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Programmatic Advertising and AI: Insight From MediaPost’s Marketing AI Conference

July 2nd, 2018   ||    by Charlene Weisler   ||    No Comments

Among the various means of buying media content, programmatic launched as one of the few forms that fully embraced advancing technology—and it’s artificial intelligence (AI) that’s helping to bring about that profound technological change.

At MediaPost’s recent Marketing AI conference held in Manhattan, media experts explored the impact that this protocol will have on buying, selling, agencies, commerce, customer experience, and marketing. Here’s insight from some of the featured speakers.

The Changing World of Media Buying

While AI has been in the conversation for a while, “the hype is starting to get real,” according to Ross Fadner, director of event programming at MediaPost. “There are more efficient products, and questions are arising as to how AI is being applied and what it means.”

There is talk that technology like machine learning and AI will replace humans in a variety of media jobs, but author Ken Auletta questions whether that is really true. Ultimately, “you have to rely on humans and not on machines,” he stated.

Trust is a large factor in how we balance the use of targeting data and the legacy “gentleman’s business” model that advertising used to be. “As technology takes on a bigger and bigger role, people are queasy about doing business together,” he concluded. This is fueling disintermediation in the agency business as many media companies are taking advertising in-house, offering, perhaps, an opportunity for programmatic systems to take hold internally at media companies.

AI has the potential to further refine consumer segmentations and target the appropriate media to the right person at the right time. But, just like in other areas of the media industry, the biggest issue, according to Auletta, is the public whose desire to avoid ads has succeeded through the use of ad blockers, streaming services, and DVRs. The answer? “You have to do something about shi-ty ads,” he suggested. The industry has to deliver more relevant ads, an area in which programmatic excels.

A Bright Spot

It’s not all doom and gloom in the agency world. Advancing technology creates opportunities within companies to remove silos and improve efficiencies, and externally with customers to create stronger connections.

According to Sargi Mann, executive vice president of digital strategy at the Havas Media Group, agency silos are breaking down, enabling a more holistic approach to marketing and branding. “CTO and CSO roles are blurring,” she noted. “Technology no longer sits in one department. We have multiple people who are touching the data and have a direct line.” This positive development enables a “consumer experience powered by technology.”

Justin Thomas-Copeland, president of RAPP-NY, sees opportunities for brands as the use of technology enables them to craft unique experiences for each customer. “It’s about relevance,” he noted, “and a new way for brands to behave. We now have new ways to learn about customers, more data points.” In this way, brands can be more responsive to best meet customer expectations.

Using AI Proactively

There are innovative ways to use AI that streamline the path to purchase, enhance the consumer experience, and create opportunity for socially responsible acts. Ben Gaddis, president of T3, explained that his agency uses technology in predictive commerce to create better experiences and facilitate the path to purchase using IBM’s natural language processing. Through the use of smart mats that weigh reams of paper, for example, Staples knows when the paper supply is getting low. “We understand the patterns behind that ordering process. The goal is never having to order,” he stated.

His agency also uses AI to create contextual experiences, accessing a range of publicly accessible data, such as weather and crime statistics, to ascertain the optimum Allstate insurance options. And, by using sentiment analysis, the agency uses Twitter data in a unique way: shorting stocks based on Trump’s negative comments about a company. Money made from this type of trading goes to animal protection agencies, thus making social insights actionable. Gaddis believes that if you “point AI at the right problem, you can get a lot more out of it.”

The Impact on Programmatic

The takeaway from the conference is that the industry is responding to AI technology by putting more power into the people’s hands. In this way, programmatic can serve as an even more targeted and focused way to reach consumers with more relevant messaging, thus encouraging more attention to advertising (provided, of course, that the ad creative is of good quality). But the programmatic world may also need to evolve as brands take this technology in-house and apply their first-party data directly into the consumer journey, displacing all forms of advertising.

Whether AI can enhance our lives or create greater uncertainty and disruption will rest on how the industry deploys all of its capabilities. One thing is sure, “AI is solving problems faster,” noted Doug Robinson, founder and CEO of FreshDigitalGroup. The idea is to focus on solving problems that would hold the greatest benefit for people.

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