PMG Digital Made for Humans

Working with an Automation Mindset

5 MINUTE READ | August 22, 2019

Working with an Automation Mindset

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Garrett Milliken

Garrett Milliken has written this article. More details coming soon.

In the digital advertising industry, the question is always “how can this program drive more efficiency?”. And that question is increasingly being answered with automation. While big picture automation projects like bidding algorithms fueled by machine learning or ad copy written by AI are the most exciting and headline-grabbing developments, automation doesn’t have to be flashy or life-changing. Some of our biggest efficiencies have been gained from projects where the stakeholder didn’t assume automation was even possible for their problem. Looking into every aspect of your day-to-day work with the possibility of automation in mind is a great way to improve processes and save time in areas that have traditionally been accepted as dry, manual work.

Below are a couple of examples of nontraditional automation projects we’ve worked on recently, which will hopefully spark ideas for others to try their hand at automating something “un-automatable.”

One of the greatest but sometimes also inconvenient parts of working in digital advertising is the fact that platforms and ad types can change extremely quickly. This usually leads to new opportunities or better user experiences, but occasionally we may not want to jump immediately into the newest beta or feature and would rather take a step back and assess first. 

This was the case recently when Google announced that Shopping campaigns would be automatically opted in to show ads in the Google Discover experience which debuted late last year. While this may be a strategy we want to employ in the future, we didn’t want our Shopping campaigns, which traditionally fall under a paid search budget, to be automatically opted into ads that would show on YouTube and other non-search surfaces. When this was announced, we had account managers lamenting the idea of going into the Ads UI and manually unchecking this box for every campaign in all of their accounts. Due to the large number of shopping campaigns at PMG, we decided that looking into a way to automate this and save account managers hours of mindless clicking was very much worth it. Looking into the Google Ads API, we found that the CampaignService endpoint has a NetworkSetting type that allows for bulk editing of the new setting which is unavailable in both the Ads UI and Ads Editor. 

By using the Google Ads integration in PMG’s Alli platform and some basic SQL, each account manager was able to get a list of all of their accounts and campaigns that were impacted by this change and opt-out in just minutes. This is a great example of how changing your mindset and approach to problem-solving can be a big win for your business. Because of the technology foundation we have at PMG, all that was required to solve this issue was the spark of an idea to make everyone’s work a bit easier and some light digging into the Ads API.

One area we’re always trying to increase efficiency and automation around is with non-marketing, operational processes. Our most recent success story in this space was around time allocation reporting with our finance team. The data and tasks the finance team handles generally share little in common with our larger marketing efforts and therefore receive less attention in regards to automation and innovation, but we’re still always looking for ways to improve. 

Twice a month, account managers at PMG are required to enter a few basic details about how much time they’ve spent on each client or project they’ve been working on into a time management system. But people get busy and don’t always enter their details on time which meant that someone on the finance team had to reach out to each person individually and remind them to update their allocations. This is another prime example of a tedious manual task that is ripe for automation. 

PMG’s Alli platform already has a notification system built in that proactively monitors campaigns for quality assurance, so we decided to tweak that system to support the finance team’s use case. Now, instead of emailing each reminder manually, the team is able to download a list of people who haven’t finished their allocations from the time management system and upload that into Alli, which then dynamically generates emails with specific details about what each employee needs to fix. This solution was a great example of the stakeholder not realizing that automation was even an option, which made the final product that much more rewarding. 

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Automation can often be much simpler than many would assume and doesn’t need to be reserved for tech-heavy teams. With these examples in mind, we hope others will be inspired to start thinking about automation in areas outside of full-blown apps or algorithms to realize the potential for efficiency gains in every part of a business.

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