Commentary

AI: The Future Of Digital Marketing (And Everything Else)

The idea of artificial intelligence (AI) has been around for decades, and from movies to games, has now found a home in the mainstream. We are not yet at the point where computers are starting to plot the overthrow of humanity, but through AI, computers are beginning to understand our fellow human beings better than we may understand ourselves.

At least, advertising and marketing platforms that integrate AI into their processes are crunching numbers much faster than we ever could, and deriving insights that marketers use to better target and understand the end user and consumer.

Starting simple with AI technologies, there are recommendation engines: "Early low-hanging fruit for brands to harness the power of AI is in content discovery,” Glenn Hower, senior analyst at Parks Associates, told attendees at the "A.I. Meets Media: Innovation Summit" presented by Ooyala.

Netflix, Amazon, and YouTube have all been tweaking their recommendation engines for years. Ingesting user data and predicting what each consumer is most likely to want to watch sounds relatively simple -- but getting it right is a different story.

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Moving further into AI capabilities, marketers can learn to connect disparate video ads based on themes, personalities and tone. This is where AI can really impress.

Microsoft Azure’s cloud computing product, which has been integrated into Ooyala’s Flex platform, takes video content and boils it down to natural language -- covering people, colors, actions, logos, even the type of event on screen -- using the data to inform what paid media would be appropriate to serve against the content.

With near-immediate access to words spoken in any broadcast setting, marketers and advertisers can develop a deep understanding of themes present in a newscast, TV show or other video event, explained Martin Wahl, the principal product manager for Microsoft Azure. “For example, Sinclair pays employees up to $85 an hour to transcribe all shows on its properties,” said Wahl. “AI can do the same job [and] link related words, making everything immediately searchable for a tenth or hundredth of the price it costs to have a human do it.”

Even translations can be done in next to real time, opening up a completely new opportunity for international distribution of live content. Importantly, it can open up opportunities for national advertisers to expand into the international space more seamlessly.

These capabilities will save both time and money, providing marketers with immediate insights on what kinds of ad creatives are most appropriate to serve after a particular segment. With robust metadata, the AI can even suggest which ads to buy.

As Wahl put it, these capabilities are a strong start, but the real difference-maker will be how marketers decide to use the collected insights in novel ways that are yet to be discovered. That is when we will begin to see the true value of AI in marketing. Beyond artificial intelligence, human intelligence will continue to play a central role in harnessing AI.

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