Becoming the kings of decision: How artificial intelligence promises a new marketing world

“We move from being kings of process to kings of decisions,” Douglas Nicol founder of chatbot service On Message said about the artificial intelligence opportunities for marketers at an IAA and Mumbrella panel discussion this morning.

“My criticism of the world of marketing is we have become too obsessed by process so consequently we’ve lost sight of our jobs as marketers. I think AI is always best in terms of the problems it solves and I think the exciting think in the marketing world is it takes away a lot of the process and allows us to focus on our jobs.”

Nicol was speaking at the ‘Artificial intelligence just got real’ panel held by the International Advertising Association (IAA) and Mumbrella on how AI promises to change marketing along with almost every other industry.

Kirsten Riolo, the director of social exchange at researcher Ipsos, agreed with Nicol on AI’s impact on business: “A lot of the grunt work is being assisted by these machine learning tools. It enables us to take on the issues and really tease them out.

“For us it means we are able to put our researcher hats on and think more around what are the problems we are working on with our clients,” she continued. “We can use machine learning to get through the datasets, to get to the issue and work more around strategic issues at play than spending inordinate amounts of time on data”

Asia Pacific technical executive for IBM Watson, Dev Mookerjee, said the changes occurring in marketing have already been seen in consumer behaviour, citing how Uber and AirBnB have been embraced despite initial privacy and safety concerns.

“I have just come to a new city, with no idea about the city,” Mookerjee said. “I have got into the car of a person I’ve never before met, I trust this person who takes me to someone else’s house – who I’ve never met before and I’m going to live in that person’s house.

“The way we interact with each other has dramatically changed in the last decade. The consumer’s expectation of what technology can do and how much information I’m prepared to share about myself have changed. The ideas of privacy have been changed and challenged.”

Nicol agreed, however he warned his company had found use cases had to be kept simple: “Among the top three are the simplest possible use cases. We’re talking about chatting to a chatbot about health issues where people say they prefer to talk to a robot about their health both in terms of anonymity and accuracy.

“Another is booking entertainment and the number one most appealing use case was the simplest of all in the telco space where customers are asking ‘When is my contract end date?’ and ‘How much data do I have left?’

“In the real world, you have to have simple use cases as most people aren’t ready for a free-flowing, Siri-like experience. They want simple problems solved.”

One of the major challenges for marketers is that in a world of artificial intelligence and chatbots, brands start to adopt real personalities, said Nicol: “We end up having unusual conversations because for the first time a brand is suddenly a person. Does it use bad language? Does it use emojis? It’s quite exciting from that point of view and it makes us rethink what a brand is.”

As an example of how a brand’s voice changed the way marketers thought, Nicol cited one of his company’s projects where they created a chatbot to promote Foxtel’s prison drama, Wentworth.

The panel at the Mumbrella and IAA artificial intelligence breakfast

“Whenever we designed a conversation, the scriptwriters said ‘Actually your language is not bad enough for the audience’. We had to liberally use the ‘f’ word and the ‘c’ word in our conversation design which didn’t come naturally to us in our marketing roles.”

The panel agreed understanding how consumers and computers interact is going to be a critical skill for marketers with IBM’s Mookerjee saying it comes down to ‘URLI’ – Understand, Reason, Learn, Interact –”interaction is important in AI”, he said. “Human interaction is embedded.”

Rather than taking marketing jobs, Nicol sees AI’s rise creating a range of new roles in the industry:  “I think we’ll see a whole range of new jobs emerging, a lot of the interfaces with artificial intelligence are conversational,” he said. “It’s a conversation style of interaction.

“In that world, we’ll be far more involved in creating conversations and designing conversations and you will see people in their job titles will have things like ‘conversation design’ and the content they create and the experiences they create will be a little less like video which you see today and lot more like the utility.

“For marketers it will be more about conversations and less about campaigns and the way we know them. Undoubtedly, marketers who think they don’t need to retrain are deluded. They will need to retrain themselves and not think the person down the corridor, the geek, is the one who deals with data.”


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