Digital Marketing, the human and the machine

Digital Marketing, the human and the machine

The Covid crisis has caused a sharp acceleration in the digital transformation of organizations. the online Having logically established itself as the only channel for maintaining commercial activity, companies have thrown their forces and budgets into it in a great collective effort. The McKinsey firm concluded in a recent study that the Covid crisis had accelerated the transition of services to digital by 7 to 10 years depending on the geographical area.

However, for an online service to find its audience, users must be attracted. Digital Marketing spending has therefore increased by 36% between 2019 and 2021 to reach the staggering figure of 455 billion dollars this year (i.e. 61% of overall advertising spending). This increase has particularly benefited Google and Facebook, which in June 2021 reported a 60% growth in their advertising revenues over one year. Growth confirmed in the third quarter.

In fact, the need for digital marketing professionals has increased sharply in an already tight market. Beyond the difficulty of recruiting talent, you have to compete in ingenuity and generosity to retain your employees.

Automated campaign management becomes the rule

This shortage of specialized labor is in perfect resonance with the algorithmic management strategy developed over the past few years by the dominant digital advertising platforms, Google and Facebook. These functions, responding to the names of Automated Bidding Where Smart Biddingpropose to replace the manual and human management of digital advertising campaigns with self-learning algorithms whose promise is to achieve performance objectives defined by the advertiser himself.

It must be conceded that the manual management of digital advertisements is a time-consuming activity. Consider that a medium-sized e-merchant constantly broadcasts more than 10,000 advertisements, seeks to reach many consumer targets and must manage costs that vary each day due to the auction system in force (schematically, the first advertiser presented is the one who agrees to pay the most).

The point here is not to create ads but to manage their distribution, a poorly performing ad should be stopped while another with positive results should be reinforced. It is a task for which the algorithms are perfectly suited in that they can process thousands of cases in parallel where a human acts sequentially: one task after another.

The time saving being undeniable and the workforce scarce, the market has therefore massively adopted the Smart Where Automated Bidding . In a context where machine learning and artificial intelligence dominate the media, hardly anyone thinks of questioning the superiority of machines over humans.

Yet, taking humans away from day-to-day campaign management will also serve ad platforms’ revenue growth strategy.

An ethics in question

The opposing signals are multiplying on the desire for transparency of the dominant platforms. Whistleblowers, former employees, supply the press or the courts with internal documents to prove that the pursuit of strong economic growth does not bother with ethics.

Among the cases revealed recently:

  • Artificially inflated advertising performance indicators, pushing advertisers to increase their investments (class action underway in the USA). These reliability issues were also acknowledged by Facebook No. 2 Sheryl Sandberg.
  • A secret agreement to maintain and strengthen the advertising monopoly, resulting in artificial additional costs for advertisers (Project “Jedi Blue“revealed in US state antitrust actions)

Equally worrying is the opacity of how campaign management algorithms work, especially on the key issue of managing broadcast placements.

The demand for advertising is such that the ‘native’ inventory – the Google search engine or the platforms’ Facebook and Instagram news feeds – is saturated.

In order for the double-digit growth to continue, the platforms have developed networks of external partners who broadcast the advertisements in exchange for a share of the revenue. However, numerous studies show that this network of millions of partners – third parties over whom no control can be exercised – is plagued by digital marketing fraud. The Statista Institute estimates that 10 to 15% of global digital advertising spending is lost in fraudulent broadcasts.

By delegating the management of its campaigns to the platforms, advertisers give them the possibility of broadcasting part of the advertisements on lower quality or even fraudulent sites without even being aware of it.

The human must be in his right place

All these signals suggest that advertisers – who generate, it should be remembered, the vast majority of revenues for Google (80%) and Facebook (97%) – are considered cash cows that we can milk at leisure.

Who benefits from the algorithms supposed to manage their investments? If the objectives defined by the advertiser are based on inflated performance indicators, if the advertisements are broadcast on questionable inventories, how can you be sure that the budgets entrusted are used to the best of their ability?

Two facts are taken for granted: the talent shortage will not be solved any time soon and Google and Facebook are essential in the marketing mix advertisers. Taking advantage of the time savings offered by algorithmic management will only go from strength to strength. Isn’t the sense of history – since the industrial revolution – to delegate repetitive tasks to machines?

On the other hand, as they entrust the management of their campaigns to algorithms, advertisers must absolutely strengthen their control capacities and ensure that they can evaluate the performance of their investments on a daily basis in order to correct any deviations as much as possible. quick. Humans are and must remain the ultimate judge of machine efficiency.