The Time For Advertisers To Embrace Artificial Intelligence Is Now


By Steve Wadsworth, President and CEO of Tapjoy

Depending on your point of view, working in the marketing industry these days is either exciting or frightening. Technology innovation is happening so fast that it’s almost impossible to keep up with, and for every new opportunity created, an entire set of challenges come with it.

No technology represents this paradox better than the rise of artificial intelligence (AI), which might be the single most important innovation shaping the future of the advertising industry.

AI basically gives computers the ability to think like humans, meaning that for advertisers it can automate a lot of the processes that humans normally have to do — things like buying the right media, targeting the right users, personalizing the creative, optimizing bid rates, and so on. Computers can take in more data and process it much faster than humans, so they can do all those tasks substantially more effectively and efficiently.

The Evolution Of AI

For many of us in advertising circles, even the term “Artificial Intelligence” can be intimidating. It sounds too scientific, too technical. It is a fictional, futuristic concept come to life, once unthought of outside the realm of science fiction and Hollywood movies.

Of course, advertisers have been burned before by the promise of AI. It wasn’t long ago that several companies received large investments or even went public based on the hype of using AI to deliver better targeting than we had ever seen before.

After those companies ran into challenges delivering on the promise, advertisers were understandably a bit jittery about believing in it again. But this time, the market and AI technology itself have matured, and it’s time brands and agencies start taking AI seriously.

Brands Ahead Of The Curve

Major digital media companies like Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat certainly are. Facebook is reported to have a team of at least 150 people working on AI and machine learning, using it to do everything from recognizing faces in photos and serving the right content in your newsfeed to targeting you with the most relevant ads based on your profile and interests. Meanwhile, Twitter has been snatching up AI startups left and right: first Madbits in 2014, then Whetlab in 2015, and most recently the visual processing company Magic Pony. Snapchat has been rolling out a goal-based bidding platform that uses machine learning to predict which users are most likely to swipe a certain ad so they can optimize advertisers’ bid rates accordingly.

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