How Far can AI go in Marketing?

As technology is increasingly applied to all phases of marketing, how much of a role will there be for the traditional marketer? This question is particularly relevant to data-intensive areas of marketing such as SEM where vast amounts of information, metrics, and innumerable ad groups seem tailor-made for the application of data science and technology. In fact, over the last eight years, Boost Media has built a leading-edge AI platform for ad content creation and optimization but we found that human input remains a critical component in the process. Through our testing, we have determined that a blended system that combines the analytic power of AI to find/generate performing content with human insight is highly effective at creating optimized ad creative at scale. While AI is a powerful tool and can dramatically improve many aspects of marketing, humans provide unique capabilities in understanding culture, context, and meaning.

Retired marketing CEO and industry thought leader Rob Norman shared similar sentiments when he gave marketers the advice, “Fear not. The move toward automation will only create more need for the work marketers do to build relevant, assistive brands.” However, to avoid becoming obsolete, Norman claims marketers will need to evolve from intelligence workers to imagination workers to stay relevant.

He describes the role of the marketer as imagination worker:

“The most successful brands will be the ones associated with an emotion, belief, or value that resonates with audiences on a personal level like Patagonia is doing with adventure, and Airbnb is doing with acceptance, belonging, and safety. The most successful brands will be those adept at both creating new demand with attention-worthy storytelling, and creatively capturing latent demand with relentless relevance to the person, the context, and the moment.”

These assurances may help calm some uncertainty but let’s look at a few specific instances where humans can’t be replaced.

Automation shines when it can analyze large amounts of data, fill in the blanks and use iterative testing to achieve measurable results. However, these systems need well-defined guidelines and rules as well as the initial copy from which to work. Skilled humans can imagine more divergent solutions, understand the context better, and empathize more deeply. These abilities enable marketers to navigate the more creative yet difficult tasks Norman calls “attention-worthy storytelling” and “relentless relevance.”

Divergent Solutions: As AI-based writing continues to improve, the copy it generates will become more proficient. This advancing baseline may have the unintended consequence of causing copy within industries to converge. Companies relying heavily on automation may find their copy more and more like that of their competitors. To stand out from the crowd, marketers will need to try more creative approaches, which may be riskier than the demonstrated value from blander but more thoroughly tested copy.

Understanding Context: Word meanings and connotations can shift rapidly due to events outside the scope of an advertising campaign. A word or phrase which might have been innocuous one week may become politically or socially charged from an unpredictable change in sentiment. Intentionally using or avoiding such terms may benefit campaigns. While automated sentiment analysis may eventually reflect such changes, rapid and temporary shifts are currently more quickly understood by humans.

Deep Empathy: Empathizing with an audience allows the marketer and organization to address needs and desires more thoughtfully. Genuinely addressing emotions and values build more robust relationships. Here marketers are instrumental in creating and curating guidelines that reflect corporate values and resonates. These may be followed by human writers or automated systems to create copy that speaks with a unified brand voice across all channels.

About Boost Media: Over the last eight years, Boost Media has been working with more than half of the Fortune 1000 to drive significantly enhanced Paid Search performance and ROI. We help our customers by producing highly relevant, creative ad content at scale and employ rigorous data analytics to understand why an ad is working to provide valuable insight to improve all our customers’ ads and other marketing communications.


Images by: Gerd Leonhard

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