Artificial intelligence is used in business as a way to translate an input into an output at speed and at scale.
As is the case for many industries, artificial intelligence (AI) is quickly becoming a critical component of the media toolbox. A 2018 IAB survey found that 61% of agencies thought AI facilitated effective targeting, while 55% of agencies said it helped identify more qualified users.
But the same survey found that 30% of advertisers and 21% of agencies were not at all confident in their understanding of AI, which points to a gap between the potential of the technology and the knowledge of how to get there.
The wealth of human intelligence required to effectively apply AI is often overlooked. In fact, Indeed found the number one job for 2019 is a machine-learning engineer -- advertisers and agencies alike need qualified people in place to make the most of the AI revolution.
What can AI do for you?
AI is already being applied to enhance advertising in a number of different ways.
First, it can be used to improve campaign efficiency, by directing retargeting spend toward areas of strong performance. This saves time and reduces the risk of error associated with manual inputs.
Second, custom algorithms can be designed using proprietary technology to analyse the data and predict better-performing impressions, generating much higher conversion rates than human optimisation alone.
Third, once an outcome is defined for a campaign, AI can be used to run literally thousands of tests in real-time to pinpoint exactly the right time and price, down to minutiae -- fractions of a penny in the case of price -- to win media placement bids in an ad exchange. This continuous process creates a feedback loop to inform buys and ensure that ad placements are as effective as they can be.
But AI is not the black box some people perceive it to be. Far from being switched on and left to its own devices, AI requires careful stewardship from highly talented individuals.
Putting the intelligence in artificial intelligence
AI-driven advertising campaigns require significant input from data scientists and engineers, who are increasingly important assets in advertising.
Data scientists define the fundamental elements of the campaign, selecting and testing algorithms at a granular level according to available data; ensuring that these algorithms line up with the core business objectives of brands.
Engineers take the hands-on role during the campaign by preparing, customising, and directing algorithms toward the desired outcomes.
The customisation aspect of this process is a particularly valuable capability because it requires skills restricted to a select few, while being an important step in the application of AI.
Automating elements of the media-buying process is no use if these efforts cannot be customised to the increasingly custom-KPIs set by brands.
Talent beyond tech
It’s not just the scientists, engineers, and members of the pure technology teams who drive successful AI initiatives. In a connected media-buying environment, AI can free up time for talent to concentrate on strategy and creativity, rather than the more tedious and imprecise aspects of media planning that are more accurately handled through algorithms.
Therefore, businesses need as much talent in planning, buying, and creative areas as they do in technology to reap the rewards of AI across the company and get the best outcome for advertisers
Shoring up supply lines
Getting the most from AI in practice means relying on talented staff who are constantly creating, customising, and refining algorithms, as well as designing the right creative to meet brands’ business objectives.
To that end, advertisers and agencies need to prioritise investment in people -- alongside technology -- to ensure they have teams with the right skills to compete in an increasingly advanced and highly competitive media environment.