PHD Melbourne group business director Simon Lawson discusses the evolution of programmatic and artificial intelligence and what media planners need to know about their relationship with effectiveness and creativity.

TCC: How is the evolution of programmatic and artificial intelligence having an impact on how media planning is changing?

SL: For some people, programmatic might mean that creativity is being removed (in terms of importance) from the media and advertising equation. But that’s an incorrect understanding of where the world is going. It’s not about just being creative or machine driven, it’s about being creative and machine driven.

The thing with programmatic media is, that while it’s rules based, it’s still driven by human influence and it’s always humans creating those rules. So paradoxically, the importance of humans in programmatic is actually increased rather than reduced. It’s just a new way of working, rather than everything having changed. We are still working towards the same objective, but we now have different tools to deliver with.

TCC: What role do they have to play in delivering effective channel strategies?

SL: AI is still a work in progress. There is a lot of discussion about how AI is going to influence advertising, but at the moment, it’s more like things are going to happen rather than things are happening. There are platforms that are already demonstrating how AI is beating humans at solving various different problems. How that’s working today in media though is more of a promise than an immediate impact.

Progammatic, on the other hand, is allowing people to create more custom user journeys for different audience segments. It used to be that you would execute one message to many people and now you can convey many messages to many segments. You have the opportunity to drive better ROI because your messages are more personalised to that user’s place in the customer journey. The old adage of ‘right place, right time’ rings true still because that’s what programmatic is delivering on, to offer relevant advertising rather than broadcasting to the masses.

TCC: Can a good idea still be delivered in a creative way when programmatic and AI are involved?

SL: Absolutely. It’s not about it being mutually exclusive. What strong creative will do in the programmatic world is be more effective and offer more layers to the messaging. A single core idea can then ladder down to different audiences in different ways to make that idea work harder.

What we are looking for from programmatic is to be able to expand the channels which we buy across from digital to TV, outdoor and radio. Once you create campaigns that can work across all those channels, at scale, then you start to move to the next level. You can buy TV programmatically now of course, but not yet at scale. Once that happens, we will be in an amazing place. Then it will be up to media agencies to deliver on what technology is enabling us to do.

There are challenges though in producing personalised messages for the different stages of the customer journey to ensure the production efficiency can match up to the investment that has been made in the medium.

TCC: What single best practice case study can you reference that combines creativity and technology?

SL: Programmatic should be invisible to the consumer. The fact that it should be seamless means that it’s quite difficult to identify when programmatic is being best utilised to effectively marry custom journeys with advanced messaging matrices.

One of they key components of programmatic is that it works best at this stage for brands where the purchase is conducted online. It’s in the e-commerce space that programmatic is the most sophisticated.

A good case study that I can reference is The Economist when it comes to driving subscriptions. The customer journey starts with thought leadership and breaking news and ends up with a drive toward subscribing to the magazine. They are making sure that they are starting with something valuable to the consumer then building their understanding of why a subscription is desirable, then going in for the acquisition.

Simon Lawson, along with Kathryn Weatherlake, business director PHD Melbourne, will be presenting AdSchool’s Media Mechanics Accelerator in Melbourne on February 16 and 23. Participants will gain a solid understanding of each channel and best practice case studies, along with an understanding as to where media is headed including the evolution of programmatic and artificial intelligence.