As artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual reality infuse everyday life, marketers are beginning to worry about what this means for their jobs. Will it really boil down to man versus machine? Or is it time to challenge the idea that AI is capable of doing everything humans can?
According to market research firm WARC’s “Toolkit 2017” report, 60% of those interviewed believed AI would be the most important technology of 2018, followed by chatbots and messenger apps.
“AI saves money – after all, it doesn’t need breaks or holidays – and it makes people nervous about the future,” Daren Poole, global head of creative at Kantar’s insights division, said at a recent event hosted by Kantar Millward Brown.
“If, in five to 10 years’ time, computers are able to write and test content, many marketers and creatives will be out of jobs,” he said. However, he believes there will still be space for the human touch.
Poole said the talents of bots and AI lies in their ability to take consumers through structured routines based on insights that help them to make decisions. They use machine learning to record purchasing decisions so that decisionmaking is faster and easier the next time the consumer needs to make a choice.
In addition, AI provides consumers with personalised recommendations based on previous purchases. Netflix says this particular function has saved the company about $1bn: because subscribers receive content recommendations based on what they have watched previously, they are almost guaranteed to enjoy every recommendation, which means they are unlikely to cancel their subscriptions. Similarly, Amazon bought Kiva Systems in a bid to speed up the click-to-shipment process. It says the acquisition earned the company a 40% return on investment.
Then there are voice assistants such as Siri and Alexa. “In the next few years, it is predicted that one-third of households globally will have voice assistants, which will have significant consequences for branding and marketing,” said Poole. “For example, in many markets Alexa doesn’t shop by brand, which means marketers may have to spend less on brand building and more on search.”
Poole was, however, quick to point out the limits of AI. For a start, it can only carry out tasks it is programmed for. There are further limitations from a creative perspective, so while AI may be great at recognising patterns, it can’t go much further than that.