2018 will prove to be an interesting year for search advertising and marketing. Kantar's Millward Brown published a set of predictions Wednesday. Most are expected, for example, that voice will spur adoption of smart devices. Others are expected, but will have a much larger impact on search marketing and advertising.
One prediction -- algorithms will turn into artificial intelligence -- will have the most impact for the search industry. Yes, search relies on automation, which some call programmatic. We have already begun to see Google, Facebook, Microsoft and others move from algorithms to A.I. But we have only scratched the very top layer.
"While machine learning will dominate in the foreseeable future, we'll start to see applications of all kinds of AI-driven tech such as natural language processing, computer vision and autonomous virtual agents and chatbots," wrote Marc Ryan, chief product and innovations officer at Kantar Millward Brown.
Ryan refers to this era as "A.I. tech." He writes that while the last decade of digital marketing has been ruled by the companies with the most compelling algorithms, that trend will turn the corner in 2018 with the development of machine-learning technology where software becomes the decision maker to reach a specific outcome.
Ryan calls it "functional artificial intelligence" and explains how it is applied to marketing challenges. Marketers will enter the data and have the A.I. determine the outcome. But the data will need to be clean -- stripped of all unnecessary bits and bytes. Humans or machines will need to confirm the data, which will require search marketers, all marketers, to have a new skill set.
Ryan refers to feeding data into platforms that make programmatic media decisions -- that something search, although described differently, has done for years.
"We will likely be less reliant on marketing 'wizards' to drive results; instead the edge in AI-driven marketing will go to those who invest in creating, curating and acquiring the data to feed their AI solution," he explains.
And in the midst of Ryan's contemplation on how algorithms will morph into artificial intelligence, he asks "will consumers be happier that an anonymous AI is making decisions from their data or will this deepen the concerns over personal data privacy?"
This leads to the second most impactful prediction from Millward Brown.
"In 2018 walled gardens will grow their share of advertising dollars even faster, but marketers need to push them to build more doors and windows within those walls for their campaigns," wrote Gonzalo Fuentes, global CEO, Media & Digital, Kantar Insights.
Fuentes points to the restrictions on advertising primarily driven by actions taken by Apple in Safari 11, but more importantly GDPR, a regulation drafted by the European Parliament, the Council of the European Union and the European Commission meant to strengthen data protection for individuals in the European Union.
You can find the predictions here.