The Next Frontier in Ad Infrastructure: Automation Between Buyers and Sellers

By Alexander Tsai, SVP of Product Management, Mediaocean

Over the past decade, programmatic has revolutionized digital media within the advertising industry. Brands, agencies, and sellers have harnessed the power of technology to streamline internal workflows, enhancing efficiency and reducing manual labor. Negotiations between buyers and sellers, once conducted through email threads and phone calls, have been transformed by automated processes for non-premium and non-guaranteed inventory, reducing the time and resources required to close deals.

Despite these advancements, a material gap remains. While the industry has successfully automated digital programmatic buying, direct insertion order (IO) buying operations and interactions between buyers and sellers, have largely remained untouched by this technological revolution.

Today, there is a significant shift towards improving interoperability through advertising workflow infrastructure. In this effort, the aim of automation is not just to streamline internal enterprise operations but to facilitate faster, more efficient, and more transparent interchange between buyers and sellers.

As we assess the opportunities automation offers, it’s becoming increasingly clear that the application in interactions among buyer, seller, and ad tech vendors could yield substantial early impact. This burgeoning area is ripe for exploration and innovation, and it promises opportunities for those ready to capitalize on it.

The Gap: Automation in the Interactions Between All Parties
Despite investments in internal process automation, through robotic process automation (RPA) and/or offshoring, there remains a noticeable gap in the application of automation to the interactions between partners. This gap is increasingly significant due to the complex nature of data-sharing, the convergence of media, and the latencies and costs associated with handoffs. Furthermore, the growing complexity around targeting requires a more direct and automated relationships between buyers and sellers. Accordingly, the shift in focus from internal and programmatic to large scale external direct IO automation is the next frontier in advertising efficiency and effectiveness.

The challenge of improving the industry’s infrastructure is increasingly centered on making collaboration more efficient and secure. This need is amplified as more channels proliferate and as data orchestration becomes more complex due to rising privacy concerns – a trend evident in both digital and traditional channels, which now need to work together.

Converged buying across media channels is also becoming more complex. Tasks such as planning, buying, trafficking, pacing, optimizing, and reporting are more intricate due to the siloed nature of media. Managing reach and frequency across such media is particularly complicated. In the meantime, the digital media landscape is crowded with vendors and partners for targeting, viewability, quality, and fraud verification.

Where Automation Can Improve Interaction Between Buyers and Sellers

As the focus of automation shifts from internal workflows to enhancing buyer-seller connections, several key areas are expected to benefit.

  • Inventory Availability: This involves sellers making their ad inventory accessible to buyers, who can then purchase directly without a proposal from the seller, facilitating buyer-initiated proposals with real-time avails of packaged inventory directly from sellers.
  • Ad Trafficking: In linear TV, the trafficking of creative involves buyer instructions to networks or stations regarding ad placements for specific programs. In digital, it involves transmitting Excel spreadsheets with ad “tags”. Both mediums necessitate the delivery of creative assets. However, the current workflows lack efficiency and could benefit greatly from further automation solving for late creatives..
  • Delivery Data Transfer: The exchange of delivery data from sellers to buyers varies, depending on the publisher, station, or network involved. In the digital context, buyers typically manually send this data either weekly or monthly, with some automating the process through reports, though it remains unintegrated with the buying platform. This is also the case with traditional linear as air times are not available within buying systems.
  • Media Optimization: For buyers, this involves enhancing the ad buy based on proposals and available inventory against a defined targeted audience while managing reach and frequency (R&F). For sellers, it’s about refining the proposal to maximize revenue.
  • Makegood Automation: This proactive approach involves either the buyer or seller initiating alerts for preemptions and proposing makegoods, accompanied by automatic rules for acceptance, trafficking instructions and more.
  • Electronic Invoicing: Billions of dollars are held up as agencies match invoices received against executed IOs. Automated electronic invoices will significantly reduce what is now taking weeks to less than a day.

The Future of Automation in Advertising

While the past decade has been marked by the automation of internal workflows and programmatic for digital media, the next decade promises a revolution in the interactions between buyers and sellers for all media. This new era promises to reshape the advertising landscape and redefine the ways in which all parties interact. Those ready to embrace these changes will be well-positioned to seize the opportunities that this new era of automation presents.

The most profound impact of this shift in automation focus will be on the people at the heart of the industry. By automating laborious, time-consuming tasks, industry professionals will be freed to concentrate on what they do best. By relieving the burden of administrative tasks, professionals will have more time to deepen relationships with partners, cultivate creative ideas, and drive strategic initiatives. This improved collaboration and synergy could lead to better creative outcomes and, ultimately, more successful advertising campaigns.