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PHD Group’s latest publication – Sentience: The Coming AI Revolution and the Implications for Marketing marks the beginning of Preemptive Marketing, where algorithms* will start to predict how we will behave,” says Christophe Spencer, PHD Group NZ head of digital.

It is a question some marketers will be asking, as artificial intelligence (AI) begins to transform the marketing and advertising industries. “No longer are there just, ‘Suits’, ‘Media’, and ‘Creatives’ – intelligent machines are becoming an indispensable part of the team.”

Spencer says the book explores fascinating examples of how AI is driving consumer-facing technology trends, and hypothesises AI’s future effect on the marketing industry.

Spark Activate NZ general manager Robin Wilson said: “With increasing discussion around the idea of machines taking over, the timing for release couldn’t be more relevant. According to the Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand, an estimated 46% of Kiwi jobs are at risk from automation within the next 20 years . Your audience may not be aware of this, but if they are they might be asking themselves ‘Will I be replaced by a machine?’

“One of the book’s most exciting propositions is that every person will have a Virtual Personal Assistant (VPA) with a sentient mind; which spends its entire time and focus managing your life. Google’s head of engineering thinks this level of artificial intelligence will be here in 2029, in just a little over a decade.”

Marketers are used to AI in the form of Amazon’s recommendation algorithms keeping consumers engaged and buying; and Netflix’s dynamic algorithm recommending movies based on viewing habits.

However Sentience looks beyond, citing Google director of engineering Ray Kurzweil’s prediction that “we will have achieved human or near-human level artificial intelligence by 2029”. Kurzweil states in his book The Age of Spiritual Machines that there will be little – if anything – humans can do better than machines.

The rise of the Virtual Personal Assistant
Sentience explores the future development of the Virtual Personal Assistant (VPA) with a sentient mind; which spends its entire time and focus managing your life. VPAs will scan the tagged-up world, edit and translate a huge amount of data into a relevant stream of information, and offer suggestions to make decision making easier.

This will be a hugely significant change for marketers and advertisers who will use VPAs to deliver algorithm-driven marketing messages as native and natural prompts for relevant products and services. For example, your VPA says, ‘Silo Theatre suggests you may want tickets to their show on Friday night. I’ve checked your diary and you are free, would you like to invite Jenny? She is likely to say yes.’

“Many of us will simply let our VPAs do much of our shopping for us, forcing brands to behave in completely new ways,” says Mike Cooper, Worldwide ceo for PHD Group. “They will be the gatekeepers that we, as marketers, will need to influence.”

The VPA product and service suggestions are likely to be driven by a biddable advertising model, Cooper says.

Knowledge-based targeting
The explosion in the amount of data available and improvement in algorithms has also influenced the rise of AI in consumer-facing technologies.

Yahoo has the power of 18 years of emails at its disposal. It can draw from the 225 petabytes of perfect digital memory stored in inboxes, with masses of information about users’ personal lives. With AI, the cross-platform targeting potential is remarkable.

“This level of data will enable the beginning of Preemptive Marketing, where algorithms will start to predict how we will behave,” says PHD Group NZ’s Christophe Spencer.

“The VPA may listen in to your conversations, analyse your online habits, and make product or service suggestions to you based on your patterns of behaviour.”

Media and advertising booking
Sentience notes that winning the ability to be the suggested brand or product for high prospect consumers as they pop into an ‘active-request’ state is going to be of increasing and intense focus.

Speed in identifying and aggregating multiple bids for this audience who are in the buying cycle, in real time, will become a final competitive advantage for media agencies, similar to banks in finance now.

Humans cannot compete with algorithms when it comes to speed. The average time it takes a person to click their mouse is half a second or half a million microseconds. Whereas, an algorithmic trade can be undertaken in only half a dozen microseconds, or less.

Algorithms will recommend products and services to consumers that are at the right bid price, that have a high relevancy or quality score, and which the consumer feels positive sentiment toward.

Simon Bird, PHD Group NZ group strategy director, said: “Although a big focus is, and will continue to be, on the purchase moment, positive sentiment and brand appeal will still be very important in many categories.

“Naturally we give better product or experience ratings to brands we like, and those which we know others like. This in turn will result in VPAs recommending these products and services more.

“As marketers we are now able to easily see the kinds of campaigns that people like to watch. In a world where ads are also ranked and rated, brand communications will increasingly look more and more like entertainment, for example Cadbury’s Gorilla or Old Spice’s The Man Your Man Could Smell Like.

“Obviously it’s pretty much impossible to be 100% right when predicting the future, but by being cognisant of how technology is changing, and how it is likely to affect us, means we can ensure that neither we nor our clients ever get it 100% wrong.”

  • Sentience: The Coming AI Revolution and the Implications for Marketing is available to purchase from Amazon (US$10.06 for the Kindle version), the iBookstore, and Google Play – with all proceeds going to UNICEF.
  • An algorithm is a step-by-step series of instructions or procedures, which computers complete in order to solve a problem or produce a result. 

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