I’ve been thinking about this topic a lot lately…

Maybe it’s the latest Star Trek release that has me pondering the potential for interplanetary power when man and machine come together.

Maybe it’s Stacie Levy’s exploration of new frontiers in her ClickZ column – Putting the ‘U’ Back in Automation, Handwritten Letters in a World of Technology, Balancing Technology and People: 3 Essential Elements.

Or maybe it was my close encounter with the fourth kind, aka Ad-E (pictured above), at the Search Insider Summit.

Whatever the cause, the effect has been profound and I’d like to spill a little more digital ink on the matter.

Here at Kenshoo, we’re constantly seeking new and innovative ways to empower marketers with technology that can help them do their jobs better, faster, stronger. (Or is it now bigger, better, strong, power?)

Regardless, the trick is walking the fine line between automating what can be automated and not automating what should not be automated.

Put another way, we must avoid automation for automation’s sake!

There are some parts of marketing that are best left to humans. However, increasingly, there are many parts of marketing best left to machine.

Rather than go through an exhaustive list of what falls into each category (I shared the top 3 in a Search Insider column back in October), I’d like to zoom in on two areas in particular – Bid Optimization and Conversion Attribution.

Both of these are critical to success in digital marketing. If you’re not bidding the exact right amount for each ad placement, and if you’re not accurately attributing value to each ad placement, you may want to consider a pilgrimage to Hanoi for the money burning festival.

Performing the millions of interdependent calculations that are required to effectively determine bids and attribution values down to the individual placement level are tasks that only sophisticated technology platforms running the most advanced algorithms can execute.

I have yet to meet any mere mortal that can outwit our machine when it comes to deciding where the next unit of spend is best allocate. (Except, of course, for the folks on our Research team who actually build the models that fuel our machine. :-) )

That said, people play an essential role in bid optimization and conversion attribution when it comes to setting goals or constraints to meet specific organizational requirements as well as defining conversion metrics based on the nuances of business activity.

Machines can’t decide if your corporate strategy is growing topline revenue or bottom-line margin. Machines can’t decide if you should re-invest your profits into future acquisition efforts. And machines can’t decide if your transactions should happen online, offline or somewhere in between.

Without clear targets and direction, even the most cutting-edge technology will fail. At the same time, without the ability to automate and scale, even the smartest marketers will fall short.

At the end of the day, neither man nor machine could survive without the other in today’s digital marketing universe.

Imagine the Starship Enterprise without Captain Kirk. Fortunately, thanks to JJ Abrams and the re-launch of the Star Trek series, we don’t have to.

And, thanks to Kenshoo, marketers everywhere can take their campaigns to new heights with the most powerful technology in the galaxy.

To infinity and beyond!