A sneak peek into where advertising is going in the AI Era – I

A sneak peek into where advertising is going in the AI Era

Part one

When someone in the industry asked me what do I think is the future of advertising, I bluntly responded that the advertising, as we know it, will be gone. In this article I will intent to develop my thoughts over the status of advertising in the AI era.

‘Power to the people’

Remember Lennon’s song? Well, since ’71 we’ve seen it all come true.

The early XXIst century sees the shift of control away from marketers and placed into the hands of consumers, apparently. It is the dawn of the Social Media era.

Consequently, digital advertising is born.

Facebook starts as a way for Harvard students to check each other out. It grew to be the most ubiquitous social media platform of the early XXIst century. Follows the birth of Twitter, Youtube, Pinterest, Instagram, and Snapchat, which enables everyone to communicate visually. And this empowers consumers with real-time feedback tools. Now we all have a voice.

And it’s very true that technology always changed how marketing works. Think of the revolution the printing press brought about; then the broadcasting, then the personal computer. Let us see what advertising in the AI era looks like.


Where are we now?

The state of the digital advertising industry in 2021 is flourishing, under scrutiny, and yearning for a change.

The state of the users is: hating ads.

Several patterns arise from this state of affairs, and the structure of postmodern advertising begins to take shape.


The future?

When it comes to thinking about the future, the mind wanders to new gadgets and gizmos, the internet, AI, and space ads.

And while the traditional marketing theory was revolving around brands, with integrated marketing campaigns, the 4Ps, AIDA, segmentation, targeting, positioning and the people were merely unsuspecting subjects, the marketing today apparently gives the consumer the center role.


But, the traditional marketing theory is still relevant today, and nothing is fundamentally changed. Even though the accent is shifting and the information is influenced by social media and controls the sales. This is to say that ultimately the brand-centric development goes hand-in-hand with consumer-centric development. Modern brands are evolving from ideas, as David Ogilvy defined them (the intangible sum of a product’s attributes) to networks (the sum of assets and networks that are owned by a brand).

Is that disruptive for advertisers? Pretty much so.

Does it give more ‘power to the people’? Definitely.

Consequently, what will count more and what advertisers are finally able to track is the value generated by a user over time.

Let’s see.

Artificial intelligence and the most recent trends

Storytelling is data explained with a story. Advertisers no longer want you to remember the technical specs of their products. They want you to feel specific emotions when interacting with their brands. Critical thinking has died. Welcome emotions. It’s not about products anymore. Latest and not so, as we can track this tendency as far back as the 80s.

Gillette did it. Nike did it.
Watch these online ads! You’ll learn nothing about the products, but you will remember the emotions you felt when you recall these brands.

Personalization — A time of smaller, personalized ads in campaigns with even bigger budgets is here. Because turns out that customers respond better to content that seems to be tailored just for them .
AI-generated content. Individual marketing campaigns. In the age of anything smart (smartphones, smartwatches, smart TV), smart ads are becoming commonplace. And much of it is run by bots.

Personalization can’t be achieved without measurability. It’s not about clicks and conversions anymore. How do you measure an emotional response? Eye focus? Heart rate? Yes, just like that: the gadgets of today are gathering all sorts of data.
From the point of view of a marketer running an ad campaign, a single visitor belongs to a group of other visitors, similar in terms of spending habits but not necessarily in others, like demographics and location. So, you may not be as unique as you would like to think. And AI can group people with surprising accuracy.


Smart grouping, based on interests and behaviors, is being introduced by Google, with others likely to follow. These groups, or rather ‘Federated Learning of Cohorts’ (FLoC), is the tracking target of the future. “This points to a future where there is no need to sacrifice relevant advertising and monetization in order to deliver a private and secure experience,” Google stated. But this is tricky since Google’s attempt to delete third-party cookies and other identifiers for the sake of user privacy would, sadly and unavoidably, aggravate the problem of ad fraud.

Bots generated content

The key phrases behind content-writing robots are intelligent narratives, natural language generation (NLG), and automated storytelling technology. And I believe that this is one of the most disruptive things to the advertising sector in the AI era.

Quill is an NLG software created by Narrative Science who could be the biggest player in the field of AI-generated content.

It describes itself as: “Humanizing data like never before, with technology that interprets your data and transforms it into ‘intelligent narratives’ at speed and scale.”

Companies like Groupon, Forbes, T. Rowe Price, Credit Suisse, and USAA use Quill to create content. Quill can generate news stories, industry reports, and even headlines without human intervention. It’s limited to the confines of news reports and data-backed content, but it can generate this type of content at scale.

Heliograf is a robot reporter created by Washington Post. This in-house automated storytelling technology — or better-said reporting technology — supplemented The Washington Post reporters covering the Olympics, and created hundreds of news stories and alerts for the event. The Post also has used Heliograf to cover hundreds of political races since 2016.

Photo courtesy of DIGIDAY

Wordsmith by Automated Insights is half bot half-human. The human adds the data to the software (tell it a few data points for a “story”) and writes the template for the story. The bot creates the content. That’s it — easy and publishable straight from the app. Many businesses have invested using Wordsmith, including Allstate, Microsoft, and Yahoo!, so this became a direction for marketers. 

There also are funny stories happening with bots. Apparently, Facebook created two chatbots to talk to each other, but they were shut down after they started communicating in a language they made for themselves.

That’s it for today, folks!

In the second part, I will talk about the new sources of consumer data, AI-produced info, and the sound of money.

To be continued

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