I, marketer: what AI means for the industry

Marketers need to take advantage of the data they collect and begin to use AI strategically, argues Alex Cleanthous.

We’ve been hearing it for years: AI is going to change everything.

With consumers across the globe sitting at home using Amazon predictive recommendations to find the perfect gift, while listening to personalised playlists on Spotify, and talking to Siri about the day’s weather, on a consumer level, it certainly seems things have changed drastically.

With Google and Facebook leading the charge, digital agencies everywhere are taking heed. But what does an AI future look like, especially for agency land?

It’s not like there are AI-led virtual agencies popping up everywhere and taking over the industry. In fact, the biggest issue that most companies making extensive use of AI face is access to data – think Siemens and IBM hammering away at deep learning, feeding vast quantities of big data into their lovingly crafted algorithms, to replicating neural pathways and teaching Watson to predict consumer trends. This is where agencies have an advantage; we know our audiences, have existing profiles, access to big data, and a penchant for applying that information to target and optimise communications.

I admit that, in the beginning, I was sceptical about the practical usefulness of AI and its impact on the digital marketing landscape. For years, Google has been telling us that we should use its machine learning algorithms to help manage Google Ads accounts. Facebook was the same. And the options and results were less than impressive for a long time, up until recently.

There seems to have been major leaps in AI performance in the last 6 to 12 months, so much so that both Google and Facebook’s machine-learning algorithms perform better than most person-led campaign optimisation.

So that’s all good. But what else can AI help us with? This is a question every agency should be asking.

I’m not talking about the one or two campaigns here and there that are used to win awards or pay lip service to clients. I’m talking about real, game-changing innovations that have the potential to change the game.

Understanding the difference between supervised learning, unsupervised learning, and reinforcement learning, and their potential impact (and difficulty of execution), is the first step. The second step is brainstorming what will have the biggest effect on client campaigns across the board.

Many agencies sit on a treasure trove of data that most software companies would love to have. (We get told that every day, right?).

So, while we may not be the fastest out of the gate, we do have an advantage that others don’t – access to data. And leveraging that data to give clients even better performance through AI will be key to the survival of any agency in the coming years. AI is a tool of undeniable power and effectiveness, so in order to remain competitive, it’s a tool your agency will need to learn how to use effectively.

The more I understand about how AI works and its potential impact on the world, the more I’m driven to integrate this into our agency … before it’s too late.

Alex Cleanthous is the director of strategy and innovation at Webprofits


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