Gathering with Purpose in a Time of Uncertainty: The Network Advertising Initiative 2018 Member Summit

April 19, 2018 — by MediaMath0


Last week, we had the pleasure of representing MediaMath at the Network Advertising Initiative (NAI) Member Summit. The NAI staff did an incredible job of hosting and educating members of the ad tech ecosystem while facilitating thought-provoking dialogue. Despite new European regulations, and increased scrutiny of online advertising due to the ongoing Facebook/Cambridge Analytica story, we left the Summit with a clarity of purpose.  The NAI’s message was clear: the digital advertising industry must demonstrate to consumers and policymakers that we believe in what we do, recognize we can do better, and want to engage in a meaningful dialogue with policy advocates, Internet users and their elected representatives about data protection.

We had the privilege to participate in two panels.  One addressed consumer sentiment toward interest-based advertising.  We face a mandate to modernize and mature our technology and practices to ensure consumers’ digital dignity, preferences and experiences are upheld and improved. This mandate is the foundation of our Consumer-First vision, and we are implementing it throughout our products, partnerships and alliances. The message we are taking to policymakers is that we hear consumers, we know they want more transparency and control and we are working to provide them with it.

The other panel explored the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and adtech’s innovative response to it. MediaMath is working overtime with industry peers and competitors, as well as advertiser clients and publishers, to construct a transparency and choice framework, designed to address certain requirements of the GDPR. Importantly, doing so forces us to better digital advertising’s value proposition to consumers everywhere.

Throughout the day, we heard from other industry experts who discussed important legal, policy and technical issues, including the state of data protection and politics in the United States. The panelists emphasized that while legislation governing the digital economy is not imminent, attitudes may change following November’s midterm elections. Accordingly, now is not the time to wait and see; instead, we must seize this moment to educate legislators and their staffs in Washington, DC about our industry and the value we provide to consumers and content creators.

Our colleagues emphasized that ad tech and the digital economy could face more immediate threats from states’ well-intentioned desires to enact privacy protections where Congress has failed to act. Such regulations could make it much more difficult, if not impossible, for ad tech to continue supporting the free and open Internet we all love. A splintered digital economy is in no one’s interests, so the industry should work with Congress on comprehensive legislation that upholds consumers’ rights to privacy and security while meeting publishers’ need to monetize their content. Pressure from the states, combined with the GDPR’s long shadow, could push the federal government to think more seriously about what an American answer to Internet governance, including privacy rights and data protection standards, should look like.

We believe that the NAI is well positioned to lead our industry forward towards a fairer future for all participants. The NAI leadership, including its Board of Directors, of which MediaMath is a member, does not shy away from the challenges facing the industry. These are times that call for reflection, action, a sense of joint purpose and a commitment to do better by the consumer and better inform the public of our efforts. We at MediaMath will do what we can to contribute to a better future. We thank our friends at the NAI for letting us be a part of the team.


Cheri Bessellieu

Cheri Bessellieu is the Associate General Counsel, Privacy at MediaMath.She is responsible for ensuring MediaMath’s privacy and data protection compliance while enabling business innovation. As the global privacy landscape continues to evolve, Cheri regularly handles complex legal and policy issues surrounding data processing.She participates in domestic and international self-regulatory groups and is an IAPP Certified Information Privacy Professional.

Before joining MediaMath, Cheri spent time in private practice at Weil, Gotshal & Manges.She holds a JD from Fordham University School of Law and a BA from the University of Pennsylvania.

Latest posts by Cheri Bessellieu (see all)

    Daniel Sepulveda

    As VP Government Relations, Danny Sepulveda joins MediaMath after spending the last decade at the highest levels of the US government. Prior to working in the Obama administration, Danny served as Ambassador, Deputy Assistant Secretary in the U.S. State Department under Secretary of State John Kerry, where he travelled the world working on high-level initiatives including cyber policy, digital economy, internet governance and human rights. Danny’s role is focused on shaping, implementing and communicating MediaMath’s policies and practices around the consumer value proposition, privacy protection and public policy.

    Charlie Simon

    Charlie Simon is the Policy and Product Privacy Manager at MediaMath. A DC native and veteran of self-regulatory and Silicon Valley data privacy efforts, Charlie leads MediaMath’s international engagement as Vice Chair of IAB Europe’s Transparency & Consent Framework.

    Charlie graduated from Oberlin College with a BA in Philosophy and has been an IAPP Certified Information Privacy Professional since 2011.

    Latest posts by Charlie Simon (see all)


      IAB Europe’s New GDPR Transparency and Consent Framework – A Unique Opportunity for Publishers

      April 17, 2018 — by Lewis Rothkopf0


      This post originally appeared on the IAB Europe blog. Read the full post here

      MediaMath believes that the GDPR embraces one of our core beliefs: that respecting consumer privacy is a necessity and an opportunity, not an option or burden. Consumers have long been telling us—through opt-outs, ad blocking, and adoption of ad-free subscription services—that they are unhappy with the current state of advertising. This unhappiness stems from the perception that advertising is not balancing its capacity to provide engaging and informative content with the obligation to provide consumers with transparency about, and control over, their digital experience. For these reasons, the GDPR creates a valuable opportunity by encouraging advertisers to form more explicit relationships with consumers and provide advertising that they can feel good about, interact with in more meaningful ways, and trust.

      Over the last 12 months, IAB Europe has developed a Transparency & Consent Framework (the Framework) in consultation with stakeholders across the industry which helps website operators become GDPR-ready. The Framework offers publishers new tools to provide transparency into the digital advertising ecosystem on which they rely to help monetise their service. Specifically, consumers are provided with clear information about data use by the publisher and its trusted partners. Another benefit for publishers is that they can collect higher rates from data-based buys, leading to increased revenue.

      Additionally, the Framework offers the advertising ecosystem a common language by which to communicate consumer choices around the processing of their data for advertising and other purposes. The Framework is the best mechanism on the table today for advancing the ecosystem in a manner that benefits all stakeholders, including consumers.

      Having been through a public consultation period which ended on 8 April, the final version of the Framework is set to launch mid-April 2018. (For more information and resources, visit the dedicated website here.) The registration process is now open for Vendors and Consent Management Providers to apply for approved status in the context of the Framework.


      The Final Countdown: GDPR In Focus

      April 16, 2018 — by Lauren Fritsky0


      GDPR comes into effect in six weeks. Are publishers, advertisers and tech providers prepared?

      At AdExchanger’s PROGRAMMATIC I/O event in San Francisco last week, Alice Lincoln, VP, Data Policy and Governance at MediaMath, joined other legal and data experts from the ecosystem to discuss compliance and GDPR’s likely impact on the programmatic marketing discipline. You can watch the full panel below here.


      Big Data in the Age of the Consumer

      April 12, 2018 — by John Slocum0


      Programmatic marketing is entirely dependent on big data. Our ability to deliver a compelling consumer experience requires our ability to understand and orchestrate data across marketing channels— there are far more today than a decade ago, and new ones emerging. This is more important than ever as consumers are not just demanding the right message at the right time, but also control over both their data and their advertising experiences.

      Where we are in this journey

      Marketers are doing amazing things with data, yet we often still generate much heat and little light. Data are noisy, inconsistent, provide conflicting signals and don’t come with instructions. When programmatic came onto the scene over 10 years ago, we were optimizing with data from remnant display inventory. Device and channel proliferation have expanded the volume and types of data to include mobile, video, connected TV, DOOH, virtual reality, social and more. Each channel offers a distinct signal and data structure; cross-channel orchestration requires we align those structures for consistency.

      Data tools are still new, flexible, evolving and changing. This is good, because it means our capabilities are always growing and improving. This is challenging (and fun for a caffeinated data engineer) because it means best practices haven’t yet been established. We get to write them.

      Enter consumers into the big data story. Advertising has failed them by way of annoying banners, popovers delivering intrusive experiences, and surprisingly creepy oversights such as long-ago purchased product advertisements that follow us around. And then there’s the issue of consumers not knowing what is being done with their data.

      This is something we need to solve. Adtech must re-establish a balance with consumers that delivers value, that puts them in control of their advertising experiences through the proper application and education of the use of data.

      What’s next to be done

      The technical challenges are “easy.” We’ve been scaling these hills by obsessing on marketers’ problems, experimenting with solutions to address them and finding marketers willing to partner with us on further proving out those solutions. We will keep doing that, the data set will continue to expand, the tools will mature. What’s essential for MediaMath is that we continue to solve the right problems with our focus on helping our clients be successful. And, really, doing that means speaking to our clients’ clients: consumers.

      For these other challenges, the philosophical, ethical ones, we need to perk up our ears. We only solve for consumers’ concerns first by listening to them. Getting this right means consumers control their data, have visibility into their data, and do not have their data used in ways that might surprise, annoy, offend or even hurt them. Getting this really right means doing all of those things and helping marketers to create valuable experiences with data—relevant, timely, unobtrusive content. This is at the core of our consumer-first philosophy.

      We’re seeing consumers abroad taking an interest in privacy, and taking back control. As we build to support consumers, we need to remember this is a global mandate. At MediaMath, this has taken shape in the form of new product features, services and other commitments to deliver outcomes, transparency and control to consumers now in addition to marketers. We are reviewing everything we do for alignment with these consumer-first principles and adjusting as needed.

      We owe consumers a better deal, more control and real value from advertising. Data are the building blocks we use to get there.

      John Slocum will be speaking on the panel “Activating Big Data Across the Enterprise” at Qubole’s Data Platforms conference in Phoenix today. Follow @MediaMath on Twitter with the hashtag #DataPlatforms2018 for real-time updates throughout the conference.


      The Future of Identity: Why We’ve Joined DigiTrust

      March 29, 2018 — by John Slocum0


      Digital identity today is deeply fragmented. Browsers, device manufacturers, telecommunication and media companies, marketers and the industry infrastructure that connects them have created dozens of partial solutions without clear standards.  The result is a patchwork experience, mixing surprising oversights (my TV provider doesn’t know enough not to offer a subscription I already have?) with intrusive ads that no one likes.

      Not people-based! “Identity-based.”

      Consider identity a pyramid. The consumer at the top, devices at the bottom. As an industry, we have the ability to identify devices as never before, while the number and types of devices are proliferating at record pace (thanks Moore’s Law). To make sense of this growth curve, we need to simplify our approach, and focus first on the foundation. Stable, persistent device IDs must anchor this identity pyramid to compose an accurate, anonymous digital representation of consumers.

      Without stability, achieving fidelity on identity is a Sisyphean task—each consumer visit to a different publisher site, cookie clearing, device or browser switch means we have to sync, re-identify or jump to new screens, just to support the consistent experience that consumers deserve.

      Only with a consistent, stable foundation for identity can we offer consumers the experience and choice they deserve. Sure, we can achieve clarity on cross-device and household identities, but this also enables support for consumer control that is respected, persistent and far-reaching. We’re already building mechanisms that give consumers control of their data and experiences, now more crucial than ever with GDPR coming in less than two months. With a scaled, persistent and shared device ID, the Internet experience is just better, faster and safer.

      What we’re going to do

      We believe in a neutral, shared device namespace that enables global scale and proprietary value add. That’s why today we are announcing that we have joined the DigiTrust ID consortium, an independent, neutral entity governed by industry leaders focused on solving tomorrow’s problems. This consortium is not from commercial parties, but it’s for them. More importantly, it’s for the consumer.

      You read that right—a neutral and standardized device ID will improve a consumer’s Internet experience by supporting privacy, reducing page load time, increasing the relevance of marketing messages and enabling the diverse ecosystem of publishers and online platforms that they rely on. It does this by heralding fewer syncs, fewer unnecessary touchpoints and less referrer pass-arounds.

      For publishers, DigiTrust presents a no-strings-attached, stable, scaled device namespace upon which they will transact with nearly all open digital demand, without loss. This means better monetization of opportunities. This means a broad consumer-facing solution enabling greater consumer engagement. This means reduced third-party tags on your content for improved page experiences and stability. This means our friends and partners can build the identity solution of their choice atop the DigiTrust ID.

      We believe this is the way forward for identity for the industry, one that will put consumers back at the heart of marketing so they can opt in to experiences that they truly love.


      Moving Toward Digital Marketing that Everyone Loves: The “Consumer-First” Philosophy

      March 27, 2018 — by Daniel Sepulveda0


      At MediaMath, we love marketing.  We know that a lot of folks don’t, and we are committed to fixing that problem.  We believe that when marketing is done well, it serves the useful purpose of connecting products and services to the people that need or want them.  This increases the value exchange between consumers and marketers, boosts the efficiency of economic exchange and even helps create jobs and sustain communities.  We believe consumers should be able to browse a safe Internet where their data is used in transparent ways, in a manner consistent with their preferences and expectations, to further develop the vibrant digital economy and to support content creators of all sizes, be they news juggernauts or your favorite blog.

      The Facebook-Cambridge Analytica story has drawn renewed attention to how consumers’ information is used and distributed. This is only the latest impetus for a broader public-private conversation on the health of the digital ecosystem and efforts by the industry to build solutions that put the consumer and his or her digital dignity first, with accountability and transparency.  To our mind, having that conversation is not just the right thing to do—it is the smart thing to do.

      Because we want everyone to love marketing and feel in control of their experiences, MediaMath is doubling down on a “consumer-first” philosophy and creating a set of norms for operation.  We want to work not only with our colleagues in the industry, but also with civil society, academia and policymakers to make the marketing that consumers encounter online more relevant, less intrusive and higher-quality. To that end, MediaMath is innovating new technologies and working to improve industry self-regulatory standards and best practices in the following ways:

      • Eliminating patchwork marketing by building solutions on our own and in concert with our partners to provide marketers with a unified, pseudonymous mechanism for interacting with consumers across devices that includes strong protections for their privacy and preferences.
      • Giving consumers clearer, simpler and more meaningful transparency and control over the advertising they see.
      • Engaging with self-regulatory and trade associations, as well as civil society and academia, to strengthen the industry’s consumer privacy and user experience standards.
      • Creating a government affairs arm to proactively collaborate with lawmakers and regulators in improving the digital marketing ecosystem.

      We aim to help create incentives and an information feedback loop that drives the development of marketing that people love—literally love, and are happy to have seen. We want you to work with us toward that end, communicate with us on how to do better and help us create a marketing ecosystem from which everyone receives value. We look forward to opening a dialogue with all stakeholders, including consumers and policymakers, on what more needs to be done.



      GDPR Is A Force For Good: MediaMath’s Zawadzki

      February 2, 2018 — by Amarita Bansal0


      This video originally appears on Beet.TV.

      Looming new European legislation governing how global companies track and process consumer personal data seem to pose a big challenge to the new-wave of pumped-up ad-tech practitioners.

      But one boss at the centre of the ad targeting boom thinks the so-called “GDPR”, whose final compliance deadline comes this May, is a force for good that will help clean up ad practices and put consumers in a better relationship with marketers.

      “Advertising has not done a very good job of advertising itself,” MediaMath CEO Joe Zawadzki says in this video interview with Beet.TV. “I think GDPR is this wonderful opportunity for the industry to basically say, ‘Let’s make all of those things that we’re doing explicit’.”

      New measures in the GDPR, which passed in 2016, include:

      • tighter consent conditions for the collection of citizens’ data.
      • consumers can instruct companies to stop processing their data.
      • automated decision-making and profiling decisions must be made clear.
      • consumers can request decisioning by automated processes be stopped and handled by a human instead.
      • they have the right to request an explanation of automated decision-making.
      • they can request free access, rectification and deletion of data.

      And the rules must be followed by any global company processing EU citizens’ data, with penalties of up to 4% of global turnover.

      But Zawadzki sees the positives. “What is exciting about it, I think, is having an explicit relationship with the end-consumer,” he says.

      “Let’s have a consumer Bill of Rights. Let’s be true consumer advocates and let’s use this as some mode of force to not just do it for the EU, but to use this and decide that what makes sense for a global business is to have a global set of standards.”

      Views of executives interviewed for Beet.TV’s GDPR series range everywhere from “not much” to “world-changing”.

      Almost two years after GDPR was implemented, we have variously heard views that many businesses remain underprepared, many ad-tech investors remain in the dark, that GDPR could have little impact and that it will fundamentally re-shape digital advertising.

      There is one consensus – that GDPR is coming at the same time as a general movement toward people-based marketing, a tactic in which advertisers develop real, consensual relationships with consumers, rather that simply watching them from afar.

      All that may be true, but GDPR is a policy instrument. Whilst Zawadzki is eager to adhere to it, he thinks a common technology infrastructure may be required, to underpin an ecosystem in which everyone sings from the same hymnsheet.

      “Some of the things that we are missing are some true identity standards – in terms of the use of consumer data, what’s PI, what’s anonymized, what is the role of synonymous in these things,” he adds. “There’s some definitions that continue, I think, to require clarity. That may not, in fact, come pre-May.

      “To actually create advertising that works, we have to create those technical specifications and maybe even those companies in order to manage that.”

      To read the full article, click here. 


      GDPR is Coming: Marketers Must Prioritize Transparency

      February 1, 2018 — by Amarita Bansal0


      This article originally appears on MarTech Series here.

      We spoke to executives across the globe to identify the top challenges that marketers would face in 2018. The common message was — “It’s time to delight the customers. Dare or risk dropping out of the league.”

      GDPR is Coming: Marketers Must Prioritize Transparency

      Top business leaders from the data management industry have spoken to us on how GDPR would impact the ecosystem and customer experiences along the buyer’s journey. GDPR is definitely one of the top challenges for marketers in 2018.

      Alice Lincoln, Vice President, Data Policy and Governance, MediaMath, said, “With GDPR set to take effect in May 2018, many companies are preparing to adjust their business processes and technology accordingly – especially marketers. In the new year, we’ll see the increased scrutiny of major 1P players’ privacy, security, anti-fraud, brand safety, and election-related practices (Facebook, Google, etc.)”

      Alice continued, “This level of scrutiny will also extend to 3P companies, and improved industry standards will emerge to proactively address these concerns. There will also be continued momentum in terms of walled gardens’ evolution to provide marketers with transparency that resembles that of 3P companies. Further, we’ll see ongoing developments in improved industry-wide standards to accommodate emerging technologies, including connected TV and IoT.”

      Read the full article here.


      What is Customer-Centric Marketing?

      January 29, 2018 — by Laura Carrier0


      It’s seems like obvious advice to tell marketers to focus on the customer. After all, the whole idea behind marketing is to influence the customer’s actions and decisions.

      In practice though, many marketers aren’t executing customer-centric marketing, they’re employing campaign-focused marketing or maybe marketer-focused marketing. What’s the difference? In customer-centric marketing, you are first and foremost focused on the customer, their behaviors, their experiences, their needs. With campaign-focused marketing, the focus is on you, the marketer, and your business outcomes. It’s about what you did and what results you got.

      That may seem like a subtle difference, but right now there’s a split between the two approaches. In his 2016 Letter to Shareholders, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos dismissed product-focused and technology-focused businesses in favor of “obsessive customer focus.” That focus has certainly helped Amazon shake up the market. Customer-centric marketing doesn’t mean forgetting about your business outcomes. But it does mean first focusing on the customer such that you satisfy the customer first, which will lead to better outcomes for your business. Here’s a look at what you need to bring that kind of customer-centricity to your business.

      The Strategy for Customer-Centric Marketing

      Customer-focused is the second of our six pillars of effective marketing (the six in order are data-driven, customer-focused, omnichannel, integrated customer engagement, optimized messaging and comprehensive understanding). Of this half dozen, customer focus demands the most major mind shift for marketers.

      In short, the idea is to take a step back from standard marketing processes. In terms of planning, optimization and measurement, consider the customer first. For example, stop comparing how this year’s Halloween campaign did versus last year’s or worrying about how much to spend on mobile versus display on Labor Day. Those are the wrong questions since they are campaign-focused. Make planning & optimization decisions at the customer level (and in real time) — should Jane Doe receive a display ad or a mobile ad when she is researching Halloween costumes? Should she be served an ad for BOGO or for free shipping? Instead of looking at campaigns for June and July, for instance, run a longitudinal analysis over a six-month period to see how all of your 18 campaigns performed in the aggregate against your customers’ behaviors. Did you positively influence your customers’ behaviors during that period? And how much did you influence them — did your marketing lead to incremental impact? That will tell you if your marketing was effective.

      In general, customer centricity means thinking about the products and solutions you are using in terms of their customer-actionability — for instance cross-device implementation, sequential marketing, predictive analytics, incremental lift, multi-touch attribution. You are looking at the success of your overall marketing engagements, not a snapshot of how one campaign or one aspect of a campaign performed. The goal is to optimize customer behavior.

      How to Implement Customer-Centric Marketing

      One primary difference between marketer-focused marketing and customer-centric marketing is the metrics you’re tracking. There are three ways to track changes in customer behavior. On the upper funnel, you’re looking at incremental brand perception. Tools for measuring brand perception include brand perception surveys, which should be focused on the perception change, not awareness and consideration changes, as perception change is what drives behavioral change.

      On the lower funnel, the relentless focus should be on incremental return on ad spend (ROAS). Such analyses are based on randomized control trials (CRTs) like the ones used in medical testing. A CRT measures the effects of exposure by including a holdout group (often around 20% of the potential audience) to see if the ad actually influenced a desired behavior.

      In the mid funnel, customer-centric marketers are looking for key performance indicators (KPIs) that correlate to incremental ROAS. For instance, clicking on a display ad actually has a low or negative correlation to making a purchase. That’s because display clicks are usually fraudulent, accidental or made by serial clickers. Mid-funnel indicators are specific to your business and your customers, so running correlation analysis to understand which customer behaviors/signals lead to incremental ROAS is imperative. And then run campaigns that focus around driving those particular customer behaviors. Opening emails, reading a blog post, visiting a product page and signing up for a loyalty program are all examples of behaviors that could have a positive correlation for your business.

      Note that these metrics are very different from the typical KPIs involved in a marketer-focused marketing campaign, where marketers choose to optimize and measure their campaigns against customer behaviors that aren’t driving true business outcomes like click-throughs, engagement and impressions. Focusing on these not only means that you are not driving business outcomes, but it also leads to frustration for your customers as you try to drive them to behaviors that are irrelevant to the intent of their engagement with your business.

      Reorienting marketing around this customer-centric mission requires a radical shift in planning, execution and management. It also means more cross-team collaboration than you usually find in marketing departments organized around functions, channels or the funnel.

      The benefits are tremendous in terms of less waste, enhanced customer relationships and, ultimately, strong business growth. If you’re frustrated with your current marketing, then maybe it’s time to try a new approach and shift the focus to the customer first.


      How to Tell AI Hype from Reality

      January 11, 2018 — by Todd Wasserman0


      In 2017 it was hard to escape talk of artificial intelligence. Gartner claimed that AI had reached the peak of its hype cycle and deep learning and machine learning were at the “peak of inflated expectation.”

      Such excitement is par for the course in tech. Some have compared AI in 2017 to cloud computing a decade or so before. Though the cloud was hyped relentlessly, actual adoption was slow. AI may be on a similar path.  A 2017 SAS survey of European business execs, for instance, showed just 24% had the right infrastructure in place for AI.

      Is the market ready for AI? That’s a moot question because marketers are already using many AI technologies. Some have been using for years without calling it AI. But other AI applications are still years or even decades away. Here’s how to tell the difference:

      AI reality

      Most AI applications are improved versions of what we would have called “data mining” a few years ago. The difference is that there is often a predictive layer. Marketers are now using these technologies in varying degrees:

      • Content curation/recommendations: IBM Watson teamed up with UnderArmour in 2016 to create a personal health consultant that uses a particular consumer’s data to craft a personalized training routine. For instance, a 45 year-old man training for a 10K could use UA’s Cognitive Coaching system to get advice on diet and exercise goals, which are based on data from other consumers in the same demo. More recently, IBM conducted a pilot that involved integrating its Watson Cognitive Bidder with MediaMath’s DSP to incorporate more unstructured data like the weather or location to fine-tune real-time buying decisions that address consumers’ current states of mind.

      • Natural language processing: Consumers telegraph their needs via search queries and social media chatter. But because of the way we express ourselves, translating that language into data can be tricky. For instance, as Stanford computer scientist Chris Manning recently pointed out, “terrific” used to mean “to terrify” and has only fairly recently taken on a positive meaning. Thanks to wide daily exposure to natural language, machines are getting much better at picking up on such nuances. Some companies even analyze incoming sales calls to unlock patterns and opportunities.

      • Image recognition: This is another AI technology that has become so common that it’s mundane. We take it for granted, for example, that Facebook will be able to “tag” people in photos we post. For marketers, image recognition provides analysis of visual imagery. U.S. consumers now post some 3.25 billion photos a day. Marketers can analyze such images to get clues about behavior and brand affinity.

      • Ad targeting. Of course, one of the most popular deep learning applications right now is ad targeting. By analyzing data, machines can optimize ad performance via targeting. Marketers use this tool to improve their ROAS. In theory at least, your ad targeting keeps improving over time.

      • Customer service/chatbots. One bad customer service experience can undermine millions in advertising. That’s why some brands are turning to chatbots to handle such inquiries. Experiments with voice-based chatbots have found that they can solve consumers’ queries 82% of the time and leave humans to handle the more complex queries. In addition, brands like 1-800 Flowers and Whole Foods have used chatbots to establish a brand presence on Facebook’s Messenger app.

      AI hype

      While those technologies are in use right now, some AI being discussed won’t be of use for years — maybe even decades. Those include:

      • General intelligence: This is the type of AI usually portrayed in Hollywood movies and sci-fi novels. In reality, today’s AI is “narrow AI,” meaning the intelligence is focused on a single task, like playing chess or understanding spoken language. Exhibiting a well-rounded intelligence — one that can make quick connections and exhibit wisdom — is still a long way away, if it is ever possible.

      • Complete automation: Another fear about AI is that it will monopolize all jobs handled by human workers. While some tasks — like customer service — are increasingly going this way, they are often shifting the work of human workers, rather than replacing it completely. As a corollary, look at the spread of ATMs. While you might think that they would have replaced human tellers, instead there were more because ATMs made it cheaper to open new branches and more branches meant more jobs for human tellers.

      • Creativity: In advertising, AI can be used for “dynamic creative,” which swaps in marketing messages based on available data. (For instance, you might see an ad for a sunny vacation in Rio if the temperature has just plummeted near you.) But what machines are really doing is grabbing elements that a human has created. While AI systems can now compose music and even write Harry Potter fan-fiction and create movie trailers though, humans are still required to exercise judgment. An AI system is great at presenting random combinations based on exposure, but a human is still needed to make sense of it. Making unusual connections (like Jay-Z’s sampling of “It’s a Hard Knocks Life” from Annie) is still beyond even the most advanced AI system.

      As we move on from a year in which AI hype has peaked, 2018 will likely be a building year in which businesses and marketers pragmatically apply the technologies that affect real-world outcomes. Meanwhile, AI itself will keep improving, expanding the palette of what’s possible and what will be possible in decades to come.