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Published on The Drum

Once you get past the semantics, the term artificial intelligence is something of a misnomer.

In fact, such intelligent technology actually makes the consumer experience more real – artificiality, according to those we spoke to for this joint Hall & Partners and TBWA\Asia Pacific report, and is being designed out of the marketing process by the rapid development of machine tools.

However, the research we’ve collated in The Rise of The Machines has pinpointed a series of concerns felt by marketers that some aspects of artificially intelligent tools are being exaggerated by the inflated buzz of PR, rather than the true experience of consumers. They will for sure be essential tools but our experience as agencies has led us to believe that brands need to be cautious which tool will really help their strategies.

The true potential of AI lies in creating experiences - online and offline – that enable brands to reach new audiences and have a greater understanding about those audiences’ behaviors and desires. And our opinion – confirmed by the conversations we’ve had with these marketing leaders – is that as these tools become more sophisticated, so the willingness of people to share information will increase.

A leading marketer based in Asia believes that intelligent use by brands of AI can persuade customers to share even deeper mines of information. In particular, he believes the use of bots – or simple ‘robots’ that run automated actions over the internet designed to amass data – will become even more crucial as they become ever more sophisticated.

“Marketing needs to be more human and transparent which means that bots are the future. I think the maturity of how we market bots to customers is going to change. Right now we almost try to pass them off as a customer service agent or retail staff member, but once people are more comfortable with the idea of it, we can clearly say this is our artificial helper who will assist you. Right now, search is very manual, but an assisted search can lead to more brand loyalty. The mistrust that consumers had in technology is swiftly ebbing away and bots will be the prime beneficiary of that culture change. People will see the benefit of them,” he said.

As AI tools proliferate, Mark Liversidge, founder of Eight Magpies, a marketing advisory company, believes that the opportunities, especially in the hospitality industry, will be enormous, something that we at both Hall & Partners and TBWA recognise.

He says: “Artificial intelligence represents a huge opportunity for us in the travel space. For instance, when people are travelling, whether they’re planning their break or are actually going through the airport, we have an app that enables you to choose your own room, enables you to arrange for your amenities before you arrive, check-in before arrival and use your mobile device as your key. And if we enrich that with an AI layer, suddenly that allows you to understand where all the activities are happening if you’re on a resort or perhaps find special locations in a city as you’re walking through.”

David Loughnan of Traffik is adamant that strategies need to focus on enriching the consumer experience by, he says: “overlaying data against who I am and what demographic I am, to create a really personalized shopping experience.”

Personalisation, too, has become an essential tool for marketers but only now is the ability to personalise actually enriching the experience of consumers. Something we’ve experienced to a great extent with our global campaigns.

The more sophisticated the machines have become, the more intuitive the experience. This is especially true in terms of how augmented reality has made the field of gamification more meaningful – both for the brand offering, by providing a broader context, and the consumer data that such tools can amass. In fact, the targeting possibilities are truly infinite.

Benjamin Pommeraud, general manager of Riot Games in Singapore believes that “an advanced AI can learn about customers preferences via the large amount of conversations conducted in the digital sphere, and try to adapt the experience around the product to make it better for the end user. But this raises some privacy concerns.”

We also believe that shopping will be transformed by artificial intelligence because the technology will be able to make the actual consumer experience feel more real and more personally meaningful to them as shoppers. If brands can use these mechanised tools to make the shopping experience, faster, more targeted and more responsive – perhaps by providing the right deal to the right customer at the right time – then they will undoubtedly add value.

Traffik’s David Loughnan agrees, adding that the key is to meld structured data (that which is client-held) with unstructured, such as social sentiment, to “learn over time and transform how tailored an experience can truly become”. He adds: “Overlaying it against who I am and what demographic I am can create a really personalized shopping experience.”

Indeed, consumers are coming to expect a customized experience that speaks to their needs and desires – sometimes even predicts them – because the rise of the machines has empowered them with choice and flexibility.

Friesland Campina’s David Naidu believes that the targeting possibilities are now almost infinite: “The magic of the digital realm is that we are able to segment to an almost infinite level, to really reach out to the end user and deliver a customised experience. And I think that’s how people see themselves today, and how they interact with brands. They are no longer treated as part of a larger ecosystem, because they want and demand to be treated as someone with their own needs and desires.”

With enriched content becoming even more personalized on a variety of channels, we at Hall & Partners and TBWA believe that improved AI tools will be able to harness more accurate data about habits and preferences. The possibilities for advertisers are enormous, particularly if creative teams and machines can work together to create real-time scaleable content. However, our respondents in this special report believe that it’s important that the advertising industry adapts faster to the rise of the machines.

For instance, adds Loughnan, companies need to consider engaging in more partnerships to maximise the use of personalisation technologies, because “to do a million pieces of content in a millisecond to be targeted, you need partners. You need machines, algorithms, creative people and commercial stock.”

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