Artificial intelligence (AI) has occasionally gotten a bad rap in recent years. Futurologists like Elon Musk foresee a future where humans, due to becoming obsolete, will need to merge with machines in order to survive, while stories such as a Japanese company laying off over 30 employees to be replaced by robots have led to much hand-wringing about future job losses.
Undoubtedly, the rise of the robots will deeply affect a wide variety of industries. However, in my opinion, AI will have huge benefits for the majority of sectors, especially for my own profession, digital advertising. While previous research from Oxford University has predicted that 33% of marketing associate professionals are at risk of being replaced, these are the lower-level jobs of the profession, and the scope of these jobs will definitely evolve as AI takes over some of these roles’ responsibilities.
On the most basic level, AI will make marketers, and by extension advertising campaigns, become much more efficient and effective and also help to change our jobs in very positive ways. Digging deeper into how AI will affect marketing now, I believe there is one area it will significantly alter in a number of years: the targeting of consumers online.
Before the advent of digital technology, we based our audience targeting on pre-conceived, non-data driven ideas and notions we had about how a consumer behaved. Following this, basic targeting technology could collect some rudimentary consumer information, which enables advertisers to deliver online ads to them. This technology has progressed to the stage where it can now focus on a huge variety of parameters, including whether a consumer is on mobile, tablet or desktop as well as demographic categories, such as gender, approximate age and geographical information, all of which builds up a profile of a potential customer.
However, what many marketers find is that these data points are often irrelevant and don’t deliver campaign uplift or conversions. The results of using this approach are evident, too; ultimately users are mistargeted with ads that do not apply to them in any way. This can result in both a publisher and a brand being viewed negatively by consumers and may lead to an increased use of ad blockers.
AI tools such as IBM Watson can provide real-time insights on how to improve a campaign.
AI solutions, such as IBM’s AI tool, Watson, represent a potential solution to this targeting problem. What technology like this is able to achieve goes far beyond basic targeting. It analyzes thousands of pages per second and digests all the relevant data for every ad page which is displayed. From there, it can provide real-time insights on how to improve a campaign.
Additionally, the scale of what is possible through AI, regardless of the channel used, has become clearer. For example, tools such as Phrasee use the technology to generate and optimize email marketing language to make campaigns more effective.
Why this personalized targeting really matters to the industry is because of the overarching issue of ad blocking. With over 615 million devices now having ad blocking technology globally, consumers are clearly demanding better, more relevant ads. The vast majority of marketers realize this, with 73% admitting that the user experience must be improved online. As a result of AI capabilities, it can really ensure relevant ads are served to the right audiences.
Artificial intelligence isn’t coming for your job. For those in the C-suite or aspiring to join it, it may actually open up a new role for you. For example, one in 10 UK companies now has a chief digital officer to handle integrating new technologies, such as AI, into its business. In addition to this, adopting the technology before your competitors could have huge benefits. Infosys, in a recent report, established a clear correlation existed between the length of time that businesses have used AI and their increase in revenue growth.
My advice to the industry? Embrace AI.