Is the future of the planning business all about Man vs Machine? Industry experts feel it is more about the planner evolving with time and making best use of data to make campaigns smarter and more efficient

" /> Is the future of the planning business all about Man vs Machine? Industry experts feel it is more about the planner evolving with time and making best use of data to make campaigns smarter and more efficient

"/> Is the future of the planning business all about Man vs Machine? Industry experts feel it is more about the planner evolving with time and making best use of data to make campaigns smarter and more efficient



Is the future of the planning business all about Man vs Machine? Industry experts feel it is more about the planner evolving with time and making best use of data to make campaigns smarter and more efficient

18 Sep, 2017 by admin

Is the future of the planning business all about Man vs Machine? Industry experts feel it is more about the planner evolving with time and making best use of data to make campaigns smarter and more efficient


By Samarpita Banerjee

Automation and artificial intelligence are slowly taking over many functions in our lives that, until a few years back, required human effort and skills. In the advertising industry too, the influence of automation and technology are clearly evident, with programmatic media buying and selling gaining ground.

While programmatic media buying and selling is largely seen in the Digital domain today, it is projected to enter other platforms like Television, Radio and OOH in due time.

According to the report ‘Digital- The New Normal of Marketing’ released by KPMG India and Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) earlier this year, in India, despite the share of digital advertising spends remaining low at 12.7% in 2016, it is one of the fastest growing mediums at an expected compound annual growth rate of 33.5% (2015-2020) that is expected to cross Rs 255 billion in 2020.
Within Digital advertising, programmatic has been slowly taking shape as one of the most efficient ways of targeting audiences. With more and more automation coming in and the inflow of data that helps target advertising better in real-time, more and more marketers are slowly opening up to investing more on programmatic advertising. The same report claims that programmatic is the future of Digital advertising, and will soon command a big share in the advertising pie.

In such a scenario, what is the future of the media planning business? Will the need for human decision-making go down drastically in the near future? Also, what will it take to make programmatic more attractive to marketers?


Platforms such as Google and Facebook have been using programmatic buying effectively for quite some time now. Meanwhile, Amazon recently expanded its programmatic offering. The e-commerce giant is opening its Amazon Media Group as a self-service platform to agencies, making the process very similar to programmatic exchanges, along with allowing sellers to buy its high-value headline search ads as long as they are brand owners.  

Closer home, earlier this year, digital music service provider Saavn added programmatic audio advertising to its portfolio of advertising technology offerings. Truecaller, which launched its in-app advertising service last year, has gone completely programmatic. A lot of big brands in the market starting from HUL, Coca-Cola, Godrej to a lot of e-commerce players like ShopClues and Amazon are today steadily increasing their spends on programmatic.

While the overall ecosystem in the country is still at a nascent stage, experts believe that programmatic is gaining steady acceptance across the market, with almost all agencies setting up programmatic sections.



Juzer Tambawalla

Head of Marketing, Franklin Templeton India

We first used programmatic a year-and-a-half back for one of our campaigns, and saw very good results in terms of cost-effectiveness and reach. In future, we plan to increase our programmatic spends because anything that makes the marketing dollar run longer makes sense for brands. However, we need education about this domain, and the onus of that lies with the platforms.


Jnaneswar Sen
Sr VP, Marketing and Sales, Honda Cars India Ltd.

One of the inherent benefits of programmatic buying is that it allows for a unified view of the TG. However, some publishers have still not opened up their inventories on programmatic. This creates a gap, because in spite of wanting to buy everything via programmatic, we still have to make individual deals with those publishers. Use of programmatic is only going to increase for us in a high purchase intent driven industry like Auto.


Sunil Kataria

Business Head-India and SAARC, Godrej Consumer Products Limited (GCPL)

We are investing double digits percentage in programmatic of our overall digital investments, and if you add Google and FB, it would have the lion’s share. We plan to keep increasing significant investments through this approach. The investments on programmatic have gone up in the last one year and it will grow from here at a faster pace. As an industry, experts need to share more knowledge about it. Deeper the understanding of the platform, higher will be the adoption rate.


Joshua Grace

 Regional Marketing Officer, India & South East Asia, Abbott

More than half of our digital spends are on programmatic and we would consider increasing its use but the environment should catch up to the programmatic requirements. We piloted our first programmatic campaign in 2016. Since then, we have created a community of engaged users that has allow us to deliver the right message to the right audience segment and re-engage them year-on-year. This has helped us drive up our brand metrics significantly, optimize our channel strategy; leading to cost efficiencies and deeper engagement.


Ritu Gupta

Director-Marketing, Consumer and Small Business, Dell India

Programmatic is clearly the way forward in terms of digital advertising. Any brand investing in digital cannot afford to not invest in programmatic. We are spending between 15-20% on programmatic currently and it will only increase. We are probably one of the brands leading the programmatic discussion in the country. The challenges lie in terms of the systems and processes, the understanding, people and tools available to help take the right decisions. You also need to make sure that you are looking at genuine clicks.


Saahil Goel

CEO & Founder, Kraftly

Currently, we invest 5% of our total digital spends on programmatic and strive to increase it further. While programmatic advertising is revolutionizing targeted marketing and multiplying the impacts of a campaign, the practice also has some risks involved like the risk of lack of company data, fake/fraud traffic at times and lots of unanswered questions like ‘Are ad impressions brand-safe, viewable and delivered to human traffic?’


Harneet Singh

Head, Marketing, ShopClues

Most of Shopclues’ display buy is programmatic. This helps us in getting higher efficiency for our investments on display by making the audience targeting sharper and focussed. However, the most efficient media strategy is a mix of programmatic, networks and direct deals. We will continue to invest in this optimal mix, with natural performance bias towards programmatic, depending on the business objectives and the display ecosystem evolution.


Gaurav Mehta

CMO, Girnarsoft

We aren’t currently buying, but assessing programmatic. The reason we will look at programmatic very interestedly is because car buying is a high involvement purchase and educating the consumer is the key to a good sale. Programmatic, through audience identification and contextual targeting, helps us educate the consumer sequentially and help them take the right decision.


Ravi Virmani

Founder & Managing Director, Credihealth

We have recently started with programmatic buying and have got good response in the last six months. Programmatic buying gives quick results and also clarity in terms of reach to the target audience. As of now, we are spending around 10% of our marketing budget on programmatic ads for content re-marketing. We are using it primarily for re-targeting the one-session users with relevant content. Seeing positive response from different websites, we are in discussion stage of growing on other platforms for better results.


Vikas Katoch

Founder & CEO, Adomantra

Programmatic advertising has been a key route for brands due to its cost effectiveness and focused target audience reach. Large brands across industries like FMCG, IT, BFSI, Government will be the key buyers for programmatic advertising. It’s optimizing campaign performance by dynamically selecting the creative components which drive consumer engagement. In the last 1.5 years, Indian has opened itself to video ads in a big way and the trend is here to stay for a while as brands see value in them.


The traditional way of buying digital media was by buying space. One could either buy a fixed banner or buy impressions. Traditionally, agencies were doing the buying from publishers on behalf of advertisers.  The publisher was working on increasing his yield. Soon, a Supply-Side Platform (SSP) came up, to help publishers maximize their yield. At the same time, on the advertiser side, Demand-Side Platforms (DSP) came up, to help advertisers buy data. The digital world has tons of unsold inventory, which only keeps on increasing with the increase in digital penetration. Soon, there was the creation of ad exchanges where publishers, through SSP, could put their inventories and advertisers, through DSPs, could buy on ad exchanges. This led to the evolution of the programmatic ecosystem. Today, the shift has been from buying impressions to buying audiences. The data used are from first party (information collected from a brand’s CRM, website, customer feedback, mobile app, in-store beacons, contact centre communications, etc), second party (data available about one brand with any other player) and third party (data collected by an independent organization with no direct relationship with a brand or an agency). Currently, some of the biggest third party data providers in India are Bluekai, Lotame, IOTA and eXelate.



The programmatic market in the US has gone up to close to 45% of digital ad spends. In India, it still hovers around 7-10%, with many saying it will go up to 15% by 2018. While experts say programmatic will see the fastest growth in the coming years, the question that increased reliance on data, automation and artificial intelligence raises is, will the role of a media planner be significantly reduced or become redundant in the near future? Media agencies are looking at it from a different vantage point.

Shamsuddin Jasani, MD, Isobar India is quick to point out all the manual work that programmatic will help get rid of. “We need to upgrade the people that we already have, and that is our investment. Regular, mundane functions like reporting will be the first things to go away. Planners will simply need to specify the kind of audience they want to buy in real-time. Programmatic and automation is going to be a combination of good and bad. Bad, because the regular jobs are going to go, but at the same time, it will also push people to gain more knowledge and go up the curve.”

Projjol Banerjea, Co-founder and Chief Product Officer, Zeotap believes that the biggest advantage of the use of programmatic is that it will help get rid of middlemen. “Digital has got a bad name in the advertising world due to the presence of not-so-transparent players in both the supply and the demand side. With the proliferation of programmatic, the middlemen who do not add any value to the campaign will need to make way for those who do,” he says.

With increased automation comes a lot of time-saving. A lot of agencies are making sure this extra time is used efficiently. Ravi Sekhar KV, Chief Digital Officer, MEC, says, “Much like in developed markets, the Indian market is rapidly moving towards programmatic buying. While technology is being used to replace some of the basic tasks that humans have handled for now, decision-making and optimization responsibilities are increasingly shifting into the hands of algorithm-based technology. Though programmatic buying may mean fewer media buyers working for agencies, clients and publishers, it also offers higher-order opportunities to technology and data-savvy professionals. They will be inclined to spend more time and effort in mastering platforms, planning sophisticated campaigns and understanding audience sets available on DSPs.”



So the question now is how will the role of the media planner change in future? Will the use of automation and artificial intelligence lead to many positions in media agencies becoming redundant over time? Or will it simply mean that the current roles will need to be upgraded?

Citing an interesting example from his days at a creative agency, MA Parthasarthy, Chief Product Officer, Mindshare says, “Earlier when I used to work in a creative agency, the job of about 25% of the staff was that of cut and paste artists. They used to make physical layouts by cutting and pasting. Then Photoshop came into play and suddenly we had to rethink about these people’s roles. Some of them re-skilled and became Photoshop experts and they had a great future ahead of them. The people who couldn’t re-skill suffered. With so much automation coming in, planners will have to become more outcome-oriented, instead of being output-oriented. And the days of working in silos is gone. Today, the three pillars are content, data and digital and the lines between them are blurring rapidly. Now, every planner will have to be a content-data-digital person.”

Meanwhile, most believe that the role that humans play can never be replaced by a machine. The machine simply helps bring together data, for instance, that talks about a particular kind of consumer behaviour within a particular age group. However, the analysis of that data will always be needed to be done by humans.

Sarfaraz Khimani, Co-CEO, Performics.Convonix says, “Programmatic does not reduce the value of humans in marketing in any way. It simply removes some of the inefficiencies of humans. At the end of the day, AI will not solve problems for your business goals and it will not bring consumer insights. Without consumer insights, you cannot identify the audience that you need to reach out to. The analysis of data needs to be done by media planners at the end of the day.”

A lot of new, specialized roles will emerge in the future. Latish Nair, Chief Digital Officer, MediaCom, says, “With so much automation coming in, there will definitely be a shift in the roles. While it’s difficult to say exactly which functions will be affected, a few roles will definitely be added, like data scientists or marketing technologists. However, there will be a compromise as clients don’t approve extra head counts. While the overall impact might not be huge, somewhere, automation will start replacing a lot of stuff.”

Atique Kazi, Managing Director, Xaxis India believes that the uptake of programmatic has not been as slow as a lot of people make it out to be. “While the West is buying close to 40% programmatically, India is at around 10%. However, the digital market in India is growing at a much faster pace than the West and so is programmatic. India exports a lot of programmatic technology and service to the world markets – so in market skills, pre-requisites are not a challenge. Approach to programmatic requires a shift in the way we traditional hire for media advertising roles. Data and Analytics via programmatic are un-earthing limitless possibilities. To unlock its true potential agencies and clients are now recruiting mathematicians, statisticians, coders, engineers, data base experts to harness the power of data and analytics. We are entering a new golden age of marketing. For the first time, marketers have the data and the analytical tools to make better decisions, drive real growth and prove their worth. The future is only promising for programmatic advertising, as all media is becoming digitally charged – and all digital media is becoming programmatic.”



While the proliferation of the use of data and programmatic has helped get rid of a lot of a planner’s mundane jobs of reporting, etc., the use of programmatic does not come without its own set of challenges. Most say that the current biggest challenge in India is that overall concept of programmatic is overwhelming, and a little difficult to understand, which makes marketers readily using it for campaigns.

Says Neena Dasgupta, CEO and Director, Zirca Digital Solutions“From a share of conversation and share of mind perspective, programmatic is really at the top for marketers. However, the moment you bring in the different elements that make the programmatic ecosystem, it becomes overwhelming. A lot of brands are trying to understand programmatic but the execution and shift in budget is rather slow.”

Most brands also have plenty of data at their disposal but they are wary of letting agencies use them, which is again a roadblock in the way of more adoption of programmatic in India, feels Amar Deep Singh, CEO, Interactive Avenues. “The biggest challenge ahead of us is to be able to make people understand how the system works. Advertisers have a huge repository of first party data but they are touchy about sharing it. They need to understand that this is not personally identifiable information. All of it is anonymous data. Clients are also touchy about who can use the data and for what purpose. So the big task is assuring clients that the data will be used only for their campaigns. There needs to be a lot of educating and eventual evangelization of the space.”

Meanwhile, controversies like the recent ad-fraud controversy that resulted in Google having to refund money to clients is also another concern in the mind of advertisers. According to Vishal Jacob, National Director – Digital, Maxus, one of the biggest challenges today is that the inventory being bought does not meet the requisite standard. “Most clients buy inventory though programmatic systems. But the percentage of inventory being bought is rather limited. Clients are still to go a 100% programmatic. Most inventory being bought today is on open exchanges and hence cheaper. In some cases, the inventory does not meet standards set for viewability and ad-fraud and therefore, clients have become sceptical of programmatic inventory buys. However, if one has the right systems in place and ensures private exchanges are in place to buy premium inventory, then the benefits one would get would far outweigh the cost,” Jacob says.

While most big data management platforms are now available in India, most of the data being provided by them does not pertain to India. Vikram Chande, Vice President, Amnet says, “Most of the third party data available is not real-time data. These data segments are not currently very powerful in India, because the data available is from outside India and they don’t have a lot of depth in terms of the Indian data segments. The industry is at a nascent stage right now. However, things are changing rapidly because global advertisers active in India want quicker adoption of the cutting-edge technologies. They are pushing agencies to adopt the newer buying standards, owing to the push from their global teams. And local advertisers, who have exhausted a lot of these buying methodologies, are also trying to adopt programmatic because they too want to buy more intelligently, efficiently and in a more transparent manner.”

However, with more and more complex data coming in, the need of the hour is also to find the right talent that will be able to analyse the data. Does India have the right talent that can eventually make it programmatic-ready?

John Thankamony, Head of Programmatic, Mindshare says, “Sometimes it is hard to find talent but we are investing in evolving talent. The media landscape today is about being ready to learn and adapt. You have to bring in new skillsets. These are skillsets that weren’t necessarily a part of the media world earlier but now are becoming integral, like the role of data scientists. Today, we need people who can understand how algorithms work, which wasn’t the case earlier. This is all a part of the evolving media landscape.”

Meanwhile, different agencies are coming up with various training programmes internally, to make sure that planners are better prepared for the future where the use of data and machine will not only become critical, but inevitable.


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