Nov 28 2022
Ben Larrison

Burnout in Digital Advertising Demands Real Changes


Let’s start with this: Burnout is real.

Though it’s not a medical condition, burnout is nevertheless a very real, very definable occupational phenomenon that can tax a worker’s physical and mental health. The famed Mayo Clinic defines job-related burnout as “a special type of work-related stress—a state of physical or emotional exhaustion that also involves a sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity.” The syndrome has also been tied to anxiety and depression, as well as fatigue, reduced cognitive and emotional abilities, and mental distancing. 

Burnout has been having a moment of late—basking in the dull afterglow of the COVID-19 pandemic and helping fuel the mass job-departure movement known as the Great Resignation—and its impact has been particularly acute in the advertising industry. And even with the Great Resignation no longer wreaking havoc, the folks who remain in the agency world have only seen their burnout risk rise amidst rising pressures to deliver new dollars, fewer co-workers to share the burden, and a 53% global increase in new business pitches.

The impact, inevitably, is exhausted employees making more pitches with less time to prepare—and then, for the clients whose business they do win, having fewer hours to actually optimize and analyze campaigns. So burnout leads to more than just a stressed-out staff: it has a very real, very negative business impact for all parties.

Combatting Burnout in Digital Marketing

Sound familiar? If your answer is “Yes,” then first and foremost: we’re so sorry to hear you’re struggling right now! As a few of us can attest, burnout is no fun—like, at all—and trying to just power through it only further exacerbates is effects. Fortunately, many employers (including, it may be worth mentioning, Basis Technologies) have begun investing in an array of benefits to support their employees’ mental health and general wellness. Whether it’s a week offZoom-free Fridays, or a paid subscription to mindfulness and meditation app Headspace, these perks and gestures are one way companies can show their staffers that they care about their wellbeing and are taking measures to support them in the battle against burnout.

But while these employee-friendly benefits are both thoughtful and effective, they ultimately serve to treat the symptoms instead of addressing the underlying illness that prompts the burnout in the first place. In order to effectively tackle those concerns, employers will need to holistically address the way they do work. Here are two good places to start: 

1) Lead with empathy

Elvis Costello may have really been on to something when he crooned, “What's so funny ’bout peace, love, and understanding?” At a time where so very much is complicating people’s everyday lives—from economic turbulence, to supply chain crises, to global destabilization, to “tripledemics” and more—a little empathy can go a long way in establishing a stronger relationship between employers and employees.

Basis Technologies’ own Head of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, Lois Castillo, wrote up a great blog post that features a list of four strategies for leading through turbulence, including acknowledging what’s going on, establishing systems of care, addressing situations head-on, and giving folks a (well-deserved) break. In it, she shares the following bit of wisdom: 

“Your people are your best asset: They’re the heart of any organization. You need them healthy and vibrant and committed. As leaders, if we don’t consider all the external stressors that are affecting our people and make sure we’re providing an environment that mitigates some of that harm, then our employees won’t be able to come in and focus on the job at hand.”

It's a great reminder of the importance of taking the time to understand and support your people—both as a marketing leader, and as a human being. (P.S. If you’re interested, you can read the full post here.)

2) Empower your workforce

Beyond the care and consideration that can help foster a healthier workplace environment, employers can help prevent burnout by providing their staffers with the tools and resources they need to do their jobs efficiently, effectively, and satisfyingly.

In digital advertising specifically, there is ample room for improvement to the tech stack status quo. For programmatic marketers, the campaign process can be a tedious, mind-numbing, time-consuming slog. Part of that comes from the complex and fragmented nature of media buying: an Advertiser Perceptions report found that the average buyer uses nine different platforms over the course of a single campaign. To put that in perspective: on the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft, astronauts piloted the semi-autonomous rocket to the International Space Station using just three large touchscreen panels. And as valuable as the work we do is, digital advertising shouldn’t be harder than flying a rocket to a floating laboratory in the middle of space.

However, there is one key thing that the future of digital advertising and the future of space travel have in common: leveraging automation to empower users. By embracing the possibilities afforded by advertising automation, marketers can tap into new efficiencies that both save time and money, and can create a more employee-friendly job experience.

Automated functionality like inventory forecasting, bid multipliers, algorithmic pacing, machine learning optimization, group budget optimization, bid shading, automated billing, and automated dashboard reporting can combine with convenience features like trend benchmarking, inventory forecasting, inventory directories, in-platform communications, and unified reporting to create a simpler, more streamlined, and more enjoyable job experience for media buyers.

The impact of this type of tech is measurable, both in terms of economic ROI and job satisfaction. For instance, according to a recent study conducted by Directions Research, built-in automation tools and tactics within Basis simplify the campaign process and save users an average of 51 hours per campaign. That’s equal to six-and-a-half workdays—time that agencies can spend on more high-value endeavors (with higher hourly billing rates) and that media buyers can spend on more satisfying tasks like creative, strategy, planning...or themselves. And because of those automation-driven efficiencies, 80% of the advertising automation and media buying platform’s users agree that it makes their jobs easier.

Investing in the right tech can be daunting, but investing in the right tech can make for a more rewarding workplace (and, incidentally, a more profitable one).

Burnout and Media Buying: Next Steps

Burnout is a beast, and the digital advertising industry is far from immune to its wrath. The campaign process is in-depth, complex, and relentless, and today’s marketers are asked to deliver more ROI despite spending large chunks of their weeks on small, repetitive tasks. Add in external economic pressures and top it off with global instability, and you’ve got yourself a workforce that’s often burning the candle and both ends under what feels like a rocket booster. 

By leading with empathy and empowering media buyers with the right tools, agencies can help protect their employees and prevent burnout from setting in. And who wouldn’t want to work somewhere with a promise like that?

It can be difficult to understand how a given platform can impact a team’s day-to-day work and overall output. So Basis Technologies partnered with Directions Research to study how our platform can help marketers streamline the campaign process. Curious about the results? Check out our report to see how Basis simplifies digital advertising.