The Role of AI in Redefining the Programmatic Advertising Experience

March 14, 2018 — by Emma Williams

This article originally appeared on MarTech Advisor.

Artificial intelligence: What is it really beyond a big buzzword? Is it machine learning? Is it just hype? Let’s take a deeper look under the hood of this hot technology to see how industries like marketing can harness it.

What AI does

AI is the umbrella term used to describe the ability for machines to complete tasks that they can increasingly perform better over time. Machine learning involves getting computers to perform these tasks without being programmed in a rules-based way to do them.

AI collects all the right data, including unstructured data, from all the right sources and extracts actionable insights at lightning speed so marketers can make better decisions faster than ever. This capability gets smarter over time as it learns from new data and a marketer’s systems, processes and decisions. AI also knows which data assets to leverage in which execution channel. There is clear benefit to marketers here, but there is also the promise of better experiences for consumers as they receive more personalized ads not just based on their interests, but also on their sentiment and the context of their buying environment.

What is possible today

In a marketing context, AI is increasingly being used to anticipate predictive consumer actions instead of focusing on past behaviors. For instance, with AI infused into media buying, marketers can estimate the probability that a consumer will respond to an ad to determine how much to bid for an opportunity. AI can also be used to create look-alike models for finding users who are like known high-value customers to improve targeting.

IBM is one example of a company testing how to connect AI to the media-buying process to optimize ad spend. Connecting its Watson Cognitive Bidder to demand-side technology, IBM can infuse data from areas such as Internet-of-Things devices and weather, along with a deeper contextual analysis of a page, to make better bidding decisions. IBM can then convert this data into actionable insights that can be used to tailor marketing messaging.

What is possible in the future

The opportunities of bringing AI to bear in marketing include more personalized messaging, faster campaign execution and more upsell and cross-sell advantages.

As more data about consumers becomes available and innovations in AI, from tools to frameworks, emerge to make this technology more scalable, marketers will finally be able to deliver on the promise of “right user, right message, right time, right place.” Not only will marketers be able to anticipate who might engage with an ad, but they will also be able to quickly pass on a bid opportunity in their media-buying system to improve efficiency.

Imagine knowing what mood a target customer is in so you can adjust your messaging and creative to increase the chances of them taking a desired action? This will become possible with AI. With the ability to know a customer’s sentiment, marketers will know if that individual is in a buying mood—a key input into how much to pay for an ad.

Another near-term AI capability is interactive ad units, where customers can ask an ad a question and receive customized responses. In the case of Watson, marketers can train the system to develop thousands of different ad creatives that can dynamically speak to different audiences, transforming an ad creative unit into a conversation with a customer. Marketers will also increasingly be able to use AI across customer analytics and marketing insights to predict what a user will do based on their behavior.

What AI adds to jobs

AI isn’t just adding to our understanding of consumers so we can adapt how we market to them. It also stands to change the shape of the roles and responsibilities of marketers. For instance, AI will evolve the role of the trader, allowing them to go deeper into their quantitative skillset. Sellers will become more outcomes-oriented, focusing on how AI-driven programmatic can help clients customize their marketing with additional variables such as mood to reach the high-value customers that translate to actual revenue. And as AI everywhere becomes possible across all channels, you will see the role of the media buyer pivot away from a single-channel focus to one encompassing fluid budgets that adapt to reach customers where they are.

It’s a big misconception that AI will take everyone’s jobs. As marketers better understand the concept of AI and what it can do, they will see there is an opportunity in letting a machine do some of their monotonous, manual tasks so they can perform more strategic ones.