The world of ad-buying has been talking about self-service for a while, and how agencies are doomed and soon we will all be directly buying from Google, Facebook Amazon, SnapChat, etc. without the need for a third party in between. Although Google has made multiple efforts in this direction, the doomsday has not yet happened.
Now, self-service is having a second wave of attention, so it is worth discussing the current state of affairs.
Self-serve platforms in the advertising world are nothing new since AdWords disrupted the market in 2000.
In the beginning, advertisers had to pay a service fee for Google to set up and manage their campaigns which made it only available for big brands. Google as a technology and not a service company developed the first self-serve ad-buying platform effectively opening the door to advertisers of all sizes. Since then, many companies have followed this model with great results. Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel credits his company’s turnaround in part to its embracing a self-serve ad model. Walmart following Amazon and Tripadvisor are the latest examples of self-serve rage.
However, there is still a high degree of specialization required to know how to create and manage these campaigns in the various engines, how to distribute budget, how to reach the desired audience which then opens the door for many digital marketing agencies providing the service of creating, maintaining and optimizing digital marketing campaigns. On top of that, the proliferation of different channels with self-serve ad platforms adds to the problem.
So, if you are a big brand with an entire team of marketers that can specialize in each engine, you could take advantage of the self-serve platforms but what about the SMB market? Are getting lost in the complexities of each platform or paying the price to work with human intermediaries the only options?
I don’t believe that has to be true. Another layer of technology is being added to work between the self-serve ad buying platforms and SMBs. Basically, machines talking to machines adding layers of abstraction and simplification until the last human layer is as simple as answering basic questions.
A true self-serve solution would be a self-serve interaction that knows your industry, knows your business and understands simple human language so SMBs can indicate, the industry, the objective of a campaign, who they want to reach, how much money they want to spend and their website and that’s about it; the rest is taken care of. Additionally adding or giving options to add advanced features to provide more control if desired. These autonomous ad-buying machines would use AI to determine depending on the industry, and the stage of the funnel according to objectives which platforms should be used, and how a budget should be distributed across these engines to obtain the desired ROI.
In addition, advertising packages built by humans for each industry, following industry best practices and compliance regulations, provide campaigns that are well performers from the beginning.
The intersection of human expertise and AI will provide us the true future of self-service.