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By Maria Greaves, Assistant editor - branded content

May 28, 2024 | 6 min read

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Be strategic, be curious, be iterative – leaders from StackAdapt and Jellyfish advise how to unlock business growth during programmatic advertising’s AI boom.

StackAdapt's CEO, Vitaly Pecherskiy and The Drum's senior editor for branded content, Jenni Baker talking on a panel

StackAdapt co-founder and CEO gives a view on AI-powered programmatic advertising

Capitalizing on the AI opportunity means prioritizing the development of business acumen over tech know-how. And not seeing it as the solution to every problem. Those were the words of advice from Vitaly Pecherskiy, chief executive officer and co-founder at StackAdapt, for advertisers and marketers looking to lean into the benefits of this fast-emerging technology.

Although AI is set to power up 95% of programmatic advertising in Europe by the end of 2024, Pecherskiy warned: “Don’t hammer everything as a nail,” underlining how the industry shouldn’t pick up their AI tool to try and meet all their business needs.

He was speaking at an exclusive event held at The Drum Labs in London alongside StackAdapt’s director of sales Martin Brown and Jellyfish senior programmatic director Tristram Macdonald. As AI solutions increasingly dominate the programmatic advertising landscape, the panel explored how marketers can get ahead with AI, without getting caught up in its hype.

AI is one way – it’s not the only way

Although AI can influence tangible business outcomes, it isn’t always the answer to every problem, the experts agreed. As Brown said, AI “is not a universal panacea. It still needs good people, sensible business users and use cases to identify what you need it to do.”

Pecherskiy was passionate about the need to approach AI from a strategic, rather than a tactical starting point. He advised marketers to develop a deeper understanding of the problems they’re looking to solve, so they can then assess whether their AI tool has solved those business challenges more effectively and more efficiently.

Creating better marketing outcomes

Nearly four fifths (87%) of advertisers report better campaign performance with AI. That’s in no small part thanks to its ability to create hyper-personalized customer experiences, by predicting user needs and preferences with high accuracy. And its ability to unlock real-time, deeper insights into customer behavior, sentiment, and preferences.

Brown sums up these addressability benefits as “delivering on the promise that marketing’s had for quite a long time, which is personalization at scale – understanding the individual, delivering messages to them and creating more of a value exchange with them.”

Meanwhile, AI’s ability to make real-time adjustments to marketing campaigns means that campaign effectiveness and ROI can be maximized in a matter of days rather than weeks and months. 

Macdonald explained what this lightning speed iteration means for clients and agency teams: “For example, we may want to experiment with how we position different activities such as canoeing or mountain climbing in an ad for a travel client. We can very quickly spin tests on which version works with the audience and which doesn’t. That insight can be used to inform a better, more bespoke, human-made creative.” 

And with that iterative benefit comes some reassurance for creative teams: “Creatives fear that AI is going to come and take their jobs, but actually, we just want to use it for the boring, trial and error work, so they can focus on producing richer ideas,” Macdonald adds.

AI’s ability to empower advertisers to deliver better outcomes will also level up the industry, the panel predicted, with smaller players now having the iteration, creation and optimization tools to take on their bigger competitors.

Swerving the AI dystopia, embracing its utopia

How can marketers remain at the forefront of successfully adopting AI-powered programmatic advertising strategies and integrating them into multichannel campaigns? The message from the panel was loud and clear: view their AI workmate as human-led tech, not as tech that leads humans.

“You still need humans to guide the tools to get something good out of them,” Pecherskiy advised.

For individuals, that means learning how best to work alongside AI tools, to make their job easier, and their output better. For organizations, that means reimagining and restructuring their business around the new technologies. And, as Brown said, that won’t be a 12-24 month process, but a five to 10 year cycle, in a cultural shift which is systemic throughout the entire company, not just the marketing department.

Looking ahead – much to learn

Although Pecherskiy commented that AI is now capable of achieving the outcomes behind its initial conceptualization, there’s still a lot to learn. And so, as we gaze ahead to an AI-enabled future, the advice of the experts is to ask questions, be curious, and adopt a test-and-learn mindset. Brown suggests: “Start with small test cases, like using it to write emails, then scale up from there, without expecting AI to solve everything.”

And, while embracing this fast-emerging technology, marketers would do well to remember that an AI tool is only as good as its data fuel. So, finding the right partners to fulfill those data needs will increasingly be key.

And that’s good news for the agency landscape: Pecherskiy predicts that agencies could add even more value by becoming brands’ data stewards, helping them develop strategies around data usage to plug internal talent gaps increasingly reported by todays’ CMOs.

Watch the highlights video above for more actionable insights and advice on getting the most out of AI in programmatic advertising.

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