Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Is this the Golden Age of AI in digital marketing?

Have we entered the Golden Age of artificial intelligence (AI)? That’s a big question, but one that the answer to may very well be “yes”, at least when looking at the world of digital marketing anyway.

The explosion in popularity of AI – thanks to the likes of OpenAI’s ChatGPT, Google’s Bard, and Midjourney – has meant that the technology is now very much at the forefront of conversations everywhere. These generative AI platforms are all the rage but, when it comes to the world of programmatic advertising, the key may lie in predictive AI applications instead.

“It’s our belief that predictive AI is going to have the biggest impact on programmatic, or digital marketing, for the coming period of time. Generative AI obviously has the big wow factor, and rightly so, there is a lot of cool stuff being done with it. But predictive AI is where you’re going to find real value,” said Matt Nash, UK Managing Director at Scibids, during his opening presentation at a breakfast event co-hosted by New Digital Age and Scibids.

The event, titled ‘The Golden Age of AI is here’, welcomed an audience made up of agencies, brands, and tech partners to talk all things AI and digital marketing. A panel featuring Nick Reid, SVP & Managing Director EMEA at DoubleVerify; Eliette Cremer, Programmatic Lead at Space & Time; Celine Saturnino, Chief Operating Officer at Total Media; and Sully Khan, Director of Programmatic at Brainlabs Digital (at time of event) provide their take on the role of AI within a digital marketing strategy. The event then closed with fireside chat with Seun Odeneye, Managing Director at Matterkind.

Increased efficiency

Speaking on the panel, Reid highlighted the complexity of the digital marketing industry and how AI can do a job of making things simpler for everybody.

“The world’s complex, and our industry continues to fragment and create additional complexities in the way in which we measure and look to drive outcomes.  So, thinking about ways we can simplify and drive more informed decisions for the benefit of advertisers and our agency partners is where we want to be,” said Reid. “ We will always need the influence of human output, but looking to drive efficiency through the concept of understanding data and capitalising on that data in a more efficient way can only benefit all.”

At an agency like Total Media, AI is used as part of an overall push to deliver a service to clients “as cost efficiently and effectively as possible,” said Saturnino.

“We’ll start to use AI for how we deliver reporting and analytics, how we set up campaigns and optimise them and then report them. So, it’s using our teams to say, ‘how can I use your time more effectively?’ There are only two things I need to do, and that’s to look after my people and look after our clients,” explained Saturnino.

“AI, for us, is a business solution. We are looking at how we develop the use of AI across the entire ecosystem.”

Is it sustainable?

One of the major benefits that will come as a result of increasing efficiency within digital marketing is the part it will play in reducing the industry’s carbon emissions. And AI is going to be “pivotal going forward” in achieving sustainability goals, while continuing to produce successful campaigns, according to Khan.

“We use AI to do a lot of the heavy lifting out there, and we use it successfully to do the really boring and mundane tasks that we don’t like doing,” he said. “We, as marketers, try to focus our efforts on our clients and their sustainability efforts, as well as hitting those core KPIs. The more data signals an AI can actually ingest to help us tick these sustainability KPIs is really important, as well as focusing and optimising toward the traditional metrics.”

Brainlabs has managed to find the aforementioned increased efficiency working with Scibids by utilising the technology to be “flexible across the funnel”, achieving between 30% and 70% improvement on all campaign KPIs across all client verticals.

On the other hand, though “we use AI without knowing that we use AI”, there is still a lot of work that has to be done by agencies to educate their clients on what the technology really means, according to Cremer.

“There is a big job to do, especially for agencies with that expertise and knowledge of the platforms,” she said. “I think there is loads of education work still to do to bring AI to a level where marketers will be ready.” And part of that education lies in making it clear that humans still have a big role to play in the effectiveness of AI.

“When you use AI, you can have so many KPIs that a human wouldn’t be able to process,” Cremer added. “You can have your standard KPIs and then you can have more like quality, sustainability, privacy, semantics. That’s where you start doing your harder work with the same resources. But you need to have the human input behind the things you do.”

Getting ahead of the competition

All things considered, Odeneye – speaking during his fireside chat – highlighted his belief that “AI needs to be table stakes” within the world of digital marketing.

“You can’t rely on binary decisions if you’re going to stay competitive, especially in a world where you’re trying to squeeze value out of the pound. You need to be able to give yourself a competitive edge, and AI gives you that,” Odeneye explained. “I think you’ll mainly use it in an optimisation sense. How do we get loads of great insights into that? And I think that’s the place we could do it, where it’s just generating incredible intel for optimisation.

“You’re making those changes in campaign. How can it now help us drive these amazing outputs, so it gives agencies a deeper understanding of what to do on the next burst of a campaign?”

Aside from Matterkind’s proprietary AI use, it works with partners, such as Scibids, to deliver for its clients.

“We’ve used it [Scibids] on an entertainment client for attention, and we saw a 43% lift,” said Odeneye. “We did it on an FMCG brand for traffic driving, and it drove 41%. But the standout was a hotel brand, where we saw 72% efficiency.”

Nonetheless, Odeneye feels this is both an “amazing” time and a “really uncertain” time when it comes to the growth of AI, and he warned that it could “get to a stage where we’re going too far”.

“As an industry, we need to ensure there are widely agreed guidelines and oversight in place to ensure brand and consumer safety in all applications of AI-based technology.”

It remains to be seen if that turns out to be the case. But, for now, at least for the world of digital marketing, there is a strong argument to say we have officially entered the Golden Age.

*Scibids is a client of Bluestripe Communications, owned by Bluestripe Group, publisher of NDA