The Life of a Digital Ad

You are the Chief Marketing Officer of a business for which digital marketing is the biggest source of customer acquisition. The holidays are coming up, so you bring together the most creative people on your team to brainstorm about what kind of ad copy to use to get with the holiday mood. For the sake of simplicity, say you come up with five phrases to use. Now you'd like to use these phrases in ads all over the internet, and gain insights into such questions as: which phrases attract more interest from potential customers? How does such interest vary between various customer segments such as women in their 30s? In the current digital marketing landscape, the execution of this common routine is far from simple and consumes the most amount of time.

Google, Facebook and all other ad networks provide interfaces that allow advertisers to manage ads. Let me explain how it works using a metaphor: if each ad was a physical object, each ad network provides advertisers with a virtually unlimited supply of boxes to store ads in. Advertisers must also define which audience (keyword, demographic, interest-based, etc) each box is meant for, and maintain tens of thousands of boxes in order to ensure that the right ads are served to the right people. This is the birth of chaos, but capable human beings have a remarkable ability to make the best of a bad situation. They make spreadsheets, they write scripts, they come up with elaborate check lists and processes; anything to make it all work, yet serious limitations remain.

Firstly, the management of these boxes consumes so much time and requires so much expertise that focus has gone away from the art of ad "creative". Secondly, each network has a different type of system, with its own boxes. Even teams are organized based on who has expertise in working with a particular system and is familiar with their boxes. Thirdly, because each advertiser is free to organize these boxes in their own way, there is no simple way to apply automation in a structured, scalable way. Thus, most data collected is usually wasted because it's not clean. It's the equivalent of building rockets that can only be used once.

Instead, you should be able to input those five phrases in less than a minute and not be exposed at all to the world of boxes, so that all your creativity can be focused on designing what goes inside them. And that's where machine learning should help you; in this new generation of digital marketing, algorithms should give you feedback as early as possible and help you come up with phrases that resonate better with your audience.