As advanced as programmatic technology feels today, it won’t be long before we reflect on this era and realize we were just laying the technical infrastructure to unleash a whole new way of marketing to our customers.

In the next three to five years, marketing is going to look very different. Much of that is due to the evolution of programmatic technology and, perhaps more importantly, more advanced application of that technology. So what will the future hold?

From storytelling to total customer experience.

Most marketers would agree the value of storytelling can’t be understated, and that technology — including, of course, programmatic — greatly enables storytelling to a whole new level.

Imagine being able to fully engage an audience on a one-to-one basis, in real time, in specifically the mediums that move them most, with the messaging that is personalized to them. That’s true marketing nirvana.

Telling a brand’s story across media is important. In the recent past this was more about consistent messaging. For example, a journal ad should have the same message as a banner ad. Ideally, this happens in media that engages a chosen audience.

But today’s consumers, who get a customized experience from Amazon, Netflix, and many other brands with which they interact, expect more from healthcare brands — and programmatic will help those brands deliver. With programmatic technology and tactics such as triggered marketing that are backed by artificial intelligence, we’re able to make the story more customized and interactive.

Someone clicks on a link in an email, which triggers the next email message. If that person reads journals online, they’ll also see a banner ad, and the message in the ad will be the next chapter of the story.

It’s better marketing than we’ve ever had before, but it’s still not perfect. For example, think of a time you purchased an item, but were still being advertised that item the next day.

In the future, the ability to tell a story across channels will evolve toward delivering a total customer experience. As a follow-up to a rep call, a physician may be invited to watch a video series. They may finish the first three parts of the series, only to be asked to complete it via a banner message, or even the next time they make a call to the manufacturer’s call center.

With all the data centralized around a brand’s interactions with each of its customers, it just takes the right technology stack to take action in a very personalized way. The plumbing for this largely exists, albeit often in silos across the many channels of interactions brands currently have with their customers.

But we’re moving quickly beyond that limitation, leaving a much more dynamic marketing world ahead of us.

The role of the human.

As programmatic technology takes over many traditional media planning tasks, many observers are wondering whether this means media planners will become obsolete.

That absolutely will not be the case. In fact, human input becomes more important than ever. So what will change?

As we’ve seen within our walls as we develop more and more proprietary technologies, planners need to become more strategic, partnering with clients to create campaigns that leverage this technology and engage audiences on a more individual level. The skills of tomorrow’s media planners will be similar to those of today’s media planners: knowing how to find audiences, understanding the value of those audiences, being able to take quick action on disparate data, and having a technical orientation. They will also need to put on a financial trader’s hat, understanding what prices to pay and how to bid.

They will spend far less time managing the paperwork of the execution process and instead focus on using data to create competitive advantage. And, of course, they’ll need to be open to learning new things and embracing inevitable change.

Concerns around privacy.

One of the potential rate-limiting factors that will determine whether we’ll realize the full potential of programmatic technology are the growing concerns around privacy and use of personal data in advertising.

As regulations enacted abroad make their way to the U.S. — they’re already beginning to show up at the state level — it will become increasingly difficult to leverage personal data in a compliant way.

There is always the risk that regulations will set such a high bar for compliance that only the biggest, most well-funded companies will have the scale to deliver programmatic solutions. We are seeing that play out in the early days of General Data Protection Regulation compliance in Europe, where the largest players in advertising — Google, Facebook, and the like — are best equipped to still deliver personalized solutions for their clients.

The good news is pharma has always embedded customer privacy into its marketing efforts. This may be a rare instance in which our industry is ahead of the curve. So while other industries struggle to navigate this new landscape, we can continue to plug along like well-oiled, MLR-affirmed machines.

James Woodland is COO of CMI/Compas.