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Programmatic buying, Isaac Asimov, and predicting human behavior

by | Mar 23, 2013 | Media Planning & Buying

Whenever we discuss predictive analytics, upon which the success of programmatic ad buying is based, I think of Isaac Asimov and his theories regarding the use of mathematical statistics to predict human behavior: Psychohistory.
Psychohistory depends on the idea that, while one cannot foresee the actions of a particular individual, the laws of statistics as applied to large groups of people could predict the general flow of future events. Asimov used the analogy of a gas: an observer has great difficulty in predicting the motion of a single molecule in a gas, but can predict the mass action of the gas to a high level of accuracy. (Physicists know this as the Kinetic theory.)
Asimov applied this concept to the population of his fictional Galactic Empire, which numbered a quintillion. The character responsible for the science’s creation, Hari Seldon, established two axioms:  (1) that the population whose behaviour was modeled should be sufficiently large and (2) that the population should remain in ignorance of the results of the application of psychohistorical analyses
(There is a third underlying axiom of Psychohistory not stated by Seldon in his Plan: that Human Beings are the only sentient intelligence in the Galaxy.)
Mankind has attempted to control and manipulate human behavior since time immemorial. Kings, Clergy, Politicians and Corporations have always tried, sometimes successfully and sometimes unsuccessfully, to create controlled conditions for the purpose of inducing a predicted and preferred response.
For example, in the 17th century when the serfs began to stir and chafe against the rule of royalty; the Bible was rewritten (The King James Version) to include passages promising everlasting heaven if one was willing to suffer on earth: the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. There are 7 beatitudes that are part of the same strong subserviance is honorable rhythm.
They got their predicted and preferred response; continued docility; at least for a while.
In my opinion, although we can make predictions based on tracking intelligence, habit, and muscle memory; we can’t track and predict the heart, emotions, rebellion, mischievousness and other ephemera; at least not for long.
To follow are 4 takes on programmatic ad buying as provided by John Smith and AdExchanger:
Andy Cocker, COO/ Co Founder, Infectious Media
“Programmatic Buying describes online display advertising that is aggregated, booked, flighted, analyzed and optimized via demand side software interfaces and algorithms. While it includes RTB it also includes non RTB methods and buy types such as Facebook Ads API and the Google Display Network. Programmatic also implies the use of multi sourced data signals to inform targeting and optimization decisions. An increasing share of online display advertising is moving towards programmatic due to its inherent efficiency (both workflow and performance). The majority of inventory available via programmatic is non-guaranteed, auction traded during the ad call although we expect to see more guaranteed reserved ‘premium’ inventory available in the future. Although ‘Programmatic’ suggests little or no human intervention, algorithmic optimisation can only do so much. Smart macro optimization by analytical ‘traders’ can amplify programmatic performance significantly.”
John Nardone, CEO, [x+1]
“Programmatic buying is a subset of programmatic marketing. Programmatic marketing uses real time systems, rules and algorithms to automate the delivery of data driven, targeted and relevant experiences to consumers as they interact with a brand’s many touch points. The experiences include targeted offers, messages, content or ads across paid, owned and earned channels. The best programmatic marketing recognizes the consumer as he moves between channels and touch points, so that each interaction informs the next. Owned touch points include the marketer’s website, mobile apps, Facebook page and email. Earned touch points are those created by the consumers themselves. Programmatic buying is the paid part of programmatic marketing: the automated purchase of data driven, targeted ads whether they be online display, mobile or video ads. Programmatic buying can be accomplished through a DSP, but programmatic marketing requires a more comprehensive platform that can execute complex logic across a variety of systems, including website content management, email, call center enabled chat, mobile apps, and CRM systems.”
Philip Smolin, SVP of Market Solutions, Turn
“In the digital advertising world today, marketers are faced with an overwhelming level of inventory and audience fragmentation. Each customer interaction happens on a different device, different media channel and at a different time during the lifecycle of brand engagement. Data is generated throughout. Programmatic Buying helps bring order to this fragmentation. It enables marketers to consolidate customer interactions across multiple channels into a single dashboard, and then use that dashboard to develop a single, overarching strategy about how to best engage (and continue the conversation) with those audiences. Along the way, it helps marketers use data to increase advertising effectiveness by assigning a value to every impression. – and then uses that value to ensure the marketer doesn’t waste budget by advertising to prospects who will never have an interest in their brand, products or services.   But the benefits of Programmatic Buying are not limited to the buyer. The improved effectiveness it delivers for the advertiser also translates into increased relevance for the consumer and greater revenue for the publisher. And in a world where consumers want high quality news, professional content and open forums for social interaction to be subsidized by advertising, that’s a very good thing.”
Joe Zawadzki, CEO, MediaMath
“The use of technology to automate processes and the use of math to improve results.   It is the future of marketing, available now.”