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The marketing implications of artificial intelligence

The marketing implications of artificial intelligence Andreas Roell

Excelling during an era of frugality and high expectations requires digital marketers to be accountable for every dollar -- without compromising a campaign's performance. This ROI focus will force agencies to reevaluate how campaigns are handled internally. To improve effectiveness, we will see an increased dependence on automation. These advancements in automation technologies and recent shifts in users' privacy perceptions have created a window for marketers to use artificial intelligence to run efficient campaigns.

Automation and efficiency
Tracking user behavior and striving for contextually relevant placements is not new to digital marketers. Behavioral and contextual targeting tactics are used to serve pertinent messages to users. With the help of automation, these techniques provide media teams the chance to focus on the campaign at large instead of worrying about individual placements. From an ROI perspective, these types of targeting tactics encourage marketers to reach qualified users and secure placements relating to on-page content -- all of which help marketers stretch clients' budgets, ensure every advertisement counts, and elicit higher conversion rates. Everyone is happy.

Especially when dealing with highly targeted and large-scale implementations, agencies need to streamline internal processes using automation so teams can be most effective. Time spent on the front end is well worth it. When campaigns are correctly set up from the beginning, analytics data are comprehensive and complete, thereby driving proactive and effective improvements. Overall, campaigns are more efficient because key performance indicators are reconciled against accurate, timely campaign results.

Outside of media campaigns, there are additional opportunities for marketers to automate their efforts, minimize hands-on resources, and maximizing output. One example is the automation of analytics dashboards. By establishing thresholds for key performance indicators, analytics professionals are notified of peaks or low points, which enables them to make timely optimization tweaks -- without 24-hour monitoring. 

Artificial intelligence
Thanks to the success of behavioral and contextual targeting, companies are now going a step further to explore the use of artificial intelligence. According to Wikipedia, artificial intelligence is the "study and design of intelligent agents where an intelligent agent is a system that perceives its environment and takes actions which maximize its chances of success." In terms of advertising, artificial intelligence extrapolates established user behavior to predict likely future online behavior. The main difference between artificial intelligence and behavioral targeting is that behavioral targeting takes past patterns and applies it to the future. Behavioral targeting is like a review mirror, where as artificial intelligence constantly evolves and prioritizes behavior to make better recommendations over time.

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AI versus BT
It may seem farfetched, but artificial intelligence is the direction we need to go to avoid wasting advertising dollars. I am starting to see AI technologies that show significant positive impact on campaign results. Their main advantage -- beyond predicting future user behavior -- is that they microtarget consumers to create nearly a one-to-one relationship. This directly contrasts other data capturing techniques, with which digital marketers are forced to work with confining broad segmentation.

Another difference is that AI technologies truly tie in advertising with overall marketing efforts. How many times have you clicked on a paid search campaign and landed on a promotion-specific microsite? From this page, you may do additional product research by clicking through to the main site, but you don't convert on this visit. You need time to comparison shop and mull it over. When the time comes to buy, you go straight to the corporate site. Most of the time, the data that was gathered on your first visit is not captured or applied when you return. Even worse, it is not adequately analyzed. Click-through speeds, path to purchase, pages viewed, or even time of purchase can be applied using artificial intelligence to optimize your next visit and drive conversions. This is where most marketers currently miss out.

Artificial intelligence has the ability to elevate how advertisers interact with their consumers. The personalization and targeting options are limitless if advertisers can execute the technology on a large scale. To be most effective, users would give marketers the ability to track email usage, web browsing behavior, social media profiles, mobile messaging, and search queries. This volume of information would allow marketers to establish more holistic user profiles.

This carte blanche access will probably be approved about the same time consumers permit advertisers to tattoo messaging directly on their foreheads. The perceived level of invasion and discomfort would be about the same. Privacy stands to be the most daunting hurdle standing between marketers and artificial intelligence-driven advertising, but users' attitudes surrounding what is considered private information is slowly changing.

Privacy concerns and social media
Behavioral targeting already makes online consumers uneasy, so the widespread use of artificial intelligence could definitely cause a ruckus. The desire for more applicable advertisements could sway some people, but for the general public, advertisers will need to quell their fears about privacy invasion.

To get large-scale buy-in, advertisers need to turn their attention to social media to unearth how users truly view and protect their personal information. Within the last few years, users have shifted their perception of privacy as they have gained control over their content. With every profile, blog post, and tweet, users are managing how and what information they make public. Issues arise when others -- advertisers in particular -- make this decision on consumers' behalf. Information collection also becomes problematic when policies are not transparent and the information is used outside of its intended use.

I submit that to get users on board, they need to retain ownership over their personal data. Marketers need to follow the example set by social media and provide users with sole control over their information. This may seem counterproductive to building extensive databases and user profiles, but campaigns will ultimately be more efficient. After all, users who opt in and create personalized accounts are extremely qualified leads.

Deferring control to users will not only keep users comfortable about their personal information, but it will also force marketer to avoid broad user segmentation. By acknowledging individual preferences, marketers can build the foundation of intelligent content and earn the trust of their users.

A place to start
The widespread use of artificial intelligence in digital marketing is still far off, but it does put privacy policies and user information collection into perspective. Advertisers would be wise to reevaluate how they are gathering user data. Users have proven they prefer and are capable of managing their information down to the most granular level. If brand marketers can approach their data collection in a fashion similar to social media, they just need to supply the data fields and users can do the rest. By doing so, users will flip the tables on marketers by indicating how they want to be marketed to. 

Users will still tune out
No matter how relevant or applicable an advertisement, users will still be able to tune them out. They will be effective for a period of time, but just like every advertising medium before it, ads driven by artificial intelligence will lose their originality. The key to making any campaign efficient is to be consistent across all user touch points. This way, advertisements can reinforce a single message and make the most impact with consumers.

Andreas Roell is chairman and CEO of Geary Interactive.

Andreas Roell is the Chairman and CEO of Geary Group, a holding company providing next generation digital marketing services. Geary Group is comprised of Geary Interactive, a full service digital marketing agency; MatrixMT, a premium SEO services...

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