The RFP in a programmatic world: evolve or exterminate?

We’re fast approaching a time when the buying and selling of advertising space will become as easy as booking a flight online or purchasing a song on iTunes.

As advertising automation continues to accelerate, it’s important to address a process that both sides of the industry – buyer and seller – would call a “necessary evil,” and something that technology can elevate to a much higher form of collaboration. That process is the RFP.

The types of antiquated systems and disconnected workflows the RFP process entails have created roadblocks to productive conversations between advertising buyers and sellers and, as a result, to higher-level partnerships. But the rise of automation technology is now allowing both parties to forego the daunting back-and-forth of the RFP process and get closer to the table, thus bringing them closer to creating campaign strategies together that are effective both for brands and for the consumers they are trying to engage with.

AdExchanger recently published an article titled “Is Advertising Technology Making People’s Lives Easier?”  The thesis: that advertising technology has made the process faster and cheaper, but not better. The focus on simply making our work easier to accomplish, versus using automation to deliver meaningful messages to consumers, has caused us to target and reach the right people in the wrong way.

Advertising technology should be a means to the correct end. In an industry where many still believe automation is the death knell for both consumer engagement and buyer-seller relationships, the time is now for the archaic RFP process to face the music of programmatic, and to demonstrate how automation can be a boon to all sides if implemented thoughtfully. Below are three fundamental principles that demonstrate how old school processes can pivot, progress, and perform with new school technology:

Machines maketh the man, not terminate him

The “SkyNet effect” has brought about a fear that automation will make agencies become obsolete when, in fact, quite the opposite is true.

With automation, sales professionals can still cultivate relationships during three-martini lunches, but the subject matter can now be about higher-order campaign strategy. Sales planners can remove themselves from Excel prisons and have time to effectively develop the skill sets necessary to excel in their careers.  Media buyers and planners can hit their deadlines, reach their goals, and reinvest the time they save in engaging their creativity, marrying the art and science of advertising in a world that still requires that human touch.

Proactive vs. reactive industry relationships

For too long, the traditional media planning and buying process has been a waiting game where we hear the words “turnaround times,” “deadlines,” and “ASAP” all too often.  Agencies wait for clients to approve final strategy; publishers wait to receive RFPs; agencies wait for publisher proposals; publishers wait for feedback or confirmation that they will be part of the plan; and round and round the carousel goes.

Automation technology now empowers buyers and sellers to bring powerful ideas and proposals together more efficiently, and in a more transparent manner, through programmatic direct technologies and supply-side platforms.

Internal silos meet holistic platforms

Buyers’ and sellers’ internal workflows and functions have constantly been at odds with each other, to the detriment of relationships, communication, and time management.  Automation has brought about the rise of consolidated platforms that work to effectively merge and replicate the workflows of both parties in order to align on execution, performance, and scale.  Bridging that gap allows for buyers and sellers to speak one language while addressing those multiple channels or touchpoints more holistically.

We still have strides to make in unshackling ourselves from the safe haven of legacy ways, but with new technologies come new opportunities to engage with consumers, customers, and even competitors in ways that make us more effective people as well as professionals. Automation has been happening en masse in industries like e-commerce, travel, and financial trading. Advertising is the next great frontier to embrace the change, and by automating RFPs, we can begin that change at the appropriate place: the beginning.