‘Don’t be afrAId’ writes Elda Choucair, managing director of PHD UAE

Elda Choucair, managing director of PHD UAE, writes about how marketing will make Artificial Intelligence (AI) the enabler of new lifestyles.

I can recall a time when the most primitive mobile phones were a marvelous addition to our lives. When computers became household products, moving from a binary DOS operating system to the colorful world of Windows and, today, an application-driven environment. Nowadays, most of the innovations focus on bridging the gap between the individual and the wider world, improving processes and making our lives easier and more efficient. Look at the latest developments in smartphone capabilities for example, or the recent emergence of smart tables, fridges and microwaves. Another development is the rise of the On Demand Economy. Consumers have certainly evolved too, forever expecting more from technology and brands in terms of convenience and comfort.

Today, we are stepping into a world where humans depend on artificial intelligence (AI) for multiple purposes, including their virtual personal assistants (VPAs). While the current uses of AI are interesting, companies like Microsoft, IBM, Google, Qualcomm and even Facebook are investing heavily in developing the technology further so that one day, they will automate even more of our lives. Every day, scientists are progressing in developing neural networks that can perform more and more cognitive tasks. This technology is not advancing linearly but at exponential rates. If you consider how much we have progressed in the past two decades, just imagine how much we will achieve by 2029, when inventor and Google’s director of engineering, Ray Kurzweil, believes machines will have human-level intelligence.

To some, it may sound scary. The loss of control is indeed a terrifying thought. But that’s the one dimension Hollywood has chosen to depict. AI does not necessarily mean that the Terminator or Ex Machina scenario will become reality. In fact, if you need to use popular culture references, think of NARS, the robot from Interstellar, as the physical manifestation of AI. Rather than just stereotypical robots, we’re referring to massive neural networks that operate like the human brain but to the power of 10. This technology will enlarge our knowledge base, enhance our capabilities, increase efficiencies and improve the effectiveness of everything we do. In the AI age, sentient machines will be our fellow masterminds and inventors, aiding us to transform and explore beyond the capabilities of our own intelligence. Remember the old adage, “two brains are better than one”? In this case, it may very well be 10 or even more.

While it is hardly the type to be glorified by Hollywood, AI is already transforming industries, particularly the marketing and advertising sectors. Today, programmatic media relies on technology to make decisions more rapidly than we are physically capable of. We would never be able to deliver relevant content in real time to consumers without the aid of machine learning. More advanced uses of AI will rely on ever-more powerful algorithms to perform, for example, millions of trading decisions every single minute. This will certainly impact the way we operate in the future.

As we gather more insights about consumers in real time, we will be able to target them more intimately and focus on high value/potential/propensity customers to maximize efficiency. The invaluable benefits that AI has already brought to today’s advertising practices – including creative versioning for outdoor billboards, the creation of content based on contextual analysis engines on social media and improved designs from the results of multivariate testing, carried out in real time – are the reason why this industry will be one of the first to see its mainstream uses.

People will benefit too as advertising is about to get so much more personalized and targeted. In an AI-driven world, you will no longer have to make brand decisions or be bombarded with ads for irrelevant products. Our VPAs will only inform us of promotions on products we’re already researching, and particularly for brands and personal specifications in which we have indicated an interest. Our assistants will screen and let the relevant messages through, based on what they have learned about us. Therefore, advertisers will not only have to influence consumers directly, but also their VPAs, using native algorithm-driven messaging and a biddable ad model. Our dominant purchase behavior will eventually impact all product categories, as we enter a phase of preemptive marketing. Individuals will be algorithmically identified as high potentials based on behavior patterns. The role of classic mass brand communications will be to cut-through to people by inducing sentiments and evoking conversations that can ultimately influence our VPAs’ ever-changing algorithms.

Marketers will have to embrace platforms that scour through consumers’ conversations and transact with them in order to place their products in consumers’ lives. As Sir Tim Berners-Lee stated at PHD’s Cannes seminar this year, businesses will need to contribute raw data to the “tagged-up” world in order to compete for the attention of sentient machines making purchases on consumers’ behalf. This is, after all, what will provide the paychecks for VPAs, which will serve ads natively to consumers in exchange for providing their services for free. And these tasks fall in line with the larger purpose of AI – to free us from the clutter of information and allow us to focus more on the constructive elements of our jobs and lives.

Can you imagine what we humans will be able to achieve when we no longer drown in mundane tasks that AI will handle on our behalf? What role will brands be able to play in this new lifestyle? Rather than a doomsday scenario, this is a future worth looking forward to.

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