The future of machine learning in digital advertising: 4 things to know

AI will not change digital marketing “in the future” – because it already has.

The future of machine learning in digital advertising: 4 things to know

The current conversation surrounding artificial intelligence (AI) is one steeped in trepidation. The prevailing fear is that the machines will render the human element irrelevant. While not totally untrue, it isn’t totally accurate, either. 

So how does AI fit in with the wider marketing puzzle – and what do you need to know for your business? Does it truly have a place in the future of advertising? What impact will AI have on the face of digital marketing? 

Well, here’s the thing. AI will not change digital marketing “in the future” – because it already has.

AI is not a new technology


AI itself is not a new technology. Since its early inception around the mid-20th century, AI has slowly but surely integrated itself within our everyday lives. What do you think regulates your phone battery? Predicts your Google search prompts? Suggests that next song on Spotify? Hell, even fridges have an AI component in them these days.

This is no less true when it comes to digital marketing. AI has played a role for some time now. As of recently, it’s being used most prominently in the areas of sorting data sets, search inputs, and audience targeting. Every bit of Google paid search, those sponsored posts on Facebook, social listening and sentiment analysis – all this is powered by machine learning designed to figure out who is in the market for what, only to eventually chase after those (hopefully) qualified leads on your behalf. 

Removing the human element out of the equation?


Now, onto the much parroted sentiment that AI will put us lowly humans out of a job. The McKinsey Global Institute estimates as much as 30% of the world’s current labour is at risk of becoming obsolete. But according to an international jobs automation study by PwC, this figure is only estimated to be 1% of all global jobs. In any case, these statistics alone paint an incomplete picture. 

What these scary looking figures fail to communicate is:

  1. The jobs that will disappear are manual process tasks, the removal of which would mean less heavy lifting, i.e. metaphorical: sorting hundreds of individual data sets, literal: actually lifting heavy objects.
  2. The jobs AI will introduce to the modern workforce, jobs that did not previously exist and most of which will relate to AI itself.

Case in point, look at the industry demand for marketing automation and data science specialists right now. In fact, a recent global survey indicated that 70% of CEOs were concerned about the digital literacy of their senior leadership team, with an additional 76% concerned about the digital literacy of their organisation as a whole. Put simply, no matter how much AI may “infiltrate” something, there will always a need for skilled humans in some capacity.

AI can only mean good things for digital marketing


Finally, onto what you really clicked this article for. The future implications of AI in digital marketing. 

As we know, AI currently plays a role in sorting data sets, search inputs, audience targeting, and so forth. For example, the automated bidding function in Google Ads sets bids based on the performance of certain ad sets. Similarly, Google Responsive Search Ads (RSAs) and Facebook Dynamic Ads leverages machine learning to mix and match combinations provided, zeroing in on what definitively works. And leaving what doesn’t behind. Ultimately, marrying digital marketing with AI will mean a future for the industry that is:

  • Smarter
  • Smoother
  • More specific

As time goes on, processes will only become more and more intelligent, targeting will only become more and more granular, and the responses raised will simply be more and more in volume. Which means an unprecedented rate of qualified leads and conversions. Which also means higher sales numbers – making fertile grounds for business growth. 

Imagine it now. A day where you could reach precisely who you needed to speak with through a virtually instantaneous dialogue. A dialogue that answers the exact needs of the consumer. The timely and relevancy dials cranked to a hard eleven. We could experience brand consideration like never before. 

The privacy consideration


There is, however, something we should all keep in the back of our minds. With the increasing prevalence of machine learning in this space, privacy will become more important than ever. First party data — also known as your database — will be worth its weight in gold. Naturally, this is something you should protect at all costs. On a related note, it will also be useful to start collecting third party data. The days of using cookies are fast becoming a thing of the past! 

By Sharne Patient
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