Richard Robinson, MD EMEA at Turn, discusses the potential of artificial intelligence in the AdTech sector.

In 1950, Alan Turing asked a provocative question: Can machines think? Now, the answer is clear.

Evidence of machine learning is all around us. From simply performing a Google search which learns from previous searches, to services like Netflix which provide the viewer with relevant film recommendations based on earlier inputs.

But, despite the advantages, the perception of machine learning isn’t all positive. Speculation around whether machines will “take our jobs” has been prevalent when discussing the technology. In the marketing industry, the increasing use of tech in campaign delivery is leading many to question how machine learning will impact the marketer and whether it will negatively impact their role.

But setting aside the myths, developed mainly from science fiction movies over the past decades, tools like IBM’s Watson which are capable of making decisions and “thinking” are not replacements for people.

They are in fact tools that enable marketers do their jobs better, removing mindless slog work of advertising and freeing them up to focus on more strategic and creative projects.

AI and marketing

The advertising world got by for a century or so without AI, so why does it need it now?  The short answer is that the media environment has become increasingly complex.

It is now beyond human capability to reach an individual online via his or her various devices. To have a clear conversation with me Richard the consumer – you would have to process huge amounts of data. That’s not because I’m unusually complex, but rather because I switch between multiple devices – a trait of almost all consumers.

Additionally, there’s the need to be able to react in real-time. You have to access, process and act on data in milliseconds. You also have to do what Google does, which is look at the history of clicks and be able to serve up an ad that is statistically the most likely to draw engagement.

The shift in mindset

While such tools offer exciting possibilities, marketers often aren’t using them to their fullest.

That’s because there’s a big shift in understanding from marketers’ traditional sphere of knowledge – how to buy ads on television and print – and understanding how to use algorithms, technology, data and machine intelligence to engage.

In particular, the data pieces are really key because as more consumption goes through digital channels, it creates a data resource for marketers.

This is the essence of programmatic. However, many marketers still see programmatic as simply a line item on a budget, telling their agencies how much TV, print and programmatic to buy.

This is a huge missed opportunity. Programmatic isn’t only a means of buying media; it’s actually a technology to reach the end user.

The way forward

While marketers should have a grasp of the potential of programmatic, they don’t need to master all of its inner workings.

Just like a Formula One driver doesn’t need to know how to assemble an engine, a marketer can look at a tech partner like Turn as the facilitator of a “What Works Machine.”

Most marketers realise that the most effective way to reach consumers now is via personalised, one-on-one conversations. To do that, you need a What Works Machine that uses machine learning.
This should be viewed as a tool that helps empower marketers.

Just as AI is prompting autonomous cars, robots and smart appliances, it can help marketers gain quick access to game-changing insights and facilitate intelligent conversations with consumers across all of their devices. It can also help marketers allocate resources more efficiently by letting them know when to go big and when to pull back.

In other words, to answer Turing’s question from long ago: Computers can do huge amounts of mental heavy lifting, freeing the marketer to focus on high-level, strategic and more creative work. Machines can think, but we shouldn’t let them do our thinking for us.

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