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This is how AI will let marketers be marketers again

Artificial Intelligence (AI) may never be able to understand the full spectrum of human emotions, but it surely understands performance and that’s the most straightforward fact of a tool that sometimes feels unnecessarily hard to understand.

For a moment lets imagine marketers are superheroes, much like Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman, but what do they all have in common? Good sidekicks. It may be someone well know, like Robin or Batgirl, or more lowkey like Superboy and Wonder Girl. Regardless, for marketers, artificial intelligence (AI) is much like those sidekicks: a steady presence that doesn’t always take center stage but surely helps the heroes do their job.

Nowadays (and it’ll keep doing so in the future) AI can tackle most of the tedious, complicated and all-around dreary tasks that most marketers have to deal with, and that is why marketers use AI for audience targeting. Certainly, that is not the only way marketers can use artificial intelligence (AI), but so far, to create an audience segment is one of the most developed uses for the emerging technology.

In Econsultancy and MediaMath survey to digital advertising professionals worldwide this past May 2018, and in it we find out that 20% of them don’t plan to use AI for audience targeting or audience segmentation and nearly 50% of them are not only planning to use AI but already doing it.

Artificial Intelligence can easily identify connections, create groups and reach users; marketers have more trouble with it, so using it to target is a pragmatic way to take advantage of the technology. A survey by Winterberry Group and the Data & Marketing Association (DMA), to advertisers, publishers and developers in the USA found that around 62.0% of respondents considered improving audience segmentation to support better ad targeting was one of the most critical campaign management priorities.

Undoubtedly, improving audience segmentation is crucial in campaign management, so it’s no wonder that companies have been diving into this and investing millions in AI products that can automate all targeting aspects for marketers. From the processing and classification of the data to the creation of custom audience segments, all the way down to the actual optimization of demographic segments inside the different ad placement platforms, AI is trying to do it all.

According to MediaMath and Econsultancy, about 40% of advertisers worldwide use AI for their media spend optimization and bidding. This skill is not only increasing among Ad Tech AI platforms but is becoming one of the most sought out by the marketers that want to increase the probability that any given campaign will end up with a good ROAS.

Advertisers and Marketers Worldwide

In fact, Forrester Consulting has found that AI products are the way to go for finance decision-makers in North America and Europe as this past nearly half of them said they plan to majorly invest in AI within the next year, as these leaders see it as a path to enable more informed and strategic decision-making.

Some marketing automation platforms are already working towards becoming self-running, towards managing the goals they have been set to accomplish entirely on their own. Tools like Adext AI can obtain its basic operational rules from historical data and get started with a certain level of confidence and then iterate different audience variations to find out the best-performing ones.

However, in a world where some artificial intelligence tools have mastered the ability to classify data and get insights from it, deal with the daily optimizations of targeted ad campaigns and even identify the personalized messages that will work out best with each consumer… Are there any limits for what AI in marketing can do?

Well, the simple answer is yes. The one thing AI can’t really do is the one thing it needs to do to be 100% percent autonomous, something we likely cannot program, the most important aspect of being human: the ability to feel. And for an actual scientist to think it can be programmed would imply a complete lack of understanding of how real humans construct mental experiences.

Right now, AI is like a member of your marketing team, you are the team leader and AI your targeting specialist, and you can let it do its own thing. But no matter how much it advances into fields that humans have claimed as their own, like creativity, those suggestions will always have to be tested more extensively than if a human had come up with them.

Why? because great marketing is about conveying the real human experience, and while targeting and optimization certainly help you deliver those experiences to the right people, it can’t compare to the human understanding of what those experiences should be. AI can’t understand the smell of freshly baked goods at the store or the thrill of a roller-coaster on a theme park or the complete happiness of getting off a plane to see your family waiting for you.

Whatever we can understand about AI, we know for sure there is at least one thing it hasn’t been able to accomplish and that, perhaps, it will never do: It has never cried because an ad reminded it of his mother. It’s as simple as that; AI could never quite convey the mental images and feelings necessary to replicate the human experience of having a mother in a minute and a half.

Marketers are embracing the collaboration between man and machine, accepting that that new targeting specialist knows what it’s doing and focusing on the one significant difference that marketers can understand, and machines can’t. Soon it will become impossible to ignore the technology and hope after finishing every other menial, repetitive task you still have the time and motivation to convey the human experience that your product can provide.

AI doesn’t cry because of an ad, it doesn’t understand how to, but for marketing purposes, it may be better it doesn’t because it does have knowledge of the one thing marketers genuinely struggle with, ironically enough because they care too much about their creations, about the ideas they’ve come up with, their creative babies.

Machines don’t have that problem, they don’t feel, they understand performance though, and that is their greatest superpower. It understands campaign frequency and where to send the ads to get the best responses is what marketers really need for a successful ad campaign… that and maybe the actual experience of the emotion they are trying to convey.

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