Starcom has developed what it claims is a unique automation bot that eliminates the tedium and employee time spent manually entering data for ad bookings, thereby cutting costs and freeing up senior account executives to focus on strategy and creativity.
Dubbed Abacus, which stands for "Automated bot for amendments to campaigns and uploads", the bot is a form of RPA (robotic process automation) that Starcom says is the first of its kind in adland.
Abacus is able to book and edit digital and print media campaigns, verify media plan data, check purchase order numbers and budgets, upload information to campaign booking platforms, traffick ad servers and communicate campaign information to media owners. It then reports back to the team at Starcom.
Built in-house by Starcom's operations and resources arms, Abacus is the brainchild of operations director Katie Taylor and has been in development for about six months. The agency is currently piloting the technology with a major client, but plans to roll it out across other main accounts in the next six months or so.
So far, Starcom estimates the bot has improved booking speed by up to 50%, almost eradicated human error and saved 600 staff hours – time that would normally be spent by senior account execs copying and pasting reams of data across Excel sheets.
Nadine Young, Starcom's chief executive, told Campaign that execs across the media industry typically spend about half their time on booking systems, carrying out tasks such as the above, booking media plans line by line and resolving invoice queries.
"It's expensive and not rewarding for the employee," she said. "Abacus allows us to liberate our teams from the more repetitive administrative tasks and unleash further opportunity to focus on more strategic and creative growth opportunities for our clients."
For example, account execs can spend more time on improving how the agency works with media owners, "how we can better the briefing process" with them, and "how we can spend more time working with clients," she added.
Should it continue to prove successful, it is likely that the Abacus bot will be deployed at other agencies within Publicis Media.
"I really believe that in a few years' time, this will be the norm, because who wants to be doing this manually?" Young said.
Eventually, once the technology has been implemented agency-wide, Young predicts Abacus will save about 12,000 hours per year.