Ignoring AI will set marketers back decades

Contrary to popular opinion, can AI actually allow marketers to be more human in the way we engage with audiences?

With the global AI in marketing sector forecast to reach $78.8bn by 2030, Deb Stambaugh, CMO at Quantcast, discusses why marketers simply can’t afford to ignore the benefits it provides.

While many believe that artificial intelligence (AI) has suddenly burst onto the scene, the truth is it’s actually older than a lot of businesses currently using it. Alan Turing was exploring the mathematical possibilities of AI as early as 1950 when he published Computing Machinery and Intelligence

However, it’s safe to say that the pace of AI evolution has increased rapidly over the past ten years or so, with public awareness at an all-time high in the last 12 months. People are now less likely to hear AI and immediately think of sci-fi movies or worry that the Terminators are coming, although there is still a negative perception in some circles. More than half of 18-24 year olds in the UK are concerned about AI harming future job prospects, and maybe that’s fair - Goldman Sachs’ research suggests the technology could replace a quarter of work tasks in the US and Europe, the same research highlighted, like most innovation cycles, it may also be responsible for creating new jobs – a productivity boost and eventually a 7% increase in the total annual value of goods and services. It’s this element of our future alongside AI that marketers should be focused on, not the fear of being displaced.

The AI marketing boom

It’s been forecast that the global AI marketing sector will be worth $78.8bn by 2030. For marketing professionals worried about losing their jobs to the technology, this may only increase their concerns, but it really shouldn’t. Technology is designed to supplement human creativity and increase productivity. 

Whether you’re reading this as an entry level apprentice at a marketing agency, or an experienced advertiser working in-house, there will no doubt be elements of your role that could be quickly mastered by AI algorithms with the right input.

Let’s look at the facts. Modern marketing often relies on checking data and processing information from several different platforms. Equally, optimisation, or continuous learning, is a necessity in programmatic advertising. AI is perfectly positioned for these types of processes and can do them at a pace which is impossible for humans to compete with (nor do we really want to). Due to AI being outcome-based, it also removes a lot of the complexity. This allows for increased productivity, an increase in outputs and work being completed quicker. Instead of getting bogged down in data, AI frees up marketers to focus on creativity, strategic direction, new business, increased profitability and delivering measurable outcomes.

Supercharged advertising

If we focus on programmatic advertising in particular, those measurable outcomes are dependent on the depth of understanding of target audiences. While more traditional approaches depend on stereotypes - e.g. supposedly male-centric products advertised during live sport - and outdated third-party cookies, AI allows marketers to understand their audiences in real time, often expanding reach through more inclusion and improving overall business results

With more data available than ever before, AI is the engine to engage audiences based on their real life interests, even as consumer behaviour shifts. Marketers are able to adjust their creative outputs to match with these changing interests. It also allows marketers to optimise towards specific KPIs, as pointing machine learning at an issue means it relentlessly optimises towards it - whether that’s ROAS, CPA brand safety or any combination of measurables. 

Today’s landscape puts more pressure than ever on marketing budgets, so performance-based measurable outcomes have become essential to maximise efficiency. AI ensures marketers can stop pulling levers and simply optimise campaigns from the get-go. 

Don’t get left behind

The truth is, AI can (and should) be the technology that helps you to reach the next level - delivering results you arguably didn’t have the time to even fathom previously. With the technology now available, the hours, days and even weeks of time spent every year in your marketing team lost in the weeds of data should be viewed as a missed opportunity. 

AI can be your support team right now, freeing up you and your colleagues to add value across the board. Deciding to ignore the technological advancements will set back marketers years, or even decades, compared to forward thinking agencies that are already running AI-powered campaigns.

The time is now for marketers to engage with AI to supercharge campaigns and gain a more accurate picture of target audiences and how to effectively reach them. The era of guesswork is over, as technology makes this available in real time. Quite frankly, AI can be a superpower and marketers should be prepared to leverage and adopt it to get the best results possible - or prepare to see clients beginning to look elsewhere. While you might not be ready to jump on the AI bandwagon, their expectations will continue to increase. When the history of AI is written, don’t find yourself on the wrong side.

By Deb Stambaugh