Are the engineers starting to run media?
Julia Smith, an independent consultant who represents Jemm UK said, "Technologists are joining hands with advertisers and traders. It's not about name tags, we all have to use and understand data".
Adam Pace, managing director at Annalect Markets feels "they are not taking over but are changing everything. Omnicom are using other people's technology with algorithms not owned by us".
Stuart Colman, managing director EMEA, Maxifier said "it's not as simple as a silicon v carbon issue. Yes it's great to be bigger, better and faster but you still need the people element to make sure it works efficiently. Technology is making business better".
Smith continued, "Some companies are failing - they have great technology but people don't know how to use it. You have to find commercial people with a technology focus".
Pace said it seemed that agencies were in an 'arms race' - building up capability and ensuring everyone knew about it through PR activities. "In Chicago we have 80 people but I wouldn't say we have stable long term expertise. People get headhunted with just 6 months experience."
Technology does not appear to have led to a decline in people. The session chair and MediaTel managing director, Derek Jones said it seemed publishers had a dilemma and asked, "should publishers stick all inventory on a trading desk? Can you do business with less people or do you need more people to maintain premium yields?"
Colman reiterated that technology isn't here to reduce the number of people and that technology enhances work outputs.
Andrew Moore, managing director of SpotXchange said "Let's value our premium and automate everything of lower value". Smith agreed and said "prepare to pay for premium inventory".
Moore continued, "We see a flight to quality. Bids for premium inventory are significantly higher and the biggest opportunity for publishers".
But who decides what is premium?
Pace said "Lots of clients are buying leads and things find a natural price in an auction" and admitted he spends more with better websites - portals and newspaper sites. Smith added "that premium used to be what is easiest to sell, therefore news".
Mark Craze, group CEO from Havas Media interjected from the floor - "Agencies only think of one thing...is my client happy? If they are then everything is OK."
Craze remarked that it is a tough business world, with an oversupply of agencies and that we all need to deal with that. "We (agencies) talk about technology to gain competitive advantage. In a pitch anyone can beat anyone. We are bashed up on margins and if we invest in areas that are complicated we can charge more."
Pace agreed, "We want to charge more because it cost more".