How marketers can use artificial intelligence for good

November 25, 2016

There’s a real argument now for just marketing to intelligent machines. After all, so much of the content that is consumed by internet users today is determined by various personalisation algorithms.

Take Facebook, for instance, which, earlier in the year, effectively gave brands no chance of reaching users organically unless they pander to its algorithm. Unless they create content that endorses the views of its customers, prompting them to like and share it, Facebook’s news feed algorithm (EdgeRank) won’t prioritise businesses’ content.

It makes lots of sense that Facebook should set up its algorithm in that way – it’s reflecting its users’ social media habits, for one. As one marketer in the Telegraph puts it: “It’s like life imitating art. Algorithms try to mimic real life and then real life mimics the algorithms.”

However, as the newspaper explores, marketers need to ensure they remain human-focused in their campaigns, as well as being optimised for machine algorithms.

Is this really anything new?

No, not really. We’ve become accustomed to shaping our online content to suit intelligent machines – that’s what search engine optimisation is all about, after all.

However, with artificial intelligence-powered devices like the Amazon Echo now on the market, AI looks set to influence marketing strategies more than ever before.

“If brands are not part of that suggestion, they’re dead to that user,” Ru Barksfield, CEO and co-founder at adtech firm, Fat Unicorn, told the Telegraph. “The necessity to market to machines is already a reality, and AI is definitely going to dictate how and which brands are directed to an end user.”

In a survey of UK senior marketers by Callcredit, 82% of respondents predicted digital intelligence will be the new battlefield for marketers – but 72% said they felt more anxious in their role because of it, suggesting that they feel it could get in the way of creativity.

Maintaining the human element

Fears that AI could negatively affect the creative aspects of marketing are wide of the mark, however. Machine learning – the driving technology behind how AI can learn – still requires human intelligence to work out how the machine would get there.

Pretty reassuring, right? As is the belief held by Alessandra Di Lorenzo, chief commercial officer for advertising and partnerships at online travel giant lastminute.com, that creative messages should always be crafted by, and created for, humans.

AI still can’t do emotion too well, despite systems being able to tell us the browsing and booking behaviour of our customers. This leads Di Lorenzo to conclude that “the content itself will always be a human creation, made with people, rather than robots, in mind”.

“The beauty of human nature is that it is ultimately unpredictable,” she says.

Harnessing the power of AI

Technology experts will tell you that AI has the power to write every advert, film, book and song that could ever be written – not that it should be used for those kinds of creative endeavours.

While there is a novelty factor in consuming AI content, it’s unlikely to have any nutritional value, i.e. it won’t make people feel anything. That’s why more people allow AI algorithms to determine the content they consume than the products they buy, although there are signs that the latter is starting to catch up.

Marketers, then, needn’t be worried about AI (and the data it yields) distracting them from their core marketing duties. Instead, they need only be concerned about how best to harness the power of AI to aid them in their creative pursuits.

Dan Vivian - Business Development & Marketing Director