Publishers Need an Easy Button to Compete with AI-Enabled Platforms

The digital advertising industry is focused on the end of third-party cookies on Chrome, but there is a broader development publishers should be thinking about: the arrival of the AI-enabled advertising easy button.  

As cookies make open web advertising more complicated, the big tech platforms, especially Google and Meta, are using AI to make buying ads on their platforms easier than ever before.

As a result, brands and agencies will be less likely to work with independent publishers, who require that they sift through an individualized catalog of ad products, where tech platforms offer greater ease and scale.

This gap — how easy it is to buy ads on a platform or publisher site and achieve the desired outcomes of digital advertising — will be the dominant challenge for publishers in the years ahead. It represents the synthesis of privacy changes and AI.

The good news for publishers, though, is that they, too, can use AI to make reaching their highly valuable audiences easier. Here’s why publishers need to make it easier to buy ads — and what they can do to bridge the gap.

The Age of AI, or the Advertising Easy Button

By leaning into AI for their ad solutions, big tech companies like Google and Meta are pushing ad buying further into the self-serve era. Take Meta’s Advantage+ for example.

To compete with Google and Meta, publishers must create easy buttons of their own to make it simpler for advertisers to do business with them.  

Through Advantage+, Meta enables advertisers, with as few inputs as possible, to leverage AI to find audiences on Facebook and Instagram and automate their campaigns. The challenge is no longer campaign planning. Advertisers need only tell Meta what outcomes they want, and the tech giant will do the rest.

To compete with Google and Meta (who have taken up 46.6% of the ad market as they’ve made it as frictionless as possible to advertise through their platforms), publishers must create easy buttons of their own to make it simpler for advertisers to do business with them.

Publishers’ Opportunity to Simplify — and Compete

Simplifying the ad buying experience for advertisers requires going beyond the traditional self-service system publishers have offered through the automated guaranteed (AG) model.

The traditional AG model places the onus on buyers to understand the intricacies of inventory options and how to make campaign adjustments manually across a labyrinth of platforms and tools.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Publishers also have the opportunity to leverage AI and automation to significantly reduce the friction in ad buying (and without having to undergo a costly overhaul of their existing infrastructures).

Three places publishers can incorporate AI and automation into the buying process are inventory discovery, media plan adjustments, and performance visibility.

3 Places Publishers Can Incorporate Ai and Automation Into the Buying Process

Inventory Discovery

Publishers can use machine learning-powered analysis of past and current campaign data to generate optimized ad product suggestions for each buyer. That way, publishers save advertisers the time — and clicks — needed to mine through interminable catalogs to find suitable products and generate the highest possible ROI.

Media Plan Adjustments

The next area publishers can automate is booking and media plan adjustments.

After deciding on a media plan, most advertisers have to log in manually to multiple tools and platforms on the publisher side to ensure sufficient inventory and book their orders. Not to mention the manual data entry (and re-entry) required for buyers to tweak their order based on availability or potential campaign changes.

Rather than putting the burden on buyers to go through multiple logins whenever they want to place or change an order, publishers should use robotic process automation to streamline these often tedious steps in the buying process.

Performance Visibility

When it comes to performance visibility, publishers can use AI to send buyers real-time alerts on campaigns. In doing so, publishers save their buyers’ ops teams from having to sift through anOMS or other systems to assess the performance of individual campaigns or surface any campaign issues that need immediate attention.

The AI-first Future of Open Web Publishing

Of course, AI and automation alone may not iron out all the details that more nuanced campaigns bring. But even if AI and automation only get a given advertiser 60 to 80% of the way there with the buying process, savvy publishers would still have saved their buyers hours — if not days — of tedious data entry. And even a 10 to 20% performance improvement in advertising results would represent a massive gain across a few hundred billion dollars of annual ad spend.

By leveraging AI and automation to create operational efficiencies and improve ROI, publishers won’t just better compete with the walled gardens and simplify the ad buying process for advertisers (and prevent headaches for operators). They’ll also enable buyers to take on more campaigns and increase spend while empowering themselves to service more deals — and generate more revenue opportunities at a much lower cost.