For most of advertising’s history, advertisers have produced their messaging primarily based on the gut instincts of their creative teams. Sure, we’ve always had surveys and market research to provide loose guidance on the demographics and preferences of our potential customers. But until recently, the end result has always been a single, one-size-fits-all ad that succeeds or fails based on the creativity and the guesswork of the people who produced it.
With the development of digital advertising technology, this has all started to change. In recent years, advertisers have begun combining Human intuition with Artificial Intelligence to produce some of the most powerful ads we’ve seen yet. Today, many of the world’s leading brands are using customer data and powerful Machine Learning algorithms to inform smarter creative choices, and sometimes even to produce parts of the ad itself.
Far from removing creativity from advertising, AI is helping brands deliver effectively, evocative ads, tailored to the unique wants and needs of each customer. And its impact on digital advertising is only getting stronger.
The Future is Now
At its simplest, Artificial Intelligence is any technology that allows machines to perform Human Intelligence tasks as well as, or better than humans, at greater scale and lower cost. Through Machine Learning, these AI tools are often able to learn from their results, creating a feedback loop that allows them to make smarter decisions over time.
Already, AI is helping brands develop a number of creative, engaging advertising experiences. For instance, the fitness chain Orangetheory used an AI breakdown of its audience’s online browsing habits to learn that its customers frequently gravitated to the chain via ads on college sports content and music platforms, rather than health and wellness sites. Orangetheory then applied this information by producing video ads that linked the gym to the audience’s hobbies outside of it.
Meanwhile, other brands are using AI to edit and optimize their ads while their campaigns are ongoing. At VidMob, where I serve as Senior Vice President of Data Insights and Research, we use AI to evaluate how different aspects of an ad are driving advertising success (e.g. Is a nature scene more engaging than an urban landscape?), and then use the insights to optimize the campaign’s creative via our network of designers. Through creative versioning tools like ours, companies like AB InBev are using AI to pursue the most effective ad for every campaign.
The future may even see AI-powered ad messages inserted into entertainment content in real-time. The Chinese video site Tencent is testing a new feature that would allow advertisers to serve personalized ads as native product placements while people are watching its shows. For instance, if an on-screen character is waiting for the bus, a brand could cover the bus stop with an ad relevant to the viewer’s interests.
Through Our Powers Combined…
Too often, those of us in the ad industry get the wrong impression about the impact of AI on our field. While some see AI as eventually replacing human creatives and strategists, the truth is that this is unlikely to happen at any sort of scale.
Certainly, ad agencies have released a few pieces of video content created entirely by AI, but these have largely been experiments designed to push creative boundaries and impress awards show judges. A more likely outcome is that brands will use increasingly effective AI technology to free their human staff from the rote grunt work of data analysis and campaign optimization, giving them more time for creative conception, campaign strategy, and other more interesting tasks.
Indeed, the future of advertising isn’t a robot takeover—it’s a creative, efficient and effective collaboration between Artificial and Human Intelligence.