When I worked in analytics at my ad agency, a good portion of my job was pulling reports, copying reporting data to excel, wrangling data together with vlookups, stuffing data into templates and making the same charts every month.  As you can imagine, the novelty of this job wore off rather quickly.  I felt like cog in some kind of reporting machine.  Almost immediately I came to an important realization: the machine that creates reports really ought to be 100% unmanned.

It took me a month or so to figure out how to do it.  I spent a lot of time with excel and even more time scheduling automated reports in our ad server.  In the end, all I needed was a few minor process changes (different naming conventions in our ad server) and a small tech investment in database software.  The whole thing would have been very reasonable as far as costs and it would have saved our analyst team at least 50 hours per week.  After just a few months, the savings in labor would have dwarfed the initial software investment.

I brought my automation ideas to a senior member of my agency and excitedly launched into my presentation.  As I progressed through my cleanly prepared powerpoint slides I found myself getting very excited.  In my mind, the solution I had proposed was powerful, yet elegantly simple.  I had no doubt that I was about to transform the way we looked at reporting and analytics.  Also, I was going to make life easier for the entire analyst team.

As I detailed point after point about how my system would eliminate discrepancies, make data easy to access, automate metrics and streamline optimization my audience sat patiently and waited.

After I finished my treatise – the senior member of my agency paused for just a moment and thoughtfully offered these words: “That’s a terrible idea.”

I was shocked. I thought that I was on the verge of revolutionizing measurement in the world of digital media!  As I sat there deflated, the senior leader explained to me this hard fact: ad agencies make money off inefficiency.  Every manual step, every data pull, every data merge, every manual reconciliation – it all means money for the agency.  If it were easy, the agency wouldn’t be able to charge as many hours for the labor.

It wasn’t long before I left the world of ad agencies.

I wonder how much longer some agencies can hold onto the business of inefficiency.  Not too much longer, I hope.

Inefficiency Pays
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