Some holdouts argue that artificial intelligence in adtech is “fictional,” but companies that embrace AI in marketing are already reaping the very real benefits of this powerful technology.
For every major innovation in history, there is an opposite reaction that attempted to resist it. The automotive industry would become a major engine of growth for the U.S. economy, but from 1900 to 1918, politicians in Nantucket successfully campaigned against the supposed evils of the “gasoline buggy.”
Opposition to incoming trends usually isn’t strong enough to stop them, but it can lead others to ignore or miss out on important technologies, hurting them financially in the long run. Today, this conflict is playing out in the world of marketing, as some adtech providers deny that the AI revolution is close to having any significant impact on their industry. This kind of thinking can keep modern day marketers from reaching their full potential.
Is AI in Marketing Really “Fictional”?
Until recently, artificial intelligence was seen as the stuff of science fiction; autonomous machines walking, talking, and interacting as though they were human. While this is the aim of some artificial intelligence research, the applications and iterations of AI are diverse and unique, meaning that our analysis of the trend should be just as nuanced.
In an article published on AdExchanger, SVP of Engineering at Turn Santanu Kolay argues that AI is not really set to make a difference in the world of marketing. “While there is a lot of smart tech being applied in the industry – deep learning, machine learning, and algorithms – we’re still a way off from true advertising AI. The AI-in-ad-tech story sounds good, but it’s still mostly fictional.”
One issue with this sentiment is that deep learning, machine learning, and algorithms are all intrinsic aspects of artificial intelligence. Professor of Information Systems at NYU Vasant Dhar noted that “newer systems can take visual, auditory, or language input directly. This advancement enables the machine to take direct inputs from the world without human involvement and create its own internal representation for further processing.”
Dahr is describing deep learning, a subsection of artificial neural networking that allows artificial intelligence systems to autonomously learn by creating layers of interconnected information, much like the neocortex of the brain.
However, deep learning is also finding effective uses for marketing campaigns. Forbes recently highlighted 13 companies that are using deep learning to create actionable results for advertisers, many of which utilize AI to build marketing campaigns, track brand presence, and analyze brand equity. Companies like Adgorithms offer products that combine deep learning, predictive analytics, algorithms, and natural language processing to autonomously purchase media, target certain audiences, and develop integrated cross-channel campaigns.
These are far from just buzzwords used to generate hype around unproven technology — companies are already finding real success through the implementation of AI. In an interview with eMarketer, President of Harley-Davidson Asaf Jacobi pointed out that “within three months of using Adgorithms, average daily website visits skyrocketed by 566%.
“Currently, we attribute 40% of Harley-Davidson New York motorcycle sales to Albert, Adgorithms’ artificial intelligence tool,” he added.
Using “Artificial Intelligence” with Caution
AI is changing, and new breakthroughs are occurring constantly. Because of the ever-evolving nature of artificial intelligence, companies should exercise caution when identifying something as “AI.” In some instances, people use the term “artificial intelligence” to misrepresent what their technology truly does. For example, chatbots deployed by companies such as Starbucks and Twitter are marketed as AI, but this “intelligence” over-promises and under-delivers.
“The interactions were limited,” said Cindy Pound, executive director of R/GA, of Starbucks’ pumpkin spice latte chatbot. “I think the marketers were thinking [they were] just providing a fun utility, but then there was this consumer-level disappointment because the technology wasn’t as smart and pithy and fun as it would [have been while] interacting with someone with human intelligence.”
While AI pretenders proliferate, this does not mean that everything labeled as AI is attempting to pull the technological wool over a customer’s eyes. AI has not reached its full potential as a concept, but that can be said of many technologies: cars get cleaner and more fuel efficient, computers become faster, and medical technology is better equipped now to diagnose and treat illnesses than ever before. That does not mean that these technologies lacked significant utility prior to their current forms.
The same can be said of AI in marketing. While companies aren’t utilizing artificial intelligence to “come up with a funny ad” as Kolay points out, AI platforms like Albert™ from Algorithms are allowing marketing teams to take a hands-off approach to the tedious work of sifting through data. This frees people up to do the high-value, creative work that artificial intelligence isn’t capable of doing, at least not yet.
The AI revolution in marketing has already arrived, and the sooner companies can recognize that, the sooner they can begin to embrace its increased capacity to solve problems quickly and efficiently.
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