AI for PR producers

The advancement of marketing to machines

– Should we be worried?

Search as a concept has changed radically. Think back to the days when to find something out meant a trip to the library and a browse through the encyclopaedias and periodicals. Or even the microfiche.

Then came online search and we can sit in our homes, or in fact, wherever we happen to be, type in whatever it is we want to find and, et voila, there it is on the screen in front of us. We take it for granted now but it really wasn’t that long ago that things were so very different.

But, as Dylan would say, the times they are a changin’, and as so the world continues to turn so does the advancement of technology, and search is changing again as we witness the growth of digital assistants and marketing to machines.

What is happening?

Already people are using search advertising and utilising cookies without giving it too much thought. In fact, it can sometimes seem you only need to think to yourself “I must look in to buying some packing cubes for my trip abroad” before adverts are popping up all over your social media feeds.

Artificial intelligence is everywhere and an integral part of our lives. And it is set to become more so.

In the last couple of years, as voice recognition has improved, smart devices are doing more for us. We can ask Alexa not only to play music for us, but what the exchange rate is in Nepal, to turn on the lights in the other room and to remind us to collect our prescription from the chemists.

Digital assistants are becoming smarter. They are no longer the novelty they once were but are becoming part of our standard toolkit to make life easier. Kids, always quicker to adapt than us adults, don’t google, they just ask Alexa.

The range of things we can use smart devices for is increasing, and will continue to do so. We will be able to ask our devices to renew our car insurance, and it will be able to search and work out the best deals without you lifting a finger to open up your browser.  They are becoming our digital assistants.

Convenience is king

Humans are always looking for ways to make life simpler, and AI seems to tick the box. In the same way that subscription services have flourished because of the convenience they offer – movies, wine, online books, even toilet rolls… all these things we can and do subscribe to. After all, every subscription is one less thing to think about.

The principle of AI and marketing to machines is the same. Things can happen in the background without us having to think too much about it. And as technology develops our digital assistants will remember things for us and even, perhaps, anticipate our needs.

How does this change marketing?

Brands must embrace machine learning. Traditional marketing of print and TV ads will continue to decline in relevance. The key for marketers is to create content relevant to the target audience but from the perspective of the digital assistant. Think back to the days of telemarketing calls and trying to get past the secretary to talk to the MD. The digital assistant is the new gatekeeper.

Marketers need to utilise AI themselves to monitor search trends to gain insight into their customers’ behaviour. As AI improves, consumers become accustomed to more personalised results. Brands that push through less-relevant content driven by commercial desires will only succeed in being barred by the digital assistant. By understanding what customers want, brands can respond relevantly and increase their chances of getting past the gatekeeper.

Should we be concerned?

Sure, machine learning and AI can make things smoother for us. We don’t have to search for hours comparing prices or looking for the best deal. But essentially we are moving towards a situation where the AIs are talking to AIs, with no human involvement. As humans, we may crave simplicity but we also crave control. Marketing to machines undoubtedly removes some of our control and may keep humans out of the loop. Is there a chance that we are blindly slipping down a rabbit hole from which we may not be able to escape?

Key take away

Search is transforming and as AI develops so too does the way we utilise it. As AI becomes an increasingly integral part of our lives, the impact it has on us is changing – whether for better or worse, time will tell.

Undecided about the impact of machine marketing and AI? Why not come along to our forthcoming debate Marketing to Machines on Thursday 26th September 2019.

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