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InContext / An inside look at the business of digital content

What publishers need to know about the media automation journey

November 13, 2023 | By Michele Bavitz, Global Head of Account Management – Theorem@theoreminc

The media landscape has undergone rapid transformation over the last decade. However, there are areas that are primed for fast-paced evolution. Take ad operations, for example. To date, advertising workflows are still heavily manual, relying on humans to fulfill day-to-day tasks such as audience targeting, campaign set-up, optimization and data analysis. These tasks are tedious, time-consuming and often lead to human error. Legacy methodologies that worked in the past no longer serve today’s modern digital media players. To streamline workflow and maximize revenue, publishers need to make updates to existing processes, and the solution lies in automation.

The benefits of automation to current workflows

Theorem recently partnered with a third-party company to conduct research on the topic and found professionals in ad ops, who have traditionally been excluded from automation discussions, recognize the benefits of automation, with 86% of survey respondents agreeing that automation would modernize their company. Another 90% of ad ops professionals are open to the idea of their roles and responsibilities evolving as a result of automation.

Automation can help address common pain points related to day-to-day workflows. Of those surveyed, 55% believe automation will eliminate time consuming processes, 45% agree that it will address complex processes that slow the pace of work and 42% agree it will help the teams feel more connected. Above all, automation will decrease inefficiencies and create more available time for ad ops professionals to devote to more strategic work such as analysis and optimization, client recommendations and relationship building.

Automation also eliminates human errors thus decreasing the number of make-goods they deliver. Make goods are costly on many levels, there is the obvious revenue loss for the publishers, a negative impact on the client and publisher relationship, and the impact on campaign performance. Additionally, make-goods disrupt the publisher’s internal processes and ops teams with ripple effect from inventory management through campaign delivery. Staff freed from putting out fires and managing repeatable tasks are able better leverage their skills for higher value work. Ultimately, automation enables companies to recognize revenue faster.

How to start the journey to a future-ready ad ops team and processes

There are five important steps for business leaders to consider when embarking on the automation journey.

  1. Conduct a thorough audit of current processes to determine where automation is needed. Determine what are the most common pain points in ad ops processes by asking some questions, including: Where are the inefficiencies? Are there high volumes of repeatable tasks? Is there unnecessary complexity because of tech limitations? Are teams working in silos?
  2. Evaluate team competencies. Identify the strong and weak points of current teams to determine how skills can be more effectively allocated after automation has been introduced.
  3. Consider the budget. Plan for both the initial cost of implementing automation and the long-term expenses such as maintenance, updates and staff training.
  4. Determine opportunities for growth. Ensure the automation solutions being considered have the ability to grow in tandem with business expansion.
  5. Involve the right people in the conversation. Consider the opinions of leadership from sales, media operations and the IT team. HR should also be involved to offer the general perspectives and sentiments of employees.

A final consideration for publishing business leaders is working with an automation partner to help navigate the adoption.

What to look for in an automation partner

Automation in this sector of the industry is still relatively new and finding a partner who is well-versed in the area can be difficult. Below are four key traits an automations partner should have:

  1. Adaptability. Can create a customizable program to meet specific needs and integrates seamlessly within existing technology.
  2. Credibility. Have experience working in the client’s industry and can be trusted. They have worked with prominent, recognizable names within the industry and have received endorsements.
  3. Differentiation. Does the partner provide a clear and concise value to the organization?
  4. Support. Available when needed to answer questions, provide high-quality customer service and offer training for employees.

Working with the ideal partner is a crucial part to the successful use of automation and leaders should feel confident in the partner they chose.

How organization culture will affect automation adoption

The likelihood to adopt an automation solution is contingent on the organization and how employees perceive the new solution.

According to our research, most companies fit into four categories when it comes to automation: visionaries, slow seekers, mindful movers and firefighters. The most effective way to get employees on board with automation is to use different tactics depending on the company’s category.

  1. Visionaries are already adopting automation. Their needs are often more complex and strategic, so the number one priority for them is making sure there is a reliable partner who can guide them through the automation process.
  2. Slow seekers have started adopting automation but they need help realizing the value to commit to implementing. Employees need to see the benefits of automation and ensure there will be necessary training.
  3. Mindful movers want to implement automation but are held back due to staffing constraints. Employees need to understand that automation can benefit everyone, no matter the size of the team.
  4. Firefighters know their teams are inefficient and do not have enough time to be proactive or implement an automation strategy. Leaders will need to share the excitement related to onboarding automation and encourage teams to take the plunge.

While many executives recognize the value of automating operations, understanding the nuances—identifying bottlenecks, involving multi-disciplinary teams, and anticipating roadblocks—is essential for successful implementation. The emphasis should be on how automation strategically aligns with broader business goals.

When embarking on the automation journey, media executives need to determine the needs and benefits of each department and find the right partner and approach to successfully implement the new technology. Media organizations that effectively leverage automation will improve the way business is conducted.

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