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Robot, you’re fired: Why the man-machine collaboration is key to programmatic creative success

Source | : By Rob Lennon

Mercedes made headlines when it announced that it was replacing robots on its assembly lines with humans, an interesting plot twist in an age when we are accustomed to reading about people losing their jobs to machines. It turns out that the robots weren’t flexible enough. They couldn’t handle the kind of detailed customization that Mercedes considers a hallmark of its brand’s quality, so they replaced the robots with humans.

Technology still has a huge role to play: these humans will operate smaller, task-specific machines, a combination Mercedes believes will deliver better results for its customers via a more cost-effective production process.

There is an important analogy here with digital advertising, an industry that is undergoing a fundamental shift toward task automation, just as the auto industry did decades ago. The programmatic industry would be wise to take note of Mercedes’ decision, especially if it wants to take full advantage of its targeting and capabilities potential. (That’s right, we’re not doing so yet.)

Mercedes is not the only company giving the boot to some of its robots. Toyota has also replaced robots with people in an effort to increase efficiency. For Mercedes, and for digital advertisers, it’s just as much about quality. An advertisement is an extension of a brand. If the creative isn’t appropriate, if every detail isn’t perfect, then the ad isn’t serving its full purpose.

Mercedes’ decision is analogous to people choosing creative management platforms (CMPs) over dynamic creative optimization platforms (DCOs). DCOs are the most hands-off approach to programmatic creative optimization, whereas CMPs require more human input. DCOs automate ad customization, but you might sacrifice some quality —pixel perfection, for example. For some brands, especially luxury ones like Mercedes, that sacrifice is too great.

With CMPs, advertisers take back some control. The process is automated, but they have the final say on details like pixel differences and copy placement. The human touch ensures quality control. It’s akin to the human operator-small machine tag team. The machine helps the human do things more efficiently, or even perform tasks that weren’t previously possible, but the human is needed to ensure flexibility and quality.

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