The last year has been transformational but advertising is at a crossroads. We are sitting on learnings and insights powerful enough to fundamentally change our industry, yet without the tools and knowledge to use them, everything might yet come crashing down. We need to understand our audiences and find ways to convert that understanding into engaging conversations.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t bring up transparency and trust in our industry. Since GDPR hit the headlines almost three years ago, the industry has worked hard to react to the need for greater privacy. Yet we continue to be plagued by questions of fraud, the reliability of data, and a creeping sense that consumers are no longer paying attention to online advertising.
Machine learning is often touted as a way for advertisers to gain a better understanding of their audiences, while cutting down on fraudulent or worthless data points. But AI comes in many forms and has applications beyond better data models.
Take ‘Conversational Advertising’. This is any advertising that uses a conversational interface to speak directly to consumers, from smart speakers to banner ads, and they’re allowing us to achieve two major things digital advertising has missed.
The first is to understand who we’re talking to in the most direct way possible, simply by asking them. As Gartner explains,
“Conversational marketing technologies enable interactions between companies and customers that mimic human dialogue … ”
This empowers advertisers who have historically relied on audience data and cookie pools. These indirect methods of knowing who you’re speaking to are prone to error on a huge scale. Visited the Monocle lately? Congratulations, you’re now a high net worth individual. Been to Mumsnet? Hope you like banner ads selling prams and baby formula. The cookie, the audience, these won’t be going away, but what conversational advertising gives us is a direct touch point with consumers that’s based on real interaction.
The second is to offer true customisation of the ad experience. In traditional banners, the design, tone of voice, and overall feel is set in advance and delivered, ideally to the right audience but often not. In a conversational banner the needs and preferences of the consumer can be judged during the interaction and the creative execution changed in real time to fit them.
If this is starting to sound a bit 1984 it needn’t. Part of the conversational trend is a reaction to the overwhelming amounts of personal data needed to run modern digital ad campaigns and the risk this poses to consumers. These are risks that brands are acutely aware of. One high profile case in 2019 saw a fine of £183m for a breach of customer data. But when an AI driven advertisement is personalised based on a real time interaction, the advertiser no longer needs to know who they’re speaking to ahead of time. It allows for the holy grail of personalised ad experiences with far lower levels of intrusive data use.
So, what does this mean for advertisers in 2020? Here are some of my predictions for the year ahead.
Messaging is the natural home for conversational advertising and it’s huge.
“In 2019, it is estimated that 73 trillion messages will have been sent via chat apps; trouncing social media and browser interactions by a significant amount …”
- Ed Preedy, CRO, Cavai
Banner ads don’t work in an environment like WhatsApp which is conversational in nature. If you’re not speaking the same language as the platform you create a disconnect between the user experience and the experience you’re presenting. Get ready for conversational advertising to dominate messaging apps.
A study of 2,000 British adults commissioned by Artefact UK revealed that,
“Six out of ten smart speaker owners (60%) have used them to make a purchase in the past year. In fact, nearly a quarter (22%) said they have done so within the past week”.
It’s not just adoption rates that have rocketed, making people comfortable with the kinds of interactions that were once thought impossible, vocal recognition technology now allows for insights into what a person is feeling; from sarcasm to happiness.
With this, advertisers can understand how their brand is perceived on a level never before seen.
Natural language generation
GPT-2, an open-source A.I. created by Elon Musk’s OpenAI, was recently released to great fanfare. Using NLG advertisers will soon be able to generate infinite variations of meaningful copy in a specific tone of voice.
In application an NLG model can give instant results. Air Canada generated 3% engagement lift with ‘urgency language’, compared to a 5% drop using ‘exclusivity language’ using such a model as the driver.
Happy New Year and here’s to a 2020 full of creativity, conversions and above all at, conversation!
To hear more predictions for 2020, attend our Predictions breakfast event on 21 Jan, register here.