control and transparency. Agencies need to be sure their dollars are put to optimal use, and they don’t just want results; they want to understand results to train their own employees and better communicate with their own clients.

Agencies outsourcing parts of the media process should ensure their partners transparently share how performance is driven. These learnings may even lay the groundwork for agencies eventually bringing more of those functionalities in house. At the very least, transparency with outside partners helps agencies see where their dollars are going.

Next steps to automate

The first task is identifying time-consuming processes related to generating new business or spending on media. Making those processes faster is a no-brainer. Another area to examine is the work that bogs down employees, increasing the risk of burnout and talent loss. That’s also a key priority to automate.

The second step is evaluating whether or not tech-driven solutions can automate those critical processes. Agencies don’t need to automate their entire agency in one fell swoop. Rather, they can evaluate the different parts of the media process and then identify the solutions they need to get all the way from A to Z.

Agencies can take baby steps toward getting to that fully automated agency model of their CEO and CFO’s dreams. This is unquestionably the way of the future.