Marketers are constantly on the lookout for the next big thing, both when it comes to user demands and the future of the marketing industry. At the moment, many of these conversations focus on automation and AI. While they’ve become the buzzwords of the year, their introduction to the marketing sphere has the potential to dramatically change how we work and raise important questions about the future of marketing. How will the future marketer work with AI? Will it be a battle between humans and machines?
I doubt it. AI will not threaten marketers’ jobs, but it will take the drudgery out of them. Today, marketing still involves a lot of manual tasks. Moving forward, automation can liberate us from the tedious and time-consuming tasks that we don’t want to do. Freedom from this routine gives us back the time to focus on creative and strategic thinking that can move the needle on campaigns.
The status quo
I worked in the media industry before launching Adjust, and I know the pain marketers experienced 20 years ago and still do today. Back then, I wasted so much time thinking and planning for digital campaigns, how to set them up, how to structure them, how to gain more users for our clients. We relied on hunches, not hypotheses. Even when I later moved to work at MTV, a pioneering company that understood the power of digital, it was near-impossible to figure out ROI and how to attribute conversions for our campaigns. I was always looking for a better way to paint a fuller picture of our users, and that sparked the idea that eventually became Adjust.
New technology means the daily drudgery has drastically improved since then, but it still doesn’t run like clockwork. Today, we work with so much data that it’s beyond the human capacity to distill it. And more data means more complexity. When we talk to our clients, we know that they spend much of their day handling very repetitive, manual, data-related tasks.
These are tasks that also require a lot of heavy lifting. Marketers have to acquire, clean and organize data; manually create campaigns for every channel; constantly check in on various dashboards to make sure campaigns are performing well. The list goes on. So, how can AI help ease the burden and promote growth, and shape the future of marketing?
Liberating the excel marketer
The future marketer won’t feel the need to compete with AI, they will co-create with it.
It will largely be driven by demand — humans simply don’t want to deal with the very simple, frequent tasks at scale, but they are better at the strategic or creative decisions. The future marketer will be liberated from a life sentence of reading and sifting through spreadsheets because AI can do it faster.
Essentially, we want to shape a golden age of marketing where technology and humans work seamlessly to create growth – and the most effective advertising ever seen. We’re on the right path, but currently falling short. This argument is echoed in an interesting book, Lemon: How the Advertising Brain Turned Sour by Orlando Wood.
To reach this golden age of advertising, we need to offload routine tasks to machine learning so we can focus on being creative and pushing the boundaries of what marketing can achieve. At the moment, too much focus on technology and mindless tasks means advertising styles have changed to become less effective. The outcome is fact-driven and product-focused ads that move metrics over the short-term, rather than creative and emotional ads that move audiences and have lasting impact.
This is largely due to shifts in industry trends. As Wood observes: “Procurement is making creativity more difficult. Holding companies want to encourage greater profitability by cutting staff and increasing workloads. Specialists are prioritized over generalists. Standardization is valued more than individualization. Reason is more important than emotion.”
The future of marketing
Of course, taking an analytical approach to advertising is important. Marketing decisions will absolutely still be based on data, although not on data alone.
AI will unlock what is really needed to compete and win in marketing: human creativity. It’s the ultimate irony – to be more effective, we need to automate so we can focus on bringing humanity to our work. Data fuels marketing, but we need AI to sift through the data that powers those results. By liberating the Excel marketer, they can focus on the decisions that require creativity and spirit.
Ultimately, it’s the marketers with the best tools and the most creative mindsets who will succeed – and become the growth architects for their brands of tomorrow.
To hear more predictions for 2020, attend our Predictions breakfast event on 21 Jan, register here.