While media planning used to be an agency pillar, many are shifting away from that model with the realization that traditional media planning isn’t effectively optimizing ad spend.
Research from media consultancy ID Comms – which questioned 177 marketing, media and procurement professionals with a combined spend of $20 billion – saw clients rate agencies as delivering ‘below expectations’ across all of their core competencies. However, that could change with the help of artificial intelligence (AI).
This is not the doom and gloom ideology of the machines taking over, in fact it is totally the opposite. With AI, there is an influx of data that needs more detailed analysis that no traditional media planner could do manually. Utilization of the technology will see a surge of marketing data analysts who can work autonomously with AI.
By allowing the machine to test ads and find new audiences, marketing teams will have the opportunity and time to flex their creative muscles and develop unique campaigns that drive customer engagement.
ClickZ spoke to Albert Technologies CEO Or Shani, who believes that by 2025, all paid digital media campaigns will be managed by marketers collaborating with autonomous AI.
Established in 2010, Albert is an AI marketing platform for the enterprise, driving fully autonomous digital marketing campaigns. It was in the early days of conceptualizing the company that Or saw the value of AI’s assistance.
“I remember we were trying to create some kind of a methodology around running display campaigns and we were stuck in a loop. We would write different rules for different permutations, but kept getting tripped by a new instance, that we had no answer for,” recalls Or. “A clever friend of mine suggested the use of machine learning and together with my CTO (Tomer Naveh), we cracked the problem easily.”
Nearly a decade on and Or reckons today Albert, with some valuable human guidance, can effectively function in the role of media buyer.
“We have essentially taken the role of media buyer around search, social, programmatic and reverse engineered it into a software. All the cognitive processes and all the decision making that you need to do, Albert can actually do. But the idea is not to replace anybody, we’re just trying to do things that machines can actually do better, and let the human team help us out with the creative and strategy, things that the machines cannot calculate or even see. One of the disadvantages that machine have is that although they can predict, their prediction is based only on past data and what humans bring to the table is vision.”
Or believes this synergy is the key of making ‘marketers champions again’.
“I feel like the role of a marketer was lowered down to kind of a big data analyst and an execution person. Today CMOs are more worried about budgets than anything else. In the Albert universe, this is done, you don’t need to be worried about that. Now you focus on things that matter: What is the right method; what is the right pricing; which promotion do we need to do a Black Friday; what is our competition doing; things like that,” comments Or.
“When we start working with a team, usually in the first month or so, they’re scared. They’re apprehensive about giving away some control to a machine. But then they get it. They see that they are doing things that are much more interesting to them, much more valuable to their company, and all the things that they hate doing is being done by a machine. So it’s perfect marriage in that sense, but it takes time for people to understand that.”
The proof is in the pudding. Recently, a big box American retailer (who cannot be named) with a massive assortment of products and many different shopper types faced a familiar challenge: how could personalization in paid social be achieved efficiently?
Finding and running every possible combination to reach their diverse audience felt like a near-impossible task, bound to be labor, time and cost-intensive – with messaging and product complexities that needed to be unraveled in order to achieve true audience relevance. They realized they needed a partner able to take on and simplify the challenge of efficient personalization across audiences, creatives and tactics to drive meaningful results.
Much to the surprise of the brand team, Albert was able to use the ability to assess the entire paid digital landscape to optimize and drive results by shifting budget strategically across – and within – channels at a pace and scale that would be impossible for a human team working with machines that make recommendations for humans to act on.
The test result? A 20-percent increase in revenue at the most competitive time of the year (Black Friday), in regions the company had considered lackluster. It was the beginning of a new kind of relationship for the brand team.
They discovered that an AI guided by human input could improve their ability to do their job by combining machine learning technologies for processing and analyzing data at scale with technologies for automating and orchestrating planning and buying.
In addition, digital marketers were taught to narrow their focus to a specific audience in order to gain efficiencies. Once Albert was given the ability to freely optimize the campaign, the brand team saw that they had enormous untapped opportunities in all channels, but especially in social.
By combining previously unconnected campaigns into a single, focused prospecting, retargeting, and dynamic product ad effort, Albert was able to discover profitable micro-segments of customers that the marketers could then leverage into ongoing relationships through email and other retention efforts.
After one year, the product line revenue had grown +44% thanks to a +145% increase in paid search conversions with a simultaneous -15% drop in CPA. Programmatic display delivered a +150% increase in conversions with a -6% CPA. Other quality and efficiency metrics also improved. For example, the eommerce site’s bounce rate dropped -47% to 21%, while average session duration increased +11%.
In a fast-moving market, these marketers discovered that there’s no substitute for being able to partner with an intelligent machine that can assess every piece of data and then take action on as many fronts as possible every moment of every day.
Overall, the business world is beginning to adopt AI. A recent study by McKinsey showed, thirty percent of organizations are conducting AI pilots. Nearly half, 47%, have embedded at least one AI capability in their standard business processes, compared to 20% in 2017.
AI opportunities can be found across the firm, but only 21% report using AI across multiple business functions. AI investments are still quite small. Fifty-eight percent of respondents said that less that one-tenth of their digital budgets goes toward AI, while 71% expect that AI investments will increase significantly in the coming years.
Many respondents said that their organizations lack the necessary skills and practices to create value from AI at scale, including identifying key strategic opportunities and obtaining the data required by AI applications. Most felt that AI will have a relatively minor impact on their overall future employment, despite the fact that AI will likely automate a significant fraction of existing work.
While still in its early days, AI is already delivering meaningful value for those who’ve embraced the technology. Seventy-eight percent report receiving significant or moderate value, while only 1% say that they’ve seen none or negative value.
When asked about the most significant barriers their organizations face in adopting AI, 43% cited the lack of a clear strategy, while 44% cited the lack of appropriate skills. 30% said that functional silos constrain the use of AI solutions, and 27% mentioned that their leaders lack the necessary commitment to AI.
The right conversations are being had in the industry and there’s no better time for marketers to begin testing how AI strategies can help create highly personalized experiences for their consumers.
With the technology poised to continue growing across all industries and segments, marketers should dedicate time and resources to experimenting with strategies and ensure their marketing organization is set up for continued success, both now and in the future.
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