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‘The idea of robots buying media is fundamentally wrong’ warns Mediacom UK boss

Blackett

Blackett

The idea that robots will play a significant role in the future of media buying is wrong, the head of Mediacom UK, Karen Blackett has predicted.

And she warned that the more advertisers relied on robots to plan and buy advertising, the more consumers would strike back employing robots of their own in the form of ad blockers.

Speaking at Australian Association of National Advertisers’ Reset Conference in Sydney, Blackett said that the future was now impossible to predict for many businesses, but it did not lie in programmatic buying.

“When we try to predict the future we tend to get things ever so slightly wrong,” said Blackett.

“The idea of robots buying media is fundamentally wrong.”

Echoing the warning of Mars’ global head of marketing, Bruce McColl earlier in the day, she said that consumers were increasingly disinterested in advertising and would be using the programmatic specialists’ own robotic tools to avoid it.

“(In the UK) ad blocking installations have increased 69 per cent in the last 12 months,” she said.

“Consumers are going programmatic, consumers will have their own array of robots to block ads. 28 per cent of consumers (in the UK) have ad blocking. Programmatic buying is a fantastic new tool, however (it) is not the key to competitive advantage.”

Blackett said that there were opportunities for brands that altered consumer behaviour that disprupts and enhances, highlighting the plummeting audiences for print and TV in the UK.

Ultimately she said we could develop a world without clicks where people became reliant on a handful of apps that delivered what they needed intuitively.

She said that the keys to future-proofing media agencies lay in moving from paid advertising to a more balanced mix of paid, owned, earned and shared.

Media agencies also need to collaborate more with other agencies on the brand roster and she also said they needed to staff for the future, hiring more diversely.

Mediacom had addressed this by setting up apprenticeships to attract people who did not want to go to university or could not afford it. The agency had also set up “grey” apprenticeships to give it a full mix of staff at every level, but ensuring it was also hiring digital natives.

“We make sure we have people in the agency actually born in the era of the internet,” she said.

Her comments come on the same week as John Montgomery, the boss of GroupM Connect North America, which handles programmatic trading for the world’s largest media buyer in the US, said that programmatic should not be blamed for the misplacement of ads on piracy and porn sites, and for funding pirated content sites.

To blame content and data theft on programmatic trading is “like blaming road deaths on progress,” he said at regional pay-TV industry body CASBAA’s event in Hong Kong.

“We just have to build safer cars,” he said. “We can’t blame progress, we just have got to fix it.”

Simon Canning

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