Should Marketers Trust AI?

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Artificial intelligence (AI) is a fundamental part of the ad tech landscape, bringing cost savings, precision targeting, and enhanced optimisation. In fact, over three quarters (77%) of marketers now use AI or machine learning as a tool to boost marketing efficiency.

The frustrations AI can solve are wide ranging, especially in an increasingly data-driven business environment. Machine learning’s ability to bring automation is gradually changing the marketing landscape as marketers increasingly use it to gain consumer insights, automate their processes and drive major advances in search, discovery and overall relationship management on smart devices.

Yet for all its benefits, AI also has drawbacks. There is a long history of mistrust, with 61% of marketers believing AI will result in job losses, widespread doubts over accuracy, and fears over-reliance on automation could spell the end of creativity.

So, should marketers trust AI or is it better to remain cautious?

AI’s impact on the marketing industry

Marketers are right to suspect AI will impact their roles, but not necessarily in a negative way. AI and machine learning can harvest and process massive volumes of data far beyond the capacity of human analysts, but this doesn’t mean the technology is putting marketers out of work. AI is helping marketers by automating tasks they either can’t perform or would find repetitive and hugely time-consuming. The scale and precision of AI means marketers can now personalise advertising to individual users, optimising campaigns in real-time to ensure consumers are seeing the most effective and relevant iteration of an ad based on their immediate context, for example their current location or local weather conditions.

By enhancing industry capabilities, AI is creating new roles and responsibilities for marketers. It enables them to delve into the analytics of campaigns to understand which channels, tactics, and creatives are performing well, and use this information to inform strategy and drive greater ROI. Marketers must remember AI is powerful for gathering and processing vast amounts of data to produce actionable insight, but it takes a human mind to truly understand the significance of that insight and build an effective marketing strategy around it.

The growing pains of new technology

The speed with which AI is evolving in unprecedented. Anyone with Alexa takes it for granted now, but five years ago having AI that could control your home was the stuff of sci-fi movies. Issues with the accuracy of AI are well documented, but as a rapidly growing technology it is bound to experience some teething problems. When Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone, nobody complained the first call sounded a bit muffled. They accepted it was something new and that, as time progressed, the technology would improve. If you’re reading this on a smartphone you’re sure to agree.

From a marketing point of view, many of the issues with AI arise from the use of incomplete or inaccurate data to feed machine learning algorithms, so it is vital to put controls in place to ensure only the highest quality data is used. The volumes of customer data generated will continue to grow, especially with the proliferation of smart technologies, so stringent data integrity measures must be implemented if AI is able to perform its function in marketing decision-making as effectively as possible.

Automation versus creativity  

If machines were to entirely replace humans in the marketing department it would be bad news for creativity because AI simply isn’t very good at being creative, or at least not yet. But automation and the use of AI doesn’t preclude creativity, in fact it is an enabler, providing marketers with the insights, tools and techniques necessary to engage audiences.

Humans are complex creatures and only another human can understand the nuances of thought and feeling enough to design a campaign that will engage the emotions and tug at the heart strings. AI and automation may be able to crunch the numbers and target the right individual with the most effective creative iteration, but human creativity is still required to conceptualise campaigns and design captivating creatives.

There’s no denying that AI has brought challenges to marketing, and jobs are changing to encompass this evolving technology. But AI is something to be celebrated not feared. Rather than trawling through mountains of data to produce personalised advertising campaigns, the integration of AI means marketers will be free to devote their hours to developing their strategies, building more meaningful and deeper relationships with customers, and coming up with more creative ways to drive their product and improve brand awareness. That said, none of us knows what the future holds, and as with any nascent technology a certain degree of caution is always advisable. Yet for now at least, marketers should be safe in the knowledge that AI is enhancing their efforts, not displacing them from their desks, as the scaremongers would have us believe.

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