How AI will transform every job in media, not just the ones you expect

Artificial intelligence has been part of the zeitgeist for decades.  But now that the technology is moving into the media and marketing mainstream, industry professionals may wonder if they’re about to be phased out by an army of machines.

At least that’s been the fait accompli. An upcoming study on how the industry is incorporating artificial intelligence, says the new technology will augment, not replace, marketing jobs. Thomas Prommer, managing director of technology at global digital agency Huge, interviewed as part of the study, agrees.

We spoke with Prommer about his vision for AI, the applications of AI technology he finds most compelling, and how he believes smart machines can transform the way marketers and media professionals work.

To get the full report, available in August, sign up here: 

What are some elements of AI that really excite you, and that should excite marketers?

There’s a lot of talk about AI as a tool of revolution and disruption. It helps to take a look back at our past revolutions as a guiding factor. The agricultural revolution, the industrial revolution, and the technological revolution all had two things in common: they allowed us to do things in a cheaper way and offered up the possibilities to do new things over time.

That’s what we see with the initial applications of AI in marketing. Activities that we used to spend a lot of resources and time on are increasingly being supported by AI. Customer support functions are being aided by chatbots. Manual tagging of media assets is being replaced by automated systems that can recognize and describe a picture.

In the end, marketers need to ask themselves two questions: what consumes a lot of time and money and how can AI help reduce the cost?

Such as?

It can be very tactical. AI packaged in off-the-shelf digital marketing products can have a big operational impact. For example, an organization may today employ a staff of production designers to manually craft assets for different channels… to make sure the crops of the images are optimized to center on faces or other points of interest.

Vision-based AI products can now provide that cognitive context; they can analyze and recognize hot spots in an image and produce cropped versions accordingly with minimal human supervision. So now, you have a team of production designers that can focus on much more creative and valuable tasks.

But the industry’s also seeing traction in AI around more strategic tasks like media buying. Is that poised for widespread adoption?

It is. This sort of AI is well-packaged through SaaS offerings that simply put a play button on AI. We think this will lead to widespread adoption of AI beyond programmatic media buying.

Social media is another great example. Today, AI essentially allows you sift through huge amounts of data looking for brand-relevant direct and indirect mentions from Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook in real time.

Vision-based AI can easily recognize your products in user generated content without the user even making an explicit product mention. What used to be a tedious manual curation task for social media managers has now been replaced by algorithms, freeing up the resource for more important activities.

Assume similar technology being used for brand monitoring, sentiment analysis, and influencer identification and you realize that not using AI for these activities sets you far behind.

Right now it seems AI is focused largely on data and creative management. Do you envision AI affecting every area of business?

Yes, very much so. Every business unit needs to be on the lookout on how to leverage AI to be the best version of themselves.

If we look at sales, we see Salesforce integrating AI into CRM operations. Their initiative, Project Einstein, uses machine learning and predictive analytics to model a typical customer journey. Based on such models, sales teams get alerts when individual prospects would benefit from an interaction to convert a sale or avoid a churn.

We see strategy and research teams in the financial industry use big data and AI by processing global satellite imagery daily to detect market trends in as close to real time as possible. For example, by assessing how busy grocery store parking lots are over time, investment companies can predict sales data which in turn inform their investment decisions.

Even HR can immensely benefit from AI applications. At Huge, our own conversational interface, called Dakota, provides answers to the thousands of candidates who apply each month. We analyzed what questions our applicants ask most often and ensure that Dakota answers at any time of day. It’s a clear win-win. Our applicants get answers when they want them and our HR team spends less time answering repetitive emails and more time improving the recruiting and working experience at Huge.

If AI were to be applied to every department, what do marketers and industry professionals really need to know?

Get a basic understanding of how AI works. Most AI follows a repetitive pattern: they process big amounts of structured data for training, based on that data they are able to make predictions in real time, then algorithms apply judgment on what action to take. The more advanced AI then observes the outcome and feeds it back into their training data.

Also, simply be curious. Look at what other organizations are doing with AI and see how it can be relevant to your business. We are still in the early phase of the AI revolution, so it’s by no means too late.

It seems that AI is something agencies are really pioneering. Do you think we’ll see brands bringing AI in-house at scale anytime soon?

We are definitely still in a pioneering phase in which brands are looking to their agencies to provide guidance and steer exploration projects. You see progressive brands investing in key roles such as Chief Data Officers as well as data science and data engineering staff in general.

Overall, I expect to see the same maturation process that occurred with in-house creative teams, digital engineering teams, or analytics teams. Very few organizations maintained these capabilities in-house a decade ago, but now brands rely less on outside agencies for these services. Similarly, data science and AI capabilities will become more of an in-house capability over time.

Is it difficult to recruit this kind of talent?

There is definitely talent scarcity. Data science and AI-related education programs are quickly gaining popularity but it will take some years for this fresh talent to be available on the job market.  

So, it is an incredible opportunity for anyone in the digital space to distinguish yourself and raise your profile. No matter if you are an engineer, marketer, creative, or strategist, AI is here to stay. Investing in both an educational and practical hands-on experience in AI-related projects will get you ahead.

Prommer’s predictions make clear that AI is going to change the way marketers work, not just the way they market. AI is poised to reshape every aspect of the industry from talent and recruitment all the way up to data management and insight development. To learn more about how AI will reshape marketing, creative, strategy and sales jobs, sign up to receive the full report, available in August.

To receive the full report, available in August, sign up here: 

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