Media Planning, and Workflow Automation – Still Doing Things by Hand?

How do we conduct media planning today?  What are the tools that we use?  Across the board we live and die in Microsoft Excel.  Does Microsoft know this?  No.  You would think they would consider the Online Advertising industry, a $14B market, a target.  You would think that tools and add-ons would be in place to assist us with our processes and procedures to make it easier to conduct the media planning process.  Some ISV (Microsoft Partners) are launching them, but not with much fanfare.

Today, agencies and many advertisers use Excel to manage media plans and keep pace with their buys.  Proposals are distilled down onto worksheets and budgets are managed onto flight schedules.  Every agency does it their own way and, in fact every media planner has their own template.  This is pretty ugly.  Enter the Ad Server.  To get the insertion data to the ad server, some poor entry-level trafficker has to manually key this information into the ad server.  Error rates are high and time efficiency is poor, very poor.  Large media plans take days, even a week.  Multiply that by more than one client and you have an FTE doing manual labor that should be automated.

DoubleClick has Mediavisor, Atlas has their version.  TruEffect built TruAdvertiser.xls whereby the entire process happens within Microsoft Excel.  Everyone has taken a stab at automating this process but are agencies realizing that this is a broken process to begin with?

Look at the other end of the campaign management process, post-campaign.  When we run reports in an ad server, we almost always pull the data back into Microsoft Excel for formatting and analysis.  How much time do we spend doing this???  Hours per week.  Another complete breakdown in efficiency.  Atlas pumps their data directly into pre-fab Excel reports.  TruEffect streams data into Excel so you never have to reformat a report twice.  But I ask you again, do the agencies even realize that this is a point of inefficiency?

I address these questions because companies are actively trying to introduce workflow automation solutions that offer the opportunity to improve operational efficiency, reduce training and even FTE headcount.  But if the agencies are not thinking in terms of improving process, recapturing margin potential and operationalizing manual procedures, it all falls on deaf ears.  Only someone with P&L responsibility will hear that message.  Are you out there?

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