June 26, 2017

Performance Media Automation – why it’s a necessity

By Prem Jethwa Performance Operations Director

Prem Jethwa

Prem Jethwa

Performance Operations Director

We have champion teams for scripts and automation who are tasked with building new tech

Performance Operations Director, Prem Jethwa, discusses why performance media automation is necessary.

Globally, employees spend 40% of their time on admin work. That’s equivalent to two full days per week which could be used for high value work. I don’t know the stats for the media industry specifically, but I do know we spend an awful lot of time on admin-related tasks when working with performance channels. In this context, admin is a varied mix of tasks, from finance bookings down to nitty-gritty campaign optimisation. It’s all baked into how we work, and clients are aware of it because they’re experiencing some of the same issues.

I’m going to focus on nitty-gritty campaign optimisation. What can we do about the admin work?

Enter, automation. Whilst much of the world is concerned about the number of jobs which are set to be wiped out as a result of automation, performance media should be embracing it. And we are, a little bit. For performance media, it doesn’t mean job cuts, it means more time for creativity and innovation. To put things into perspective, just 5 years ago the bulk of our work consisted of AdWords optimisations and associated tasks. Now, there’s a lot more Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and a bunch of others. Throw in some econometrics and attribution modelling for good measure. You’d think increased breadth would be accompanied by increased resource, but this hasn’t necessarily been the case. In some instances, I’ve seen team sizes go down. One of the first things to go is the thought-space required to take a step back, think creatively, and innovate for our clients. We actually need automation.

Let’s quickly recap on the history of automation.

I’m inclined to say that automation isn’t a new pursuit and recently there’s been a lot of hype, framing it as an increasing threat (or opportunity). However, the Japanese manufacturing industry have been pursuing automation for decades, and the Toyota Production System have been champions of this pursuit; their success resulted in the birth of the lean approach back in the 80s. And this is only relatively recently. Technically, automation goes way back. The point is, the pursuit of automation isn’t new, but references in the media are starting to ramp up, partly due to advances in AI. One of the quickest industries to assimilate automation into their workflow has been tech, and the reason why is because much of the automation has been executed on a personal level, not organisational. For instance, a well-versed coder will happily write a script to alleviate themselves from as many menial tasks as possible. I came across an example a couple of years ago which perfectly illustrates how far we can go with automation. A backend developer wrote a script which scanned his inbox for words like “help”, “trouble”, and “sorry”, and upon detecting these key phrases, the script would reboot a server. Lastly, the script would email a reply: “No worries mate, be careful next time”.

This brings me around to automation in performance marketing.

Many of the platforms we work with have APIs we can connect our own databases to, presenting us with opportunities which aren’t so far removed from the coders. A competitor made a bold claim not so long ago; “If you can’t code, you can’t do PPC”. This is nonsense, however it is true that coding can play a part in performance automation. As AdWords specialists, our coding language of choice would be JavaScript, and that’s because of a nifty product called AdWords Scripts. Essentially, AdWords Scripts allows us to input some JavaScript code which facilitates some heavy lifting, potentially saving hours. The beauty of it is that there’s lots of pre-built scripts already out there, and it’s just a case of pasting them into AdWords. This means an AdWords practitioner doesn’t have to be able to code, but it would be highly beneficial if they were aware of and knew how to use scripts. This is why scripts and automation is such a big focus at Maxus. We have champion teams for scripts and automation who are tasked with building new tech and assisting with implementation across our client accounts.

Sure, there are agencies who can claim to have a coding backbone, but what they may not have is a multidisciplinary organisation which allows them to leverage more creative automation opportunities, such as planners who can provide insights into brands, or access to large silos of data (anonymised, of course). To give you an example, we’re currently working with our Video team to create an AdWords Script, one we wouldn’t be able to create without them.

So automation in performance marketing is already here, although a little late. We (Maxus) are embracing it and leveraging it in ways that many others aren’t, or simply can’t. From AdWords scripts to automated reporting, in future posts we’ll be diving into how we do this and the results we see – so stay tuned!