Be honest. Did you read the title of this article and begin humming a certain tune in your head? Apologies in advance because you will probably be singing this all day as a result, but when it came to thinking of a theme for this month’s piece, this was the song that sprang to mind. If you’re waiting for me to draw a connection between Eminem and AI, then sorry to disappoint, because fundamentally, this is a piece about how we view, interact and classify emerging technology today. Or to be more specific, how fragmented our outlook has become when discussing the concepts of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning.

There are so many buzzwords we have come to associate with technology, all overused, some exaggerated and taken out of context when looking to stoke fear or induce a reaction. My taste in music aside, our relationship (both personally and professionally) with technology is at an interesting juncture right now; polarized between being the enabler we cannot function without, and a dangerous addiction that will bring about our fiery doom. Just kidding. 

Still, you would think some 35 years on from the first Terminator film that we would have evolved our thinking around AI, Machine Learning and the evil robot overlords of Hollywood’s imagination, understanding the clear difference between fact and fiction. Yet, as production houses get more sophisticated with their storytelling and weave in real technology with far-reaching implications and doomsday alternate universes, the concern that AI is out to inhibit our free will, steal our jobs and rule over our lives, is perhaps getting more traction than it should.

A lot of this comes down to misunderstanding AI’s core purpose, so let’s consider this in a corporate context. It’s driving innovation in every industry, including ours, and yet the lack of education and understanding in how it can help businesses thrive remains shrouded in mystery. That’s not to say brands don’t see the value, but it’s the day-to-day processes and an absence of trust which is keeping AI from reaching its full mainstream potential. As the ecosystem continues to open up to more transparency, it will be down to us to show how this pivotal technology helps to scale quicker, improve efficiencies and yield the results that matter today.

Digital advertising, and in particular programmatic, has actively transformed the advertising landscape in the way ads are served, enabling data collection on a scale that wouldn’t have been possible even some twenty years ago. It’s gone from being an experimental technology, to resting at the center of all decisions made in advertising transactions, and in tandem we’ve seen the rise of AI and Machine Learning elevated to a position where even those not in the field are aware of their growing status. Perhaps this is the issue; too much publicity, too little understanding – and this is holding us back.

These concepts represent a fundamental shift in how we function today, with the proliferation of programmatic advertising placing personalization higher up in terms of priority. As user interactions move cross-media and cross-device, mass communication has become a thing of the past, with personalized messages now crafted based on relevancy, improving the chances of a more successful conversion.

And it’s this that we are increasingly looking to hone. Measuring engagement is the key to achieving a healthy ROI, which is where AI and Machine Learning come in to help us comprehend the user mindset more accurately. We can utilize these technologies to monitor, learn and act in real-time, using analytics and specific data points that can help us personalize on things like behavioral interests or digital profiles.

In order to compete in today’s competitive landscape, leveraging AI and other technologies is crucial to help optimize results and reduce costs, both on the supply and demand side. For our part, we need to stop over complicating matters and thus limiting the potential for growth, waving goodbye to further efficiencies and enhanced measurement and analytical capabilities as a result.

Automation doesn’t mean endless drones inhabiting office space – you can still use AI without machines taking over to power the whole ecosystem, and this is what needs to be understood if we are to avoid further talent turnover. This idea of a human and technological blend is something I’ve explored a lot so far this year, underscoring the need for us to really work with these machines to harness a brighter future. We can’t rely on past processes to get the job done, the world is changing too quickly and we need this technology to help carve out the best possible pathway to personalization and profit.

Maybe this is where we look to create a framework or a universal definition of what AI stands for within the industry today. We should banish the notion of buzzwords altogether and instead shift our focus to the underlying business objectives that will make our strategies a success. At the heart of everything is the user, and we should be engaging them with rich media solutions that resonate and convert on a regular basis.

There will always be an element of mystery surrounding any new technology that emerges, but we don’t need to fear it. Instead we should engage our natural curiosity, and as evolving AI models emerge, learn how they can be used to maximum effect. When Terminator 6 rolls round later this year, I’ll be interested to see whether their latest version of a dystopian future is somewhat closer to reality, but it should also be seen (and enjoyed) for what it is… entertaining fiction. In the meantime, let’s bring AI out of the shadows and into the mainstream, leaving any cheap imitations and misrepresentations behind.

Written by Nader Bitar,
Deputy General Manager