Brands, Agencies Want Results From AI -- Not 'Calgon Moment'

  • by , Op-Ed Contributor, March 27, 2018
What do marketers want from AI platforms?

A relaxing Calgon moment would be nice. Remember those commercials? The tub? The bubbles?

But while destressing  marketers from the day-to-day complexities of campaigns is a noble goal, it’s still a secondary concern when adopting AI.

Before escaping into the relaxing bubble bath, they want to know that putting their campaigns on auto-pilot will lead to increased performance, increased return on investment, reduced cost of ad spend, and the ability to scale campaigns that have plateaued. Only then do will they start reveling in efficiency benefits: “AI, take me away!”

Late last year, we asked 52 brands and agencies that use a variety of AI platforms to participate in a blind survey gauging their experience with, and reasons for, adopting AI.

AI’s Cool, But That’s Not Why Marketers Adopt It
When the first scalable artificial intelligence marketing solutions came to market in 2016, brands adopted them more quickly than agencies did. That said, neither user type overwhelmingly rushed to embrace AI because of its shiny packaging or in response to peer pressure.



Only 11% of brand respondents and 8% of agencies explored AI because they wanted to try the latest new marketing tool or exotic technology.

So, what got them to take the plunge? Seven out of 10 respondents (both brands and agencies) cited “increasing the value of our marketing investment” as a key motivating factor for adopting AI. Brands, which have greater impetus to control costs (they can’t be passed along to clients) were especially keen on this reason: 83% of them, compared with 58% of agencies, cited cost containment as an important factor.

For agencies, increasing campaign productivity — making themselves look good to clients — moved the needle: 33% investigated AI systems because their current manual and/or technology-aided efforts had plateaued.

Letting the Machine Run?
Despite their enthusiasm for performance, neither brands or agencies blindly handed over the reins to AI. Many are still reluctant to surrender some digital marketing functions to a machine. Specifically, 59% of brands are holding on to digital campaign analysis, while 33% of agencies haven’t yet relinquished audience segmentation -- the very activity that influences the success of their campaigns -- and thus, whether clients remain clients.

These sorts of number-crunching tasks are the very basis of what artificial intelligence systems were designed for. AIs analyze massive amounts of data from a variety of sources and offer an agnostic view regarding correlations. They have no sense of whether something “shouldn’t” be, only whether it is or isn’t.

Dividing Responsibilities Between Human & Machine
A lack of bias is a good thing in a landscape driven by data, but it also means a lack of instincts and emotions. Emotionless decision-making offers a roadmap for how man and machine are divvying up the workload. Technology is taking on the data and number-crunching tasks, while marketers are indeed being liberated to work on higher-level creative and strategic responsibilities.

As the industry evolves to make room for advanced technologies, marketers will get more comfortable giving up the day-to-day tasks that can be quickly and dispassionately completed by a machine. What marketers won’t give up are results and performance -- and that, as opposed to a warm bubble bath of an easier work day, is the most effective message for those advertising AI to marketers.

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