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"Will AI automate my job?" That has been a common question over the past decade, but for many the possibility felt far away... until recently.

As we continue to advance in the field of artificial intelligence and automation, new and exciting technologies such as ChatGPT are emerging that have the potential to revolutionize the way we live and work. Launched to the public on December 1, 2022, OpenAI's ChatGPT gained 1 million users in less than a week and was described by Elon Musk as "scary good."

But what does that mean for marketers and media buyers?

The marketing automation software market is expected to unlock a market capitalization of $6.4 billion by 2024. Fully 51% of companies are using marketing automation already, and over 58% of companies are planning to adopt it, according to Emailmonday.

As interest in advertising automation platforms continues to grow, various types of marketing campaigns are now attainable in just a few clicks. Automation advancements allow campaigns to scale quicker, to access almost every channel in the digital sphere, and to find the right audience at the right time.

However, increased automation brings a shift in how agency partners are being considered.

Agencies need to be laser-focused on how they can provide clients with unique, long-term value. Executional tactics such as media buying and content development can no longer be the primary source of innovation. The ultimate goal is finding moments to make meaningful connections between brands and customers.

As AI and automation tools support productivity, decision-making, and buying, agencies should differentiate themselves by focusing on human connection, strategy, and innovation.

1. Understand your target audience

In the wake of continuing automation, agencies should take a step back and examine their brand's target audiences. What drives their motivation? What are their values? Are there cultural or life moments the brand can support? Which products and services are resonating the best? Why? And what are other agencies doing on behalf of their clients to stand out?

Although some may hesitate to lean on competing agencies for inspiration, that would be a strategic mistake. Looking to fellow agencies in the same industry as a resource instead of an enemy can spark motivation, fuel innovation, and ultimately drive the whole advertising ecosystem forward.

Agencies should use readily available consumer data, SEO tools, and social media to further understand where the most success is coming from. Once those tools are in place, a clearer picture of the mindset of the client's target audience will begin to take shape, leading to an overall increase in both an agency and a client understanding of why customers do what they do, when they do it.

2. Build thoughtful tactics around mindset

After agencies align with clients on who the target customers are and how that group will be serviced, the next best thing is understanding why customers do what they do and in turn offering clients bespoke tactics in line with that reasoning.

Now that tactics used to garner new eyes through media buying are mostly automated, agencies should pivot efforts to retaining the attention of their current customers. After all, creativity, originality, perspective, and human interpretation cannot be automated.

Implementing the shift from grabbing eyeballs to holding a gaze will make all the difference in retaining a loyal customer base.

Agencies should also put extra efforts toward enhancing clients' user experience offerings. It's great if customers are attracted to an ad, but a suboptimal website interface will disappoint those once-interested customers and make them less likely to buy.

In a world where agencies can meet customers literally anywhere and at any time, a seamless and inviting experience is what turns a one-time buyer into a loyal, lifelong patron.

Superior customer experience allows agencies to strengthen partnerships and maintain them for the long haul. When a brand experience is satisfying, customer retention tends to increase. In fact, 75% of respondents to a recent survey cited good customer service as a reason for repeat business.

Understanding what the customer's mindset may be at specific points of interaction is where more promising outcomes will occur. Increasingly automated marketing efforts make that type of data interpretation critical to staying one step ahead of the competition and ultimately providing customers with a meaningful, personalized experience.

3. Control creative at all stages of the consumer journey

Agencies should advise clients to reconsider how they approach the creative strategy within each step of the customer journey.

At first, the primary goal of companies should be gaining awareness and taking hold of the potential buyer's piqued interest. Creative assets in the beginning stages of interaction shouldn't feel like a sales pitch; they should be informative, educational, and interesting.

Making use of creativity in the early stages of the customer journey is important, but it's equally important to carry those creative strengths through the rest of the experience. Once a customer is hooked, it's the agency's job to ensure that its client is able to follow suit, building the relationship with the customer through to the end.

Memorable and creative design makes a lasting impression; color alone is a driving factor of lasting brand recognition. Therefore, controlling creative assets at all stages of the consumer journey will decide whether customers pursue a relationship with the brand or pass it by completely.

* * *

When marketing automation software casts its shadow, an agency needs to prepare to move forward and provide value.

Agencies must take several recommendations under advisement as the industry heads into a new era. They would be well served to put their customer hats on and strategize from that perspective. Who is the customer for a specific product or service? What does the customer need to move through the journey seamlessly? Where are there friction points or discovery challenges?

By keeping those foundational questions in mind, any agency can be successful after human-run media buying blinks out of existence.

For agencies, the right strategy will be the differentiator. Having a strong perspective on how to empower that strategy, execute it, and report on it will show agencies' value.

More Resources on Agency Best-Practices

Why Innovation Must Be Your Agency's First Priority

When Marketing Enters the Boardroom, How Can Agencies and Clients Respond?

Ad Agencies Should Stop Charging Clients Up Front: Three Lessons From Jerry Maguire

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In the Age of Automation, Focus on Strategy: Agency Best-Practices

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image of Tom Burke

Tom Burke is the VP of sales at AcuityAds, an advertising agency based in Toronto.

LinkedIn: Tom Burke