I watched the Masters Golf Tournament the other weekend. I know, Golf on TV…the pinnacle of excitement. But, somewhere in between the muted applause and drunk dudes yelling “get in the hole,” I noticed a consistent theme in the commercials.
AI is the definitive buzzword of the moment. There you have it, folks. “Skynet becomes self-aware on 2:14 am Eastern Time on August 29th.” (Those of you old enough to get that reference just chuckled.) So, should we seek refuge underground?
Are humanoid machines soon coming to terminate mankind? Meh – I’d hold off on packing…for now, at least. Coming from someone who spent a good portion of his marketing career in the information technology space, I have what I believe is a unique perspective on this subject.
Before I get into the application areas of artificial intelligence, specifically marketing, I think it makes sense to pontificate for a moment on the bigger picture.
A Small Dose of What AI is All About
Artificial intelligence is inevitable. The unavoidable proliferation of technology and upward trend of our collective laziness (only half joking) all points to our wholesale acceptance that there are quite a few things that computers can do better than humans.
Please forgive my sarcasm, although I joke about us being lazy, it’s really more about general improvements to our lives that are all made possible because of this advancement in technology. The application areas of artificial intelligence are vast and are already in use in some of our biggest industries.
In the fields of science and healthcare, the implications are wonderful and are leading to unparalleled breakthroughs. We are seeing tremendous cost savings in shipping, logistics and manufacturing. Retail is far and away one of the strongest benefactors thus far.
Oh, and Siri and Alexa kids… what more do I have to say? It’s certainly not all rainbows and butterflies, however. AI is also just a little bit terrifying. The fact is we are nowhere near the limits of computing power and AI only opens those dams a little further.
Artificial intelligence is quickly becoming much broader than any of us are aware. As a result, it’s simply getting better and better at leaving us in the dust.
The long-term implications for countless industries and career paths are pretty bleak and the bad news doesn’t stop there – KILLER ROBOTS PEOPLE! Sorry, didn’t mean to scare you but have you seen this YouTube channel?! I mean c’mon folks. It’s super cool, but also…holy crap! I digress.
After that outburst, you might believe otherwise but the unique perspective I referenced earlier is one of optimism. I’ve seen some very impressive things during my time in the technology space, things that will lead to tremendous advancements in modern society.
My awe is matched, however, by my understanding of the need for security and responsibility as it pertains to new technology. I’m all about 90s movie references in this blog so I’ll use another to illustrate my point: “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.”
Epic delivery by the incomparable Jeff Goldblum and another example of a time when Hollywood got it right. We have to make sure that we understand this technology and use it, rather than letting it use us.
The Implications of Artificial Intelligence for Marketing
Now to the impact of artificial intelligence in marketing, a subject I know very well second only to 90’s movies. First, marketing is barely a shade of what it once was when Terminator 2 and Jurassic Park were released.
Technology has had quite an impact on marketing through the years and has changed the landscape of how marketing professionals deliver solutions to clients. We made a lot of guesses back in the day that were formulated from vague demographic data and the collective experience of marketing and advertising teams.
This required resources – tons of resources and tons of time. None of these things were particularly beneficial to the clients who paid premiums to develop their messages and deliver them to the masses.
Today, things are a little different. Everyone has a “super computer” in their pockets and as a result, we are all creating tremendous amounts of data. (Btw, I’m a ‘day-ta’ guy, not ‘dah-ta.’ I always wonder how someone will read “data” when I write it.)
As marketers, we now use the technology available to us to interpret the mountains of data, which makes what we do a lot more efficient. Back in the day, it was “We’re kind-of, sort-of, fairly confident that this is the right-ish message, and probably the right-ish time, to get to what we believe is the right-ish person with what is most likely the right-ish mediums and vehicles”.
Today, bingo bango: “right place, right message, right person and what time do you want to get to them…because we can customize that too”. Technology made that possible and by minimizing waste and removing guesswork, brands grow very quickly, especially those with super niche markets and discerning target personas.
Artificial intelligence only continues to mitigate the unknowns and ultimately, helps us to craft more effective marketing solutions for our clients. This is across the board from crafting the narrative, designing the creative, planning and buying the media, developing websites, customizing the retail experience and interpreting the data so that we don’t miss a beat.
Minority Report just missed the ‘90s but technically, that flick absolutely nailed some of the future implications to marketing that have already come to fruition. If old grandpappy could have imagined that he would be retargeted on his Facebook, he would have never cancelled his Myspace.
But, that’s the reality. Whether they are aware or not, consumers are having their shopping experience curated for them by digital marketers.
The implications of artificial intelligence in marketing are not all that dissimilar to those in other industries. Ultimately, it’s about finding ways to do things better, cheaper and faster.
It’s tough to argue that this isn’t a good thing until the inevitable changes begin in the human workforce but we’re still in the infancy of this storyline. If we’ve learned anything, however, it’s that Moore’s law is a constant and this story will unfold quickly.
It’s Not Just Marketing: This Shit is Everywhere
During my time in the technology space, I remember discussions about the implications of storing data on human DNA. One of the pitfalls of our technological advancement is that we have to store all this data somewhere, a feat of scale that most people simply cannot grasp with their non-artificial intelligence brains.
Imagine this: in the last two years, we have produced more data than in all the data-collecting years prior, like, since the beginning. In order to facilitate all of this data, we are building data centers at an alarming rate, and newsflash: the cloud isn’t actually a cloud.
It’s simply a vast collection of physical data centers communicating together as a network we like to call the internet. Knowing that, imagine this – technically speaking, all of the worlds data could be stored in a relatively small room on Human DNA. Crazy, right?
So wait, we’re going to store all our data on living DNA with artificial intelligence? Guys, honestly, what part of this doesn’t sound like the Terminator, I mean really.
Finally, I generally stay away from politics and religion, but it’s only a matter of time before politicians focus their sites on the fuzzy legal limitations and grey area associated with this human-less technology.
As most new tech is tested by the government, it’s probably safe to assume we have already seen one of the scariest application areas of artificial intelligence: the military. Drones of various shapes and sizes are likely only the beginning.
As this technology improves and proliferates, it’s simply a question of how heated the debates will get. I wonder which side you’re on? Feel free to comment and let’s see if anyone else is as cautiously optimistic as I am.