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Empowering Ad Operations Teams with Automation and AI: Lessons Learned at POSSIBLE

Over 2,500 advertisers, marketers, publishers and technology partners came together in Miami on April 15-17th to learn about what’s new, what’s next, and what’s “POSSIBLE” in our industry. 

Those who attended heard from over 200 speakers and networked across everything from beachside cabanas to exhibit halls to the expansive “Basis Oasis”. A few key themes emerged from the event, presenting strategic opportunities for advertisers and ad operations professionals. Let’s dive in!

Data will play an increasingly critical role in the race to improve customer-centricity and ad performance. 

Data has long been currency in today’s digital marketing environment. In digital, audience data, when combined with great content, makes the difference between customer-centric ads that perform, and wasted investment. While many sessions touched on the implications of Google’s deprecation of third-party cookies, that particular shift underscored a broader theme around data that encompass several workstreams:

  • Audience targeting: As Taren King from Intuit noted in the workshop he co-led with Eric Mayhew, recent surveys show most advertisers are still not ready for a “cookieless” future, and we are in the middle of a transformation in data-driven audience targeting. Advertisers will increasingly need to rely on a combination of first-party data and alternative IDs, and  new data marketplaces are emerging throughout the ecosystem.

  • Data “identification” and organization: The proliferation and improvement of data sources enhance opportunities for micro-segmentation and advanced targeting, but also challenge advertisers to maintain and organize clean data effectively. Investing in tooling and processes to organize your data will ensure that your micro-segmentation efforts are both successful and scalable in the long term.

  • Reporting, analytics and insights: As third-party cookies are phased out, advertisers will increasingly need to evolve traditional approaches to campaign attribution.
  • Data activation and automation: To successfully execute digital advertising in the emerging landscape, advertisers will need to build scalable execution into their operations. Automation will be increasingly critical to success as advertisers will need more agility in their execution–from data “ingestion” into advertising channels to small-batch testing and management. 

The key takeaway? In order to harness data more effectively to improve ad relevance, deliver a more customer-centric strategy, and ultimately improve performance, advertisers should develop a comprehensive framework. This should include a close analysis of the tooling they are using to evaluate data, “activating” it, and scaling it.

The long-term benefits of this comprehensive focus – improved market data, clearer attribution, and the ability to test, launch and scale more locally targeted, consumer-centric campaigns – will ultimately drive performance that far outweighs any challenges associated with changing and adapting existing processes.

Advertisers are taking more comprehensive approaches to AI, but use cases vary widely.

From panel sessions, to keynotes, to candid conversations, POSSIBLE revealed that Industry expectations around AI are rapidly shifting from AI “experimentation” to the development of standard operating procedures and governance policies. Accordingly, while AI’s potential to support content ideation is now well established, many additional use cases have emerged. Here are a few that offer significant potential for advertising operations and execution professionals:

  • Content Development (with Governance): Strategizing and creating engaging content while ensuring alignment with established governance standards and IP laws.
  • A/B Testing: Implementing experiments to compare the performance of different variations and optimize outcomes.
  • Data activation: AI can help advertisers mine their data to enhance addressability and improve data quality.
  • Data Analysis and Insight: Analyzing data to derive meaningful insights that drive informed decision-making and strategic actions.
  • Persona Research: Conducting in-depth research to understand target audience demographics, behaviors, and preferences.

The key takeaway?  Many AI use cases can support the growing need for transforming data and operational complexity into streamlined ad operations and execution. Organizations should focus on the specific outcomes and value they seek to drive: Do you need help “upstream” with data analysis and activation? Are your teams bottlenecked by reporting because you don’t have enough time to thoroughly analyze results across a large campaign set? Are you seeking improved overall ad performance? Rather than simply experiment, consider AI a tool focused on core needs, and build your AI process accordingly. At all times, maintain human oversight. 

As locally targeted strategies combine with a growing range of ad formats, performance-focused advertisers will need to invest in streamlining and scaling their operations.

POSSIBLE demonstrated that as the advertising industry continues to grow, so too does the digital media mix for both B2B and B2C advertisers. The growing capabilities of demand-side platforms like Basis Technologies, emerging channels like Amazon, and the expanding array of available media networks, are combining to deliver access to more channel options – and more bespoke audiences – than ever before. 

However, with this growth comes the challenge of scale. Many brands and their agencies continue to rely on outmoded and resource-intensive operational practices that result in disconnected teams and forced tradeoffs in strategy and execution. Automation will continue to be a critical path to overcome this obstacle.  

The takeaway? Advertising performance will always depend on both strategy AND execution. As they embrace the strategic opportunities of tailored audiences, hyper-local strategies, and emerging channels, advertisers must also look carefully at their overall tech stacks to ensure that they are able to effectively leverage data and automation, both in “bite size” increments so that they can test and iterate quickly, and at scale so that they can optimize execution at the speed that their markets will increasingly require.   

Final thoughts: Endless “Possibilities” for improved performance.

The industry's future is bright. Emerging best practices for data usage and audience targeting will enable more relevant customer connections, protect privacy, and help advertisers overcome traditional limitations in operational execution and campaign attribution. 

A strategic operational framework that accounts for data activation, rapid testing and iteration around a multichannel media mix, and reporting and insights at scale will be critical to success. Those advertisers who are willing to embrace this stand to enjoy the immense opportunities and “possibilities” that lie ahead.