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How AI Is Enhancing Advertising Innovation

This article is part of our September 2018 series about the state of advertising. Click here for more.

Artificial intelligence is being deployed far and wide in marketing and advertising.

In fact, many of the tasks being handled by machine learning and other AI tools are making possible the kinds of user experiences that could not be possible even a couple of years ago. For example, AI is doing the heavy lifting to enable personalization and agile product development to meet the rising demands of consumers.

“AI is doing way more than just housekeeping,” said Keith Eadie, VP and GM of Adobe Advertising Cloud. For example, he noted features within the advertising platform can optimize search, display, and video ads, and that AI is even making adaptive ad buys based on human-set goals. 

“Automation and AI is amplifying what’s possible for humans to do,” Eadie told CMO.com.

Marketers are using AI capabilities to help build consumer experiences every day: Deep learning is sorting pictures posted on Snapchat, natural language processing is providing the backbone for customer service chatbots, and machine learning is helping companies accelerate product development by handling tasks from forecasting the effect of cancer drugs to helping to edit Hollywood movies.

A Machine Learning Maturation
Surveys by Gartner have found that, in spite of CMO budgets receding in 2018, marketers are still pushing forward with AI spending and integrating it into their customer experience. The availability of software-as-service and cloud computing bandwidth has led to an explosion of AI use. Gartner’s research had identified “democratized AI” as one of its top five trends in this year’s “Hype Cycle,” and marketing is one of the disciplines that has adopted it extensively. 

Machine learning, thanks to the rise of cloud computing, is maturing at a quick pace. The discipline had been around a while, but it was out of reach to all but the most sophisticated organizations. Most of the constraints that held back machine learning dissipated once companies leveraged cloud computing, because developers now can store as much data as needed to make their computer models work and use as much computing power as they need on demand.

Some uses of machine learning will help organizations to bring products to market faster. For examle, Bristol-Myers Squibb is using machine learning to accelerate its development of new drugs and get them to market faster. Additionally, Snapchat is using deep learning to parse the images being posted to its platform. 

‘A Fire Hose of Innovation’
And AI is becoming more sophisticated. Thanks to more complex machine learning programming, it is able to perform more complex tasks, as more developers and the “maker” community help build better models.

By combining data and automation, 21st Century Fox has “plugged into this fire hose of innovation when new services can be applied at the flip of the switch or the click of a mouse,” said Paul Cheesebrough, the media company’s chief technology officer. The studio can make better decisions on where to place advertising where it will be seen, but also where it won’t interrupt the user experience, he said. Additionally, the company is using data to rethink the creative process of how to make and market TV and films, Cheesebrough said.

Fox shoots content around the world, producing 45 million creative assets in 68 languages over 195 countries worldwide, he explained. “Historically, this is a logistically heavy process where we ship tapes and film around the world and digitize them many times over to produce the final content for our consumers and our partners,” he said. “Frankly, it’s a nightmare of complexity and inefficiency.”

Now, using automation, anything shot can be stored, cataloged, run through approval processes, and even analyzed to develop new products for production partners, Cheesebrough said. “You could say we’ve moved from looking in the rear-view mirror to looking forward and around corners,” he added.

Other marketers are also using AI in the production process. Eadie noted Adobe’s Advertising Cloud Creative platform lets marketers control basic design elements, such as ad copy and display ad assets, so they can roll out new messages without having to redesign everything from scratch. 

In addition, a recent survey found almost two-thirds of enterprise marketers expect to use AI in their content marketing strategy this year, mostly to personalize messages.

Integrating neuroscience and advances in quantum computing offer promise for expanding AI in the future, but those integrations are still a few years away from popular use, particularly the latter. In the short term, humans are still the ultimate software, experts said.                                          

“Ultimately, we believe that AI will never be a replacement for human creativity and ingenuity,” Eadie said. “In advertising, great creative that drives an emotional connection always requires a human spark. What AI can do is free people up to focus on the problems humans are best at.”

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