Coauthored by Tyson Hartnett
The creators of the futuristic 1960’s animated series, “The Jetsons,” helped us dream vividly about living in a sci-fi utopia buzzing with flying cars and talking robots (at home and the office). In the Jetsons’ world, humans are assisted by other labor-saving devices and wearable technology. The writers, Hanna-Barbera, were prognosticators and though not every invention on the show has materialized 55 years later, it has served as a nostalgic reference point for many, especially as we think about Artificial Intelligence (AI) and its future.
AI plays a large role in our industry today and in human economies, and it was a hot topic discussed in this year’s Oracle Data Summit featuring panelists Amanda Kahlow, CEO 6sense, Eric Kirby, GVP Delivery, Oracle Data Cloud and Dave Helmreich, COO, LiveIntent.
The panel focused on the beginnings of AI, its impact on advertising and marketing and the implications of advancements in data, technology, identity and algorithms.
AI’s Rapid Evolution
AI has evolved over the past few years and has shifted the way we interact with wanna-be human bots. Today, we don’t even have to sit up on our couch to order anything we want on Amazon (hello Alexa!) Here are some popular AI developments:
1997: The IBM computer Deep Blue shocked the world by beating world chess champion, Garry Kasparov.
2001: People start asking SmarterChild every conceivable question on AOL Instant Messenger.
2011: SIRI, the virtual assistant with a voice-controlled interface surfaces as a feature of the iPhone 4S as well in the same year.
2013: Watson pioneers in healthcare as a tool for medical diagnosis.
2014: Amazon introduces Alexa, an intelligent personal assistant.
2017: Watson partners with H&R Block to help people with their taxes.
From Personal Assistant to Personal Shopper
Yes, we’ve all had fleeting thrills asking bots frivolous questions and waiting for the responses. Now consumers have gotten serious – it’s about making purchases through a virtual assistant that already recognizes your intent. Dave Helmreich did a quick poll on how many people use Alexa at the Oracle Summit. Half of the hands in the audience went up. Then he asked how many have used Alexa to make a purchase. About 20% of those hands stayed raised. This was telling. It showed that we’re not just using AI to play our favorite song, but to spend our money and make purchasing decisions.
When it comes to marketing, Amanda Kahlow mentioned that AI is about cognitive understanding. The opportunity therein lies in using that intelligence to become more empathic marketers to understand and reach people where they are. Humans can’t do everything, but machines can learn. Dave Helmreich added that it’s no longer just about “big data”, but about the “right data” and making sense of it to improve the customer journey. More of it will come into play with the convergence of mar-tech and ad-tech.
Marketers are Excited… and Confused
In December 2016, technology company Demandbase reported the results of their AI survey of 500 marketing managers. It revealed that marketers were excited about the potential of AI, especially in the world of sales and marketing. The report reads, “While they [marketers] believe it has the potential to significantly impact the entire industry, there is a clear discrepancy between this enthusiasm and marketers’ confidence in how to implement AI into their marketing programs.” Even though the respondents believed that AI would revolutionize marketing by 2020, only 26% were confident that they understood how AI was being used in marketing and just a mere 10% were current users of AI technologies.
However, in relation to ad tech, AI is already improving the way we target ads to people. By utilizing intent data and allowing the AI program to perfect and learn along the way, advertisers will have greater insight into the way they should spend their ad dollars.
A wealth of computing power is available to companies. Therefore, the ability to discern and understand data is important, especially with the rise of identity, building ID graphs and value of the email address in creating people-based capabilities across customer journeys.
Automated Out of the Job?
So, will AI become so smart and efficient that it replaces humans and takes our jobs away? Will we need Will Smith to come save humanity like in the movie, “i,ROBOT”, or will AI become part of our daily lives, work with us and help us alleviate inconveniences like the robots, Rosie and R.U.D.I. on “The Jetsons”?
In a Weber Shandwick and KRC Research report, CMOs across the U.S., the U.K. and China anticipated a large talent shift and possible job reduction in the workforce in the future as AI will require new skills. The report shows that 45% of them predicted that AI will change their workforce by reducing jobs, 40% believed new skill sets will be required, while 11% expected no change at all.
On issue of job reduction, the consensus at the summit was “not just yet”. Amanda had a great line where she mentioned that AI will enable us to streamline our day-to-day tasks so we can get back to doing what marketing was meant for in the first place: real, meaningful interactions with customers. For marketers, the future of AI will be just that. However challenges in data siloization will need to be improved to develop sophisticated ID Graphs with the help of cognitive intelligence.