Is The Relevance Of Human Perspective In Advertising Diminishing?


Written by:

Chris Dobson

CEO, The Exchange Lab


At this year’s Cannes Lions, Bob Lord, chief digital officer at IBM, proved how powerful man and machine can be when combined.

Lord told the story of how IBM’s cognitive system, Watson, helped Alex Da Kid build a music track designed to strike the perfect emotional chord with listeners. Through data analysis, artificial intelligence (AI) enhanced human creativity.

And AI isn’t just transforming music. We’re not only beginning to rely on smart technology to manage everyday decisions — this tech is changing advertising too. Advertisers are increasingly harnessing the data capabilities of AI and deep learning to assess individual activity and optimize ads.

In one prediction, smart bots could become the gatekeeper brands must pass to reach humans.

In fact, according to Murray Shanahan (cognitive robotics professor and author of “The Technological Singularity,” one inspiration for the movie “Ex Machina”) machine intelligence is poised to grow exponentially. Shanahan’s book predicts a future where smart tech will exceed human understanding, as AI booms before achieving super-intelligence that surpasses our own. If this prophecy comes true, we may be only 20 years away from Don Draper robots.

But it doesn’t necessarily follow that the human perspective will be less relevant. There is plenty of evidence to suggest machines will improve advertising effectiveness, working alongside human creativity.

Humans like AI and genuine empathy

From bots handling customer support to mechanical meal deliveries, sophisticated machines are accepted as tools that can streamline every product or service. According to a recent study by Accenture, the majority of consumers — 7 in 10 — would be happy to receive machine-powered advice in multiple sectors, including banking, insurance, and retirement services.

Yet the need for a human touch is still strong, especially with ads. For an example, Old Spice’s Smellcome to ManHood campaign, which received a Gold Lion at Cannes last year. The campaign put a light-hearted spin on an emotive subject; a mother’s struggle to accept that her son is becoming a man. Although its effect was boosted by tech, the crux of the ad was knowledge of human psychology.

For now, we need both human understanding and tech to make great ads.

New personalization possibilities

Instead of replacing humans, machines can increase creative impact and targeting accuracy. And the way they achieve this is with data.

As human engagement with machines increases, so does data availability, and this insight can be a powerful tailoring tool. With rapid processing ability, intelligent machines are not only able to translate big data into informed decisions, but also become smarter over time. The longer advertisers use machines to assess patterns and identify which tactics and messages work best for specific audiences, the more relevant they can make ads. Indeed, they can improve precision further by layering in past purchases and browsing data.

Take, for example, Toutiao — a Chinese news app that uses machine learning to determine unique preferences and adapt article recommendations. This is creative content produced by humans, presented efficiently by machines.

Accurately capturing ad responses

Machines aren’t just helping advertisers understand what consumers want. They are being employed to accelerate performance assessment.

By analyzing consumers’ facial expressions and eye movements, marketers can ascertain individual levels of engagement with their ads. While development in this area is nascent, tracking tools may soon have the capacity to gauge consumer responses and instantly adapt creative.

But this isn’t bad news for human advertisers. With less time needed for analysis, advertisers can spend longer building meaningful messages that improve individual experiences and results.  

It’s impossible to say where the next few decades will take us, yet it’s clear machines are set to play a significant role in advertising. They won’t make human perspective redundant anytime soon, though. Today’s machines don’t possess creative instinct, but smart tools do have a lot to offer when it comes to refining targeting, analysis, and optimization.

So, in the near future, we’re likely to see a hybrid advertising landscape, where intelligent machines support our creative concepts, instead of replacing them.

Written by:

Chris Dobson

CEO, The Exchange Lab

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