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Technology Open Mic Marketing

How genAI bridges the gap between the audiences you reach and the experiences they enjoy

By Jason Brown, general manager, Cloud and Platform



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June 25, 2024 | 7 min read

Brands have talked about personalization for years. But according to Jason Brown (general manager, Cloud and Platform, Acxiom) resource constraints and a data disconnect have largely excluded creative from that discussion. Now, with the availability of generative AI, he believes marketers can finally bridge that gap and enter an era of true data-driven personalization.

We’ve been talking about data-driven personalization for the last fifteen years. And we’ve been doing it too, at least to some extent.

But there’s always been a disconnect. Data is used extensively to determine the audience (who we’re talking to) and the offer (what we’re talking to them about), but it’s hardly used to inform the content and creative through which people experience the brand.

Now, with generative artificial intelligence (genAI), we can finally bridge that gap and tailor ad creative using the same data we apply to audiences and offers. Before we explore how, let’s find out a little more about that data disconnect.

The data disconnect explained

Over the years, marketing has become progressively more relevant and personalized. It’s like we’ve been dialing up the resolution on the experiences consumers have with brands. We’ve reached a point where we can use incredibly rich data about lifestyles, life stages, interests, and preferences to understand what’s relevant and timely to specific audiences.

But brands rarely use any of that data to determine how audiences receive the campaign. The ad creatives people see are usually put together based on broad contextual and demographic data about the type of customer the brand thinks they want to reach. And this makes its relevance to the individual a little fuzzy.

Consider, for example, two people of a similar age and income who are both in the market for an SUV. They’re likely to see the same ad from an auto brand, even if their life stage, interests, and motivation for buying the vehicle are wildly different. Brands make the creative as resonant as possible for a broad demographic, but it ends up not quite hitting the mark for anyone.

A few years ago, this break in the process was understandable. We had the insight to personalize ad creative at a granular level, but no brand had the resources to create thousands of creative variations, let alone measure success. Producing ads with broad appeal for wide demographic groups was an acceptable compromise for the time. But times are changing.

Enabling creative personalization with genAI

With genAI, generating thousands of versions of ad creative is suddenly a realistic prospect for your brand. Because the technology allows the creation, ideation, and editing of content at lightspeed, the production of variations can be automated without sacrificing quality. GenAI is turning up the resolution on ad creative and allowing it to be tailored using the same data that you apply to the audience and the offer. And you can train the genAI model to customize content generation to your own unique needs.

For the first time, the data and technology are now in place to enable granular tailoring of content, informed by the same rich attributes used to create audiences, and elevated by the scale and speed of genAI. Taken together, these elements will add up to a new standard for customer experience.

Remember the two people we talked about earlier who were both in the market for an SUV and were seeing the same ad? Now, with genAI, one might be shown a video ad that showcases the capacity and practicality of the vehicle for transporting a growing family. The other may see one that illustrates the vehicle’s environmental credentials and suitability for outdoor adventures. By carrying the data-driven approach through to the actual engagement, the auto brand leverages the power of genAI to create a much more individually relevant experience for each of its potential customers.

Start with a strong data foundation

Powering genAI with data is, of course, the exciting part. But the quality, accuracy and completeness of your data is critical to make the process work. After all, AI’s ability to deliver value is directly linked to the data it is trained on. Talking about CX and AI, our chief revenue officer Tate Olinghouse explains, “Getting real value from AI means having the right infrastructure and expertise in place to manage it and requires – above all else – a strong, accurate data foundation.”

Both brands and agencies are starting to understand the importance of high-quality data in effectively engaging audiences. In a recent article about the strong performance of Foote, Cone & Belding (FCB) compared with other creative agencies, CEO Tyler Turnbull credits part of their success to the strong foundation of data on which they build “ambitious, bold, creative ideas” that can function as an “economic multiplier” for brands.

So, why must we bridge the personalization gap?

Why does it matter whether content and creative are personalized? If your brand is getting ads in front of the right people, with offers that are tailored to their needs, is it really a problem if the creative itself is a little generic?

The reality is the creative is the most human part of the entire process. It’s the part that makes an instant connection (or not) with the customer. As people scroll through their social feeds or decide whether to skip a video ad, you only have seconds to engage them before their attention moves elsewhere.

At this point people aren’t thinking about the offer. Whether the product is a good value, whether they can afford it, whether it meets their needs – that all comes later. Their response is more foundational. What am I seeing? What impact is it having on me? How is it making me feel? Is it inviting me to learn more?

Audiences will decide whether or not to engage with your content and creative long before they start to consider the offer – often before they even know which brand is being promoted. Our latest research, Where Marketing and AI Collide, reveals the extent to which consumers respond positively to personalized advertising, with almost half (47%) saying they are more likely to click on an ad if it contains tailored content. That’s what makes genAI’s ability to use granular data to make an instant connection through relevance and personalization so significant.

GenAI is allowing brands to move further along the personalization spectrum than ever before. We can now use data and identity resolution across the entire workflow – from audience to content creation – ensuring each customer has the best possible experience of the brand. By bridging the gap, and connecting data and identity throughout the entire process so it informs the creative as well as the audience and the offer, your brand can finally realize the promise of personalization to deliver truly engaging customer experiences.

Learn more about how Acxiom services can be the key to your martech partnership success.

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