[Video] Artificial Intelligence: Coming to your favourite brand…
Jessica Hubbard, Deputy Editor; 13 August 2015
The term Artificial Intelligence tends to bring to mind C-grade sci-fi films and miniature robots that do nothing but scare your pets. Yet in reality, Artificial Intelligence is poised to transform businesses and even entire industries. The advertising and communications industry will not be exempt from this force of change – indeed, some brands are already making use of it in some form or another. We interviewed some leading thinkers in the communications and tech sectors to find out how…
It’s All About the Data…
Arthur Goldstuck, Managing Director of technology consultancy World Wide Worx, says that the big contribution that Artificial Intelligence is making to Marketing right now is in Big Data and analytics.
“So it appears that it’s just about algorithms and number-crunching, but that essentially is the basis of AI,” he explains. “If you’re [Marketers & the Ad Agencies] able to generate massive amounts of data and have it automatically generate campaign strategy or placement of campaigns and that kind of thing – so that you don’t have to have teams of people physically number crunching – that takes a huge chunk of time and effort away from the process.”
He adds that it essentially allows the creative team to focus on creativity and the strategic team to focus on strategy…rather than worry about the nuts and bolts of the mechanics of the campaign.
How Can Agencies Prepare for AI?
“In the early stages, you’re going to need serious analytical skills, someone who knows how to manipulate the large amounts of data,” he says. “In other words, you’ll need a Big Data specialist. But more and more you will find that AI will take over that specific role – let’s call it manual analysis – which will become a part of predictive analytics, which is part of the software systems that drive Big Data. So at that point you would then need specialists in using the software for predictive analytics. But that role will also eventually become automated by AI…”
He foresees that eventually agencies will get to a point whereby the creative people, for example, and even the sales people, can punch in the broad requirements/the outcomes that are needed, and the system will ‘make all the decisions and map out the campaign.’
“There are certain levels at which agencies can already use it, except it’s not called AI yet, it’s called analytics,” he says. “We’re seeing it in the social media environment, where there are agencies that provide social media analytics that enable decision making. But that is still a few steps before we get to the point where the decisions are actually being made by the software.”
“In SA, we’re still a long way from that being used really actively and even aggressively,” he adds. “We are still at the early stages of digital adoption in marketing in SA – and AI, you could say is at the top of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs in the digital environment.”
Taking this into account, Goldstuck believes that local agencies are still about 5-10 years away from fully embracing AI into their digital campaigns.
Guy Kilfoil, General Manager, Brand Management at BMW believes that it’s really about what agencies do with the data itself.
“What’s very important for marketers to understand is it’s not about Artificial Intelligence, it’s about intelligence,” he explains. “It’s about data intelligence, what do you do with your data, how do you manage it? In a world that’s becoming more and more connected, we’re going to have consumers that live in completely connected cities, with completely connected cars, with completely connected devices…and all these connected things are going to be generating data about consumers.”
In his view, the brands that ‘jump onto this trend’ and that can use predictive analytics and semi artificial intelligence to understand what the consumer is going to do next are going to be the winners.
“In terms of AI in the traditional sense, when we launched the BMW i3 earlier this year, we created an AI microsite for it,” he says. “It was a website that spoke to you, so you could ask the website a question and it would answer you, and if you asked it a question it didn’t know, it would say to you ‘I’m still learning’ and give you another fact. But the next time you came back to ask the same question, it had found the answer.”
He adds: “It was something we worked on with NativeVML, and they did a really good job…it’s almost like the Siri of car websites for the i3. And it was a really innovative link to what is a really innovative car.”
According to Kilfoil, BMW generated 729 test drive leads out of the website.
“It’s been going really well at the moment…we had a total annual target for the i3 of about 110 units, and in 3 months we’ve sold 60 cars already,” he says. “We’re ahead of our curve, we’re about 50% higher in terms of sales rate than we should have been. And I think it’s got a lot to do with the product substance – the product is better than people imagined it to be.”
Chris Talago, EVP: EMEA at Waggener Edstrom Communications, who was recently named one of the 100 most influential agency executives in technology PR, says that he prefers the term ‘augmented intelligence’.
“Artificial Intelligence implies to me that there is minimal human involvement, and that’s a very dangerous game in any campaign,” he says. “When we look at augmented intelligence, then it’s a case of defining why you’re involving technology in your campaign.”
He notes that there’s no question that technology integration is here to stay, adding that you only have to look at what was happening in Cannes [this year] and the fact that they’ve got a separate show now which is dedicated to the use of technology in campaigns.
“The question is why,” he says. “Why are you integrating technology into your campaigns?”
In his view, it needs to start with the customer. Yet he believes that brands [mistakenly] start with ‘their own reasons.’
“They want to cut costs, they want to deliver efficiencies of scale, but it’s not necessarily because of the quality of the customer engagement,” he says. “And I think it needs to start there.”
Thus far, he says the realm of ‘Big Data’ is having the most immediate impact on campaigns: being able to crunch the numbers, and being able to understand, with certainty, how customers are moving around the Web.
“We are able to take this data, analyse it much more efficiently, and alter campaigns and the content of campaigns and even the media buy – in real time. So you get much more dynamic campaign delivery.”
A Layer of Humanity
“The next thing is the way in which customers experience the brand,” he says. “It can be very dangerous to bring in augmented intelligence as a way of serving customers directly. You only have to ask people about their frustrations with call centres and having to repeat themselves with robotic voices to understand the limitations at the moment.”
That said, he insists there is a huge opportunity to supplement the personal interaction and to deliver much more personal campaigns ‘as long as you have a layer of humanity that sits over the top.’
“Lastly, brands need to consider some of the countercultural points that are happening,” he adds. “You only need to look at microbreweries, farmers markets, the rise of the micro chain, etc. – to see there is a need for personal engagement with brands. What we’ve learnt on social media is that brands do best when they have a personality and a humanity to them, [only then] do their customers allow them into their lives.”
In short, Talago says that those are some of the tensions between ‘the promises of technology and the scale and speed it can offer us,’ and the customer engagement that people want in order to allow brands to be a part of their ongoing life.