FROM AD AGENCY TO AI: MEET MIKE PRATT OF PANAMPLIFY
By Dacia Rivers
About two years ago, the co-founders of Dallas-based Panamplify were running a six-year-old advertising agency, working with huge brands such as Coke and Smirnoff, when CEO Mike Pratt began to wonder if every advertising business was bleeding the way his was. The time spent trying to analyze data and gauge the response to their campaigns was huge, and Pratt knew his business wasn’t alone in this. He and his cofounder, Christopher St. John, shut down their ad agency and bootstrapped Panamplify, a business that uses AI to service the marketing and advertising industry, focusing on agencies who provide those services for brands.
“We automate and eliminate much of the tedious grunt work associated with analytics and compiling reports for the campaigns they run for their brand clients,” Pratt says of Panamplify’s mission. “It sounds simple, but it’s actually a mountain of work.”
Advertising campaigns these days include dozens of demand generation channels from print to display, along with programs for television and radio and all the social channels, as well as email.
The websites and apps used in these campaigns, such as Twitter and Facebook, sit on top of analytics engines that churn out unstructured data that determines whether the campaign is reaching its intended market and whether it’s successful. Until now, reporting campaign performance from this data has involved a significant amount of work. It’s been up to agency employees to process this data, put it in the right format, choose how to display it, and then report back to the brand the evidence of how the campaign is performing.
“Agencies don’t have the manpower, the expertise, or the resources to do it all,” Pratt says. “So they have to not do it or cut corners — it’s a big problem.”
Cue Panamplify. The company uses a subset of AI known as intelligent systems. This is different from deep learning, machine learning or exploratory AI, which are techniques that cast a wide net and search for questions as much as answers. With intelligent systems, the AI knows the exact question it’s searching for answers to — in the case of Panamplify, the question is, “How is the campaign going?”
Panamplify is the first to use intelligent systems in this manner. This kind of AI is often used in port operations, such as organizing the loading and unloading of shipping containers between ships and trucks. Pratt and St. John leaned on their advertising knowledge combined with their backgrounds in engineering to use this technology to help with report generation in an effort to save advertising and marketing agencies time and money.
“We do a serious amount of the heavy lifting that teams of college graduate analysts used to do,” Pratt says. “We’ve freed up those analysts to actually do analysis instead of the grunt work associated with so much data — the basic prep work — where now they can do their analysis and report to their brands.”
In the past, advertising agencies spent tens of thousands of dollars in resources to complete these reports, Pratt says. In comparison, using the Panamplify AI to dig through the data and compile these reports costs these companies a few hundred dollars. It’s a significant monetary savings, and it doesn’t take into account the time savings, which are also measurable.
One advertising agency in Dallas had about 75 brands it serviced before signing on with Panamplify. The agency didn’t have an analysis team, so their account representatives were the ones making reports. They weren’t trained in design, so the quality suffered. In addition, the time spent generating these reports was killing their productivity. The reps had to block out half of every Thursday and all day each Friday to do the busy work of compiling and generating these reports. Because of this, the reps were limited to working eight to 10 accounts at a time. Even if new clients wanted on board, the CEO couldn’t take them on without adding new employees, with all the associated costs. It was difficult for the business to scale, and revenue seemed capped.
Enter Panamplify. By using the company’s AI, those account reps were able to automate all of that work, getting their day and a half of the work week back. The CEO was able to increase each rep’s capacity to 15 accounts.
“Mostly they’re happy because they don’t have to do this junk anymore,” Pratt says. “Their reports are all ready, and they just have to do their jobs.”
Panamplify currently has a team of six and is taking on new customers and employees as it needs to, at a measured rate. Pratt is excited about the future of AI and its ability to help businesses in every industry. As processing speeds increase and computing power grows, Pratt sees enormous potential for AI in business.
He sees the potential to apply the techniques Panamplify uses to multiple industries. Pratt began with marketing and advertising because that was the field he knew at the time. He also worked at Goldman Sachs before moving into the advertising field, and believes that financial companies could use intelligent systems to generate reports for investors.
“There are so many places in industry and business that these techniques can be applied to, there should be startup after startup attacking them,” Pratt says.
Pratt is quick to point out the way Panampify uses AI isn’t going to contribute to job loss. Whereas a welding robot arm in an auto factory replaces a human who can weld, Panamplify uses AI in a way that eliminates low-level work and mundane tasks so that humans can focus on higher level work.
“We augment human capability, we don’t replace it.”