Is the media industry ready for a future where an algorithm plans and buys media?

This is the question posed in a survey to promote the forthcoming Festival of Media Global 2013 (why not Festival of Global Media?) and it seems that the media industry doesn’t know what it thinks.

Well that makes two of us then.

The Festival has surveyed 100 media agencies, media owners and brands on the issue of automated media buying and the results seem rather contradictory.

Concentrating on people for a moment, the most obviously endangered species in all of this is the once all-powerful media planner. 55 per cent of survey respondents say they think the role will change to become that of a consultant or advisor. 31 per cent think it will merge with that of others such as strategists or account managers. 18 per cent say it will become more important while another 18 per cent feel it will become less important.

One respondent says: “I don’t think the role would change much, just that the planner would have more time to devote to strategic and analytical thinking.” An optimist then.

38 per cent feel media agencies are embracing automation and looking at ways of working progressively with it, 25 per cent say they are acting defensively and being slow to embrace it. 14 per cent say media agencies are in a situation where they now have to work harder to prove their worth. “Innovation is needed in an increasingly digital media world,” comments another respondent.

63 per cent agree that automated media trading can save time and resources. 35 per cent think it ensures clients get the best media value, while 33 per cent say automated media platforms reduce waste and human error. 29 per cent think it enables brands to run more campaigns across more media outlets.

Rather oddly, in the light of the above (left is an algorithm by the way, no idea if it’s got anything to do with this), 68 per cent say the lack of human involvement in automated media trading is its biggest drawback – but isn’t that the point? The absence of industry standards worries 35 per cent while 25 per cent are worried by a lack of transparency. “Media agencies automate by default in an effort to wring more profit out of clients.” says another.

For many big groups automated trading is broking by another name; buying vast amounts of time and space on their account and then selling it on to clients at a margin – which only they know. WPP’s Group M admitted as much at a recent conference in the US.

But that’s what happens in algorithm land.

The Festival of Media Global 2013 will be held in Montreux from April 28 to 30.

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