Humans vs. Technology: Why Can’t We Have Both?

Guest Post by Olivia Hottle, ponderingprogrammatic.blogspot.com
See more issues about programmatic media buying here.

We’ve heard of companies that, in the name of efficiency and lowering costs, begin using machinery and other equipment to create their product. After using technology, the company realizes that it no longer needs its human workers, and jobs are cut, resulting in unemployment for workers.

Some are pointing to a similar situation that could occur as programmatic media buying sweeps advertising agencies and marketers. By automating the online display ad buying process, doesn’t this mean that media buyers will no longer be needed? Is this new tech craze going to kill jobs?

It’s important to consider this issue, and on the surface, this problem makes sense. While the trend of programmatic is yet to be known, many are predicting a huge influx of programmatic technologies being used to buy online ads and even TV. We don’t know yet where the industry will go and whether jobs will, in reality, be lost, yet some are against programmatic for this very reason. Even industry executives are split on whether they believe jobs will suffer—An AOL survey showed that 57% of executives do not think jobs will be affected.

    

For me, it’s a scary thought—after graduation, the profession I seek to obtain is media planning and buying, so the threat of a new technology that could do my job and thus take it from me is frustrating.

But I don’t think the threat is big enough to become a reality. While automation would make things much easier in the online ad world, it certainly isn’t perfect, and the need for humans still exists. Here are a few more reasons why I think we can have our technology and keep our jobs, too.

1. Optimization is Key to Avoiding Dreadful Mistakes

A human media buyer knows that running a brand’s ads on certain websites or alongside television programs that don’t match the brand’s persona or ideals is not a good idea (think porn sites or South Park for a family-friendly brand). A computer program may not understand this, even if seemingly foolproof restrictions are put in place. And this has, in fact, actually happened! Some ads have ended up on Jihad YouTube videos and other inappropriate sites. A human controlling the programmatic buy can notice and prevent these types of issues. But humans optimizing campaigns isn’t just for avoiding disasters—optimizing campaigns to ensure costs stay low, that the budget is being allocated to specific goals (rather than simply putting all of the budget toward a cheap option), and to ensure placements are congruent with brand image and audience objectives is necessary every day in programmatic management.

2. It’s Obvious, but…Computers Just Aren’t People

…and they can’t do things a human with a brain and a personality can. A computer can’t have a conversation with the client to know what the true brand objectives are in order to implement them effectively. A person can. A computer cannot give a presentation to the client summarizing the learnings from a programmatic campaign and make suggestions for the future. A human can. See where this is going?

3. Humans are Flexible

Humans will bend and change with the new technologies that face them. In a few years, a media buyer’s role might definitely change (in fact, they are starting to change now), but this doesn’t mean all is lost. Caspar Schlickum with iMedia Connection points out that programmatic is providing new opportunities for the humans which relate more to data and technology. Do a Google search for “programmatic jobs,” and you’ll find numerous companies looking to hire people to work with programmatic technologies. To me, this doesn’t seem to show that programmatic is taking any jobs, but rather creating more specialized ones. This means that there may be a gap now in the skills needed to be a media buyer and run a programmatic campaign—the previously mentioned AOL study also showed that more than one-third of the surveyed executives think there is a skills gap that needs to be filled. Media buyers may need to invest some time into learning about this new technology, but that’s no reason to run screaming from it.

Neil Pace from McCulloch and Company says it perfectly, “There is no button to push or switch to flip that will just create a media campaign and do all the work for you. Additionally, there will never be a future where all humans will be replaced by robots performing programmatic buys.” I see no solid evidence showing that people will be replaced by machines.

Have you had an experience with jobs being created or taken because of programmatic? Share it in the comments!

See more issues about programmatic media buying here.

- Olivia Hottle

Basics of Programmatic Media Buying

Guest Post by Olivia Hottle, ponderingprogrammatic.blogspot.com
See more issues about programmatic media buying here.

It’s a long, complicated phrase with a seemingly even more complicated meaning. However, programmatic media buying is also an important concept for media planners and buyers (and even students seeking a career in advertising in general) to understand. Programmatic buying is becoming a buzzword in the advertising industry, and while some controversies exist over its usefulness (that’s a different blog for a different day), there is no denying that buying online display ad space programmatically is starting a lot of conversations in the advertising world.

But what exactly is it? A recent Millward-Brown study said that advertisers don’t even seem to know—60% of respondents said they “didn’t feel that the ad industry had an accurate and unified definition for the term.” So even though I don’t have direct experience with running a programmatic media buy*, I believe the concept is so important and relevant to advertising trends that it needs to be discussed and defined.

At its core, programmatic buying is simply a way to buy display ads online.

Historically, advertisers had to manually purchase online display ad space by reaching out to specific websites and buying certain sizes of ads.

olivia
Source: callum.stephenson.710

Programmatic buying is a way to make this process more efficient and specific.

A company that sells cooking products can certainly buy display ads on recipe sites. But with programmatic buying, the cooking products company can use data-driven insights of their typical consumer (say, a thirty-year old woman who also likes to do DIY crafts and has young children), and buy sites that have visitors that are “lookalikes” of this consumer.

Sites are able to tell who a consumer “is” by their previous search and browsing history, obtained through cookies and pixel tags.


Cookies are bits of code that are saved on a web browser and retrievable for other uses later. The cookies have a unique ID that is triggered on various sites, proving the users to be the same person.

Pixel tags refer to a small, invisible GIF pixel embedded in a page (such as the “thank you for purchasing” page on Amazon and other online commerce sites). These pixels can “read” the cookies on a site, as well, and discover further data about consumers by tracking the other sites they visit.

A computer and an algorithm execute programmatic buys.

However, humans are still much needed in this process to help optimize the ads’ targeting. Sometimes the buy will utilize real-time buying (RTB), which is an auction-like environment for buying impressions of display ads online. RTB methods only buy domains, but a programmatic buy can include specific pages on those domains (the weather section of a newspaper website, rather than the newspaper site as a whole).

Programmatic buys can also occur when the advertiser buys a certain amount of digital impressions from a website publisher beforehand.

Advertisers can also retarget their consumers. For example, a consumer who has recently visited a site, looked at a specific pair of shoes, but then did not buy ultimately the shoes can be “followed” around the web. This consumer will be served an ad featuring that specific pair of shoes. (These types of ads often show up on Facebook. You know, the creepy ones that make you swear someone was watching your every move?)

Advertisers are still able to set certain parameters when buying programmatically, as they would normally when considering how they will buy display ads. They can set the bid price, total budget spend, campaign flight dates, and similar specifics.

Having at least a general understanding of programmatic buying is beneficial. From here, we can see where programmatic is headed and the issues surrounding it.

Olivia Hottle

*Full disclosure: I briefly shadowed employees at Amnet in New York City during the summer of 2014 to further understand and ignite my interest in programmatic media buying.

Live to Die Another Day: Switching Film Titles Mid (Revenue) Stream

This past summer, Warner Bros. released a sci-fi blockbuster starring Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt, best known as Edge of Tomorrow. What many people do not know, is that Edge of Tomorrow has had 3 title changes throughout the course of its existence—and technically, Edge of Tomorrow isn’t even its title anymore.

edgeThe film’s very first title was All You Need is Kill, which is also the name of the Japanese novel that it’s based upon.  Back when the film first premiered producer Edwin Stoff told The Hollywood Reporter, “I think the word ‘kill’ in a title is very tricky in today’s world. I don’t know that people want to be bombarded with that word. I don’t know that people want to be opening the newspaper and seeing that word. We see it enough in real newspaper headlines, and I don’t think that we need to see it when we’re looking at a movie.” So as you can tell, the filmmakers clearly had a lot of serious discussion about this and changed the title for a legitimate reason.

The second change of title is the one that most of us know the movie by: Edge of Tomorrow. It’s a much “safer” title, but it’s definitely one that doesn’t necessarily scream, This is an Action Movie, or Badass Sci-fi Adventure. Nonetheless, I think the producers did a fine job in overcoming their “title problem” by finding a new title that wouldn’t threaten their target audience.

Unfortunately, when the film was released wide last summer, it didn’t storm the box office like the studios had hoped. However, contrary to many reports declaring the film to be a “big box office bomb,” Edge of Tomorrow actually didn’t do too badly.  It made $369,206,256 worldwide, but it’s worth noting that 73% of the gross was fueled by foreign markets, while the domestic total was only 27%. You can see why the studios may be concerned with the fact that they scored little money in their most lucrative market. So, in one last-ditch effort to make more money, Warner Bros. changed the title, again—this time for the home video release.

Edge1Live Die Repeat: Edge of Tomorrow is the film’s current (and hopefully final) title. On the DVD/Blu-Ray case the film barely even recognizes the fact that Edge of Tomorrow is still in the title. Live Die Repeat almost plays out like an obnoxious tagline rather than a real title—which I’m sure that’s exactly what they were trying to do: hook an audience immediately by hearing the title (which, isn’t that kind of a point of a title, too?).

The film did debut at #1 on the iTunes movie chart, but it’s obviously unclear if this can be attributed to the title change or if it was simply due to good word of mouth from audiences and critics (the film lies at a hearty 90% on Rotten Tomatoes). Either way, I’m sure the studios were pleased to see it in a #1 spot.

Do you think the studios made the right decision in changing the title? Is there any title that you think works better than the others? Let me know what you think in the comments below.

Alex Miller

Google Plus is Trying Awfully Hard to be Cool

Over the past couple of years Google’s relatively new social media site Google+ (or Google Plus) has come to the forefront of social media shockingly quick and, as many would say, unwelcomed. But there are many people currently out there trying to convince consumers and businesses, that Google Plus is the next big thing. But should we really believe the hype and give it a chance, or should we stick with what we have and give it a fail?

facebookFirst we need to look at what it actually is. While Google Plus is marketed as a social media site, it feels like it wants to be Google 2.0, by trying to integrate everything from our emails to our tweets, to people we know, to people we don’t know, our photos, videos, etc. Google Plus boasts over 300 million monthly active users. You would think it has a lot going for it, but numbers alone can’t verify its popularity.

facebook1I have found plenty of articles that rave of Google Plus’s potential as a business model, citing its Circles feature as the main tool. The trouble starts when you scroll down to the comments and find that many of them loudly disagree more often than agree with the “professionals.” The saddest part is that, even with 300 Million users, it still pales in comparison to Facebook.

Many people have expressed complaints to the new site, citing such problems as being too cluttered, difficult to use, and invasive. “Invasive” doesn’t begin to describe the problems it faced in 2012 when it was implemented into YouTube’s commenting system. For a time, it was required that a user would have to sign into their newly-created-without-their-consent Google Plus accounts in order to simply post comments on a YouTube video. This alone was enough to create a gigantic backlash, one even the co-creator of YouTube chimed in on. Not only that, but Google was requiring people to create a Google Plus account on creation of a new Gmail account as well, however that is no longer in affect.

Google Plus now is coming under major revisions. With the de-integration of Google Plus’s mandatory status in YouTube and Gmail, some predict that Google is getting ready to pull the plug. While this is a realistic possibility, the fact remains that a lot of time and energy has been put into it inception. The more likely action they are going to take is to push it in a different direction, not gutting it, but reframing it.

Facebook2I personally have never cared for Google Plus myself; Facebook and Gmail are enough online social interaction for me to get by. And like many people I was not happy at how Google Plus was presented to me, as it was more than just “pushy.” As skeptical as I was, however, I gave it a shot. That didn’t help as I came to the same conclusion millions of other people have: it is clunky, clustered, and confusing. Plus, no one I know reliably uses it, so it has failed to usurp my need of Facebook. So many people are making contradictory arguments of whether or not Google Plus is actually a ghost town or a success. From my personal experience, Google Plus may have lots of people, but they are not the people I’d like to be around.

So what do you guys think? Do you use or know anyone who uses Google Plus? Should they take it out of commission, change it up a little, or keep it as is? What could they try to do to “redeem” themselves in the face of their backlash?

Ryan Fabbro

Floating Down the Video Stream: The Future of Television

The future of media distribution is certainly at a crossroads right now. We are seeing a tumultuous period in traditional forms of media, and television is no exception. More and more American’s are opting out of expensive pay-tv subscriptions in exchange for digital antennas and subscriptions to streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu Plus.

videoTrends in media consumption have changed radically even within the year, with digital viewing increasing at an impressive rate. According to a recent Nielsen report growth for digital viewing rose 53% for individuals ages 18 to 43 over the past year. In fact, this high growth of digital viewing is even more pronounced for older demographics with an 85.7% rise in 35 to 49 year olds and a 72.7% rise in 50 to 60 year olds. TV, on the other hand, saw a 4.2% average drop in adult screen during the past year.

Video2These discernible growth rates in digital viewing should serve as a wakeup call for pay-tv providers. No doubt they have felt the stinging winds of change; digitaltrends.com revealed that 2013 marked the first year in the history of television which pay TV providers lost more subscribers than they gained. Not only that, but there are now over 10 million households in the U.S. with internet services but no traditional cable or satellite connection. And over half are subscribed to some sort of monthly streaming service.

Video3There are many additional choices to be made once deciding to cut the cord on cable, most importantly how to create your own bundle of content. Many sports fans may have the most difficult time taking off the noose of pay-tv, but that too may be changing soon. Recent deals made between the NBA and ESPN have made internet streaming of live basketball games possible for anyone willing to pay for the subscription cost with no cable or satellite needed. The new streaming service will host 100 live games, 750 hours of additional new content, and archival footage. ESPN has also expressed interests in doing the same for additional sports.

If deals can eventually be made and sports move to pay streaming services, it could ultimately mean the end of the pay-tv we know today. But there is a way to save the industry, and that involves following the lead of our neighbors to the north.

According to Nielsen, the average American only watch 17 different channels, yet some plans include hundreds upon hundreds of channels. Verizon has been showing an increasing interest in developing a pay-per-channel (or “a la catre”) system of allowing consumers to buy their television. This practice of “a la carte” television has been successfully practiced in Canada with television service Telus’ Optik. Subscribers pay a low rate of $26 a month for 40 US and Canadian channels while having the option to buy channels specially bundled “themed packs” for an additional $8.00 a month, or buy any channel individually for $3.50 a month.

While the vision of a la carte television may be only a pipe dream for U.S. consumers, many are creating their own version of this system by cord-cutting. As more and more channels offer streaming subscription services we are moving closer and closer to a world without traditional television. How can these television networks (primarily local network affiliates) expect to survive if something is not done to our current industry model? Is there any hope to save traditional television, or are we simply seeing a redefinition of what it means to be “watching television” in an evolving industry?

Cutting the cord may not be the best answer to the current state of, but changes to television distribution must happen and quickly and right now cord cutting seems to be the most viable option for change. New technologies should continue to supplement traditional media, not supplant it.

Aaron Sprengeler

Soundcloud’s Push for Prominence (and Profit)

With over 350 million users and no considerable fiscal return, Soundcloud is now dipping into some new ideas to make their business platform more profitable.

SoundcloudTwitter recently introduced Audio Card a partnership with the German music-streaming service that allows users to play music directly from their timeline. It allows artists to seamlessly share their work with fans without interrupting the way they browse through tweets, providing a valuable utility for the way people discover new music.

Soundcloud is also working to appeal with more mainstream audiences by initiating changes that allow for the monetization of their distribution methods. By implementing an advertising system to their site, it’s becoming clear that their goal is to start profiting from their business model.

However, Soundcloud remains unique compared to its competitors because it’s a service that’s just as much oriented to assist the artist whose distributing their content rather than the person who’s listening to it. The introduction of On Soundcloud is clear proof of this; it functions as a partner program for artists that gives them a way to earn royalties from their work.

So how will this affect traditional record labels in their efforts to sell and distribute music? The route of self-distribution is becoming more and more lucrative for up-and-coming musicians looking for the capability to reach mass audiences at a cheap price. Not only useful for smaller independent artists, but Soundcloud is a valuable asset for prominent musicians who want a way to release songs directly to the listener. Acts like Beyonce, Kendrick Lamar, and Diplo are all signed to major labels, yet release new music for free though Soundcloud.

Soundcloud1According to Billboard, Soundcloud is currently engaged in “active, ongoing and advanced discussion” with the three major labels in an effort to integrate copyrighted material into what can be played on their site. This is undoubtedly one of the biggest factors in the development of a paid-subscription plan for listeners, and will surely play a big role in competing with outlets like iTunes, Pandora, and Spotify.

The addition of advertising may prompt some legal lawsuits for Soundcloud, similar to what YouTube dealt with in 2007. The National Music Publishers Association argues that since they are uploading copyrighted content, they should be required to pay royalties. Soundcloud stands by the notion that since it’s for promotional use only, it’s still fair game. Both sides are looking for a win-win situation, so these discussions are still ongoing.

The future for Soundcloud remains somewhat hazy and uncertain, but one thing is for sure: They need to start making money if they want to stick around, because they can’t continue to operate with such large net losses. It’s clear they are taking the necessary steps to do so, and it will be interesting to monitor what kind of success rate they will experience.

Mike Hudson

DIY INDEPENDENT FILM: An Introduction to Self-Distribution

So you want to make a movie? Most people think is a difficult process to do, and yes it is, but you can do it yourself now! Independent films are a way to make a name for yourself in the film world nowadays. Many think it takes a lot of money to get your project up and going and out there for everyone to see, but with these simple steps you can now get your name up on the marquee!

indie-film-distribution.jpgFirst, let’s talk about several ways to get distribution for a film, especially if it is your own. The Raindance Film Festival website discusses the 7 deadly sins of Self distribution. We need to look at what not to do before we go into good ways to go about self-distribution. Raindance Film brings up many good points with all their “sins.” If you want to be successful, you need to do what it takes, you cannot be greedy, or lazy, or pursue film because you want to be famous. The best self-distributed films are ones that people put a lot of time into, are focused on a goal, and want to put it out into the world for the greater good.

Second, self-distribution is hard. Alison Willmore, of Indiewire , sheds light on how to actually go about the self-distribution process. One of the first things Willmore brings up is you need to start budgeting for distribution at the same time you are budgeting for the film itself. Also, filmmakers need to think of themselves as a brand to be successful.

An article in The Wrap, The Road to Distributing Your Film Is Not as Hard as You Think!, talks about how you can distribute your film and be successful. The Wrap says there are three main principles key to success: get the film to each major market, split your rights, and utilize online resources.

Raindance also had another article on self-distribution for filmmakers, the first step is called “Bottle Shock” (which is actually the title of a movie), that made a huge difference in the independent movie world. Bottle Shock’s director went to twelve cities and distributed his film, because no major companies wanted his film.

The next few steps from Raindance go deeper into how to navigate the digital divide, and hybrid distribution. In a section called “Singing the Indie Blues,” they mention how some indie films looked to the past to make a future, by looking to “digital projection, colleges, blues bars, underserved movie houses and the Internet.”

Following these the next few sections are about films that have made it in the independent world. The Four-Eyed Monster is a great short film, that according to Raindance, everyone needs to see. They made a huge impact in self-distribution with this film and have excelled the process of self-distribution.

The last topic is probably the most important. You MUST beware of a so-called 5-year contract. “Amazingly, this ‘deal’ from so-called ‘acquisition executives’ offers little or no money up front, and generally handcuffs the film to the website even to the point of not allowing festival screenings or being attached to compilation DVD’s. I can’t think of a worse position to place yourself in, especially since promised revenue streams are always net of the website’s distribution expenses.”

Self-distribution may seem not like a practical goal to some, and others it is the best thing since sliced bread. Self-distribution can put you on the map in the film world. It is all about how you go about it and if you are motivated enough.

I have a few questions to you the readers. Do think self-distribution of independent films will knock out the major companies wanting to make these films successful? Also, since these are just the beginning steps of self-distribution, do you think the films that do self distribute have a chance in the running for major company distribution?

Sammy Kaster

Dish Network vs. Turner (Time Warner)

CNN, Cartoon Network and several other Turner cable channels were removed from satellite TV giant Dish Network’s systems in late October after the two companies could not agree on a new distribution contract.

DishThe channels include CNN, Cartoon Network, Boomerang, CNN en Español, HLN, truTV and Turner Classic Movies. The channels were in a widely distributed programming package received by the bulk of Dish’s 14 million customers.

The real battle hinges on CNN still being considered a must-see channel. All these other Turner Channels are bundled with CNN, so if you want CNN on your cable or satellite systems you must take all the other Turner Channels also.

But the battle could leave stinging bruises at Time Warner if it reinforces the impression that CNN has lost its status as a must-have channel, or that others are disposable (deadline.com). This decision could convince others to try to drop the smaller Turner Networks. There is also the complaint that Turner’s entertainment networks filled with tired re-runs (including Friends and Seinfeld) that are available elsewhere, including online.

Another interesting twist to this story is the fact that TBS and TNT are on separate contracts that are ready to also run out in the next several weeks. A big issue is that Dish wants to keep a time distance between the contracts for the larger and smaller networks but Turner wants the two closer together; there’s no separation for most of its carriage agreements with major cable and satellite companies.

Both sides have continued to point fingers, blaming each other for this disruption or service. It’s unknown if it was Turner or Dish that cut the signal but in any case it has been cut.

Time Warner also can’t afford a protracted war after promising Wall Street that it will increase profits at its ad-supported channels through 2018, even as it doubles its outlays for original programming including sports. It expects to more than recoup the outlays by raising prices on cable and satellite distributors. “We’re approaching these discussions from a position of strength,” Turner CEO John Martin told analysts last week.

“It is not like you are dropping ESPN or some of the other widely watched channels … [the Turner channels] are not game changing,” ISI Group analyst Vijay Jayant told Reuters. (Daily) Dish has in the past blacked out channels of networks over price increases. AMC Networks, home to popular shows such as “Breaking Bad,” “The Walking Dead” and “Mad Men,” was dropped from Dish’s network in 2012 after its contract with the satellite TV company expired without a new agreement.

It is interesting that the morning after DISH dropped many of Turners channels Dish Network (DISH) shares were up 2.5 percent at $60.17 midday Tuesday on the Nasdaq.

Looking at the future, this could be the beginning of the end of the bundling system for channels. This may have a huge impact on Time Warner if CNN is downgraded by Dish Network, and that could start a chain reaction with other distributers to downgrade the channel. If that happens, these other channels like TruTV could be gone pretty fast since they do not pull in high ratings.

Cory Wagner