Digiday+ Research check-in: Publishers and brands go all-in on AI compared with Q2

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Artificial intelligence is now unavoidable, almost regardless of your industry, which is a shift that happened fast. For the media and marketing industries, AI technology is becoming ingrained in workflows and processes at a rapid pace, even just from one quarter to the next.

After asking publishers, agencies and brands about their use of AI in the first and second quarters of this year, Digiday+ Research checked in again in Q3 with over 200 publisher, agency and brand professionals to see how their use of AI is progressing as the year goes on. And we found that it’s progressing significantly — particularly among publishers and brands.

Digiday’s survey found that there’s no question among publishers, brands and agencies that AI’s time is now. Seventy-eight percent of brand pros, 76% of agency pros and a whopping 91% of publisher pros said in Q3 of this year that AI will be the technology that has the biggest impact on their businesses in the next few years.

This marks a jump from Q1 of this year for brands and publishers, when 68% of brand pros and 79% of publisher pros chose AI as the technology that will impact their businesses the most — a change that occurred over just six months. Interestingly, the percentage of agency pros who said AI will have the biggest impact on their businesses in the coming year compared with other technologies was unchanged between Q1 and Q3 of this year. This could be an indication that agencies were early-movers on AI technology, which we’ll talk about more below.

It’s also worth noting that AI blew the other technologies offered to survey respondents out of the water. The metaverse came in second place among brand respondents in Q3, but only 7% of brand pros chose the metaverse as the technology that would have the biggest impact in the next few years. Seven percent of agency pros said virtual reality would have the biggest impact, putting VR at No. 2 among this set of respondents. For publishers, blockchain and cryptocurrency came in second behind AI — with a mere 2% of publisher pros choosing that technology as the one that will have the biggest impact on them.

Digiday’s survey found that a lot has changed over this year for publishers and brands when it comes to actually adopting AI. More specifically, a lot more publishers and brands are using AI now than were doing so earlier this year.

In Q2 of this year, just under half of publishers and brands were using AI — 49% and 44%, respectively. By Q3, 89% of publisher pros told Digiday their company was using AI and 80% of brand pros said the same. That’s a big difference to occur over the course of just one quarter.

The percentage of agencies using AI also increased over the same period, but by a much smaller margin. That’s not because agencies’ use of AI is lagging behind the other groups, though, but rather because agencies were early adopters of the technology (as we touched on above).

As of Q2, 71% of agencies were already using AI technology — a very significant amount. In Q3, 85% of agency pros told Digiday that their companies were using AI.

With AI adoption rates jumping so much this year among publishers, brands and agencies, the question remains as to what these groups are using the technology for. Digiday’s survey found that it’s kind of a mixed bag at the moment, but that companies are more likely to be using AI for internal purposes than external ones.

For instance, 38% of publisher pros told Digiday in Q3 of this year that their companies are using generative AI, specifically, for internal and back-end applications, while 25% said they’re using the technology for audience-facing applications. The difference for marketers was a bit more stark. Forty-five percent of brand pros said their companies use generative AI for internal applications, compared with 17% who said they use it for customer-facing applications. And 46% of agency pros said their companies use generative AI for internal applications, compared with 13% who said they use it for customer-facing ones.

When it comes to the specific AI applications companies are using, most are using generative AI tools like OpenAI’s ChatGPT (which shouldn’t come as a surprise). Although, brands’ use of these tools does lag behind that of publishers and agencies. Seventy percent of publisher pros told Digiday that their companies are using generative AI applications, and 72% of agency pros said the same. However, 59% of brand pros said their companies are using generative AI (although that still makes it the top AI tool among brands).

Other AI uses worth noting include publishers’ use of voice-to-text technology (35% of publisher pros told Digiday their companies use this), as well as social media listening (used by 37% of agency pros and 30% of brand pros), and chatbots and AI assistants (used by 30% of both agency pros and brand pros).


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