2017: The Year That AI Will Come into Its Own

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Artificial Intelligence (AI) is all around us. While the perception of AI on the film screen may thrill viewers with a vision of humankind chained to robots and computer systems, the reality is that in 2017, we will be leaning on AI systems to help us make smarter decisions. Many of us are increasingly becoming more reliant on helpful prompts and personalised entertainment, for example, by adopting smart meters as part of a connected home. And, as we do so, our reluctance to use automated systems will tip into a realisation that we can be more efficient and more creative when harnessing the power of AI.

2017 is set to be the year that agencies fully integrate AI into how they target, plan and deliver media for clients along each step of the consumer journey. Indeed we worked closely with Aviva last year to precisely attribute insurance-quote conversions to specific digital interactions and to fully automate the optimisation process. This was an industry first, but we intend to roll out this approach, which delivers significant improvements in search and display, as standard practice to clients this year. Automating digital planning is the logical next step and very soon all agencies will have to be able to cope with the demand from brands.

But AI means more than just automation. AI can impact how brands can interact with customers and prospects, from predictive search, dynamic pricing and chatbots, through to virtual reality.

As society becomes more urban and inherently more independent, consumers prefer the anonymous but sympathetic ear that chatbot services can bring us. Tractica predicts that the number of unique users of digital virtual assistants will rise from 390 million in 2015 to 1.8 billion worldwide by 2021, and it’s not hard to understand why. Duolingo, the app that helps you learn a new language, was aware that three quarters of users were embarrassed to practice their foreign language with a stranger, and yet speaking is fundamental to learning. The solution? Chatbots.

Chatbots present themselves as the perfectly patient and non-judgemental teachers and demonstrate that their role exists beyond just being virtual assistants. We expect conversational commerce to be a big opportunity to emerge. Google has already begun investigating how to integrate its assistant into chat, using the ‘Allo’ smart messaging app to suggest recipe videos as people discuss their eating plans for the evening, or directions to their chosen restaurant.

And of course, AI will be used to continue learning how best to utilise its own power, as it is able to exponentially learn at speed. Tesla announced in May 2016 that whilst it had collected 780 million miles of driving data during the previous 18 months from its users’ cars, the company was now in a position to add one million miles every ten hours. For media planners, as the amount of data we can collect on audiences increases, the more specific, contextual and tailored we can make the content and targeting. For example, the data now available through return paths on TV set-top boxes allows us to reach even the household level. Furthermore, Spotify’s imminent launch of Spotify Moments will allow us to target based both on location and behaviour. And “programmatic” will be the key word in 2017, as outside of just digital, TV, Radio and OOH are making big strides into programmatic offerings in 2017. Any targeted campaign next year in any medium should look to reach consumers intelligently via data-driven insights.

Getting involved in the AI revolution becomes essential in order not to be left behind. Brands and those in the business of communication need to be ready to sink their teeth into the range of opportunities AI brings, to deliver the best possible experience to the consumer.

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