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CES Briefing: Brands use CES stage to spotlight AI innovation

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Keep up to date with Digiday’s annual coverage of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. More from the series →

As CES wraps up, it’s easy to see that, as predicted, AI dominated conversations on stage and throughout the showroom this year. 

On Thursday during CES, Mastercard debuted a pilot AI tool that provides personalized help with starting a small business from applying for grants, sourcing materials, naming the business and creating a marketing campaign.

Mastercard’s tool, developed in collaboration with Create Labs, was trained using a range of Mastercard content from several publishers including Blavity Media Group, Group Black, Newsweek and TelevisaUnivision to help mitigate AI bias. Mastercard wouldn’t disclose which large language models it used to create the platform.

“It’s almost like being an AI mentor for small businesses,” Mastercard CMO Raja Rajamannar told Digiday at CES. “It really guides you step-by-step, holds your hand and teaches you, gives you plans, gives you thought starters, helps you shortlist priorities and everything. I think this is going to be a very powerful tool.”

Mastercard is just one of a number of marketers to use CES to showcase their AI efforts. Major marketers like L’Oreal, BMW, Amazon, Walmart, Samsung and more took to CES to tout their use of AI and more formally connect their brands with AI.

“This year is the year of AI,” said Ben James, chief innovation officer at Gale Agency, of the focus at CES adding the previous years have focused on voice assistants and other technologies. “It’s really just a tool that speeds us up to move faster. The difference [with AI versus previous technologies that have dominated CES] is we’ve never seen a tool or a technology really hit so many, impact so many spaces that it basically saves time in many, many, many, many industries and many parts of your workflow all at once.” 

That marketers would use CES to put a foothold down as first movers and truly connect their brands with AI isn’t surprising. Marketers are always drawn to the shiny, new thing and pushing their brands to be tied to said thing to keep them relevant. While that strategy doesn’t always work out — the metaverse was a point of focus last year but marketers interest in the metaverse seems to have dwindled significantly since then — marketers seem bullish on the likelihood that AI is here to stay. 

“For brands and marketers, they are feeling the early stages of this gen AI explosion,” said Brian Yamada, chief innovation officer, VML. “There’s all kinds of hype, but a lot of people are standing back on the sidelines waiting for it to be commercially viable. We’re at the beginning of brand adoption.”

That early movers like Mastercard and L’Oreal (the beauty behemoth debuted its AI-powered beauty advisor), among others, are using CES to showcase how their brands are adopting AI will have the marketers on the sidelines paying attention to how the first movers are using AI and what it can do for their brands. Even as some marketers are on the sidelines, there’s more interest in innovation overall because of the AI hype, according to agency execs. 

“The AI hype has maybe opened the door a little wider for a client’s appetite for innovation,” said Yamada, adding that he has seen more curiosity from marketers in visiting the start ups in the Eureka Park section of CES this year. With that being said, VML is having to spend more time to “articulate the intent” of clients’ interest in AI because it can be ambiguous at the moment, explained Yamada. 

For marketers who are watching early movers and trying to figure out how to use AI for their brands, VML is asking clients what they want to be able to do, what they want to create for their audience or customers, what the problem or use case for AI may be or the problem that it could solve, noted Yamada. Taking that approach will make whatever the application of AI is for the brand less about simply using AI to keep up with other brands but to do something that consumers will appreciate. 

“I don’t view it as like they’re just jumping on the bandwagon kind of thing,” said James of brands putting AI front and center at CES. Given the rise of AI and the likelihood that this isn’t just a quick phase, “it’s important that they try to engage with the subject and try to do something with it.” — Kristina Monllos and Marty Swant

Omnicom co-develops creator benchmarking insights across Meta’s platforms

Wrapping its blitz of moves with major social and commerce platforms to align the discovery, planning and measurement of marketing-driven influencer and creator content with other media channels, Omnicom is rolling out creator benchmarking insights for all Meta platforms, Digiday has learned. 

The news follows research that aims to better understand the value influencers bring to the marketing equation, as well as partnerships and deals with TikTok, YouTube and Amazon — all aimed at putting influencer marketing alongside other channels as well as to boost its performative abilities. 

The co-development deal with Meta revolves around the ability to benchmark creators mainly within Omni, Omnicom’s central operating system, which was intentionally designed to be open to data inputs from any source (ie Meta) to harmonize it with its own data. The benchmarking ability lets planners across Omnicom’s global markets analyze the performance of creator content across Facebook and Instagram against inventory that currently includes more than 28,000 pieces of creator content curated by Omnicom Media Group. Insights within these data lakes can be broken out by industry and influencer to drill down to granular decisioning levels.

Megan Pagliuca, OMG’s North American chief activation officer, said the benchmarking extends work Omnicom has been doing with Meta for more than a year. “It started as kind of a paid social intelligence suite where we had paid social benchmarking, and it’s now extended to have to creator benchmarking capabilities that help inform planning,” said Pagliuca. “So we’re looking at an array of attributes rather than just looking at something like the number of followers.”

That resonates with other agents of the industry that have a stake in making influencers a bigger part of marketing. “A good influencer campaign should look beyond follower counts, emphasizing audience loyalty and engagement,” said Matilda Donovan, digital talent agent at UTA. “Aligning the creator’s brand with the promoted product ensures resonance with the audience’s established preferences, driving the strongest results.”

Ben Hovaness, global chief media officer for OMD, added that this is another step toward assessing creator marketing side by side with other established media channels. “This gives our clients insights far beyond what you can get out of using the platform’s built-in planning tools, because we have the advantage of a huge volume of client performance data to use,” said Hovaness. “So we can drill in by different objectives, formats and so forth.”

“As we are moving towards influencer [marketing] being a full fledged media channel, we had to think about what are the ways you would optimize,” said Clarissa Season, chief experience officer at Annalect, which manages Omni. “So that caused us to look at data a little differently for the influencer audience and how we visualize that and bring that to life for our users, so that they can quickly and easily optimize and make those adjustments.”

Bianca Bradford, Meta’s head of agency for North America, said it’s the context that’s key to the co-developed benchmarking: “It can help provide additional context around the impact an individual creator is making, and we believe that providing these types of insights to advertisers can help push forward the broader creator ecosystem.”

Hovaness pointed out the importance of understanding regional nuances of creator partnerships — and the benchmarking effort will occur in a variety of global markets starting in Q1 of this year. “Influencer Marketing varies a great deal from one region to the next from one market to the next,” he said. “What a micro influencer is in the United States is very different from what it might be in China or another major market. Being able to cluster our data into tranches or tiers of influencers is enormously powerful, especially when we’re looking at things through a market-specific lens which we do for most of our media activations.” — Michael Bürgi

Elsewhere from CES

  • Samsung, LG, Telly and Displace all unveiled new AI integrations power viewing, advertising and shopping, and other features.
  • McAfee debuted a new platform called Project Mockingbird to detect AI-generated deep fake audio and video content to help consumers avoid falling victim to scams, misinformation and other cybersecurity risks.
  • To showcase the latest self-driving car tech, autonomous Indy cars raced at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Thursday in the “Racing After Dark” competition.
  • Despite all the AI hype, mixed reality headsets turned heads in Vegas. with debuts from Sony and startups like Xreal and Spacetop. (The latter released a new augmented reality laptop that combines an AR headset with physical keyboard.) — Marty Swant


“Make sure that your inputs are really fit to the purpose of what you’re trying to get out of it.” — Stacy Berek, consumer insights and sales effectiveness teams at GfK, North America

Veteran’s tip of the day: don’t forget the follow-up

Once the madness of CES is over, don’t be that person who forgets to follow up, said said Marisa Nelson, evp of marketing and communications at ad tech vendor Equativ. Shoot a message to those you met while the memory is still fresh and cement those relationships quickly. — as told to Seb Joseph; Read the full veteran’s guide to CES.

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