Read our new manifesto

How programmatic can unlock the power of AI

Artificial Intelligence

Though artificial intelligence is an undeniable tool in the advertising industry, questions – and indeed hesitations – remain around its effectiveness. The Drum in partnership with Trade Desk addressed the evolution of AI around a brunch roundtable with leading industry luminaries, discussing its uses, challenges and the ways in which advertisers can benefit from implementing machine learning as a wider strategy.

AI may be in its infancy, but it’s already being used behind the scenes in many instances to delegate mundane tasks to machines and more interesting jobs to humans. Reading data, offering recommendations, differentiating prices; there are many uses for AI that can help with informing an advertiser’s decisions and lead to an increase in ROI.

While they can lighten the human load, our roundtable attendees argued that there’s still a long way to go for AI to prove its intelligence, or even creative prowess. They all seemed to agree that at this stage, it’s important for marketers to consider the issues that AI can solve – namely, its ability to sift through and optimize data as well as assess the richness of data. However, some problems prevail with AI, such as the unconscious bias inherited through its creators, something companies are continually striving to work towards overcoming. Establishing ethics around AI use is equally important and also needs to be given increased attention too, they all said.

Combining AI and data to empower brands

We’re entering the “modern digital landscape,” said Digitas’ chief innovation officer Lorenzo Wood where he predicts “programmatic will eat everything else.” How could it not? Programmatic is the obvious next step for the industry to take and one that is already being adopted by many companies and media buyers today as it promises to bolster the consumer’s experience.

Fusing AI and data helps with media buyer’s intuition and experience as well as empower brands. Although like creatives before them, AI needs parameters to be set, according to Publicis UK senior strategist Stuart Williams. He agreed, jobs that could be automated should be, as this approach will only carve out more time for actual creative thinking.

However, questions over trusting the automatic filter within AI were raised, leading some to suggest the importance of installing human metrics at the start of the process to ensure its nuanced judgement matches our own and to make sure that the tool is checking what it’s supposed to. Ultimately, the future of AI remains undefined, because it’s still so new to the industry and we’re still working out its role – through trial and error. But without a doubt, carefully balancing tech with creativity will help businesses ultimately succeed, said Anna Forbes, the general manager at Trade Desk.

The value of AI in programmatic

Machines can be used to make sense of data, but it’s important to check the quality of the data and question where it’s coming from and who the participating audience are. AI definitely has a part to play in reading this data, which will contribute to driving more ROI from each ad dollar. To make sure brands are getting the most out of AI technology, Sam Finnegan, commercial director for programmatic services at Group M suggested the importance of understanding AI metrics, to analyse a campaign’s success.

Retargeting and customisation are two jobs that can be enabled – and better optimized – through AI so they shouldn’t be compromised. They can indeed be delegated to machines instead. Wood from Digitas concurred, saying that delegation is essential. Knowing when to use humans and when to use AI is crucial. “We have great tools for interaction,” he said. “Yet there is a void between our tech and service. Agencies need to acknowledge that consumer habits will change and they need to learn how to respond.” Of course, this will take time but it doesn’t mean it’s a case of better or worse. Without a doubt, there is value in the implementation of AI… and financial rewards to be reaped, he added.

Data and machine power, when combined with human creativity, can undoubtedly create better consumer experiences. AI is a tool; one that the industry still needs to master. Machine power may be transforming the industry and allowing marketers to act like super heroes and do more than they’re currently able to, improving on consumer experiences and the like, but this change is issued with a reminder. Humans are still needed to drive change and technological development.

AI & Programmatic – will that rupture the already fragmented agency models?

AI’s potential to take repeatable, high volume and low value tasks and deliver them at speed will, do doubt, be embraced by agencies and over time AI could transform media agencies and have a major impact on the marketing industry more broadly, said Rachel Quarmby, futures strategy director of Starcom.

But will that fundamentally change the agency landscape as we know it? Mark Holden, Global Strategy Director at Starcom doubts it.

GroupM programmatic consultant, Eduardo Diaz-Ward, added that it will indeed become just part of the armoury for media specialists, data scientists and strategists, and that AI will play a key role in the future of media and programmatic as it could ultimately deliver better brand results and consumer experiences. But not quite rupture the market.

Although the biggest questions about AI’s future still remain. As Wood puts it, “curiosity fuels progress” so whether AI can mimic human curiosity and evolve its learning ability is still to be seen. At this stage, we should embrace and unlock the potential of AI for our sake, to become better and more capable marketers.

Join us, it's free.

Become a member to get access to:

  • Exclusive Content
  • Daily and specialised newsletters
  • Research and analysis