Advertising and AI
Uses of AI technology have been spread across various industries. Marketing, which is all about people’s psychology, is not an exception. Advertising agencies compete in developing their own marketing “tools” using AI, to effectively analyze target consumer behavior and to efficiently plan optimal media budget allocation.
In developing advertisements, there are three major functions:
Strategic Planning (“What to Say”), Media Planning (“Where to Say”), and Creative Development (“How to Say”).
AI technology had been good “friends” with Strategic Planning and Media Planning, where it is important to analyze past consumers behaviors statistically and achieve efficient and effective planning. However, it was not as easy when it comes to Creative Development. Creative Development had been thought to be the final “raison d’être” of advertising agencies; However, that is not the case these days. How should advertising agencies deal with AI technology? Is “creative” not a “ unique expertise” of humans anymore?
Dentsu launched AICO, the AI copywriter.
Headquartered in Tokyo, Dentsu Inc., the world’s largest advertising agency as an individual company, is apparently trying to catch up with this megatrend, instead of escaping from the reality. In 2017, Dentsu Inc. launched the AI copywriter, AICO, which can generate a huge amount of advertising copies at a single command.
It is important to note that they are not trying to “replace” the traditional human copywriters; Instead, they are trying to “co-work” with AI copywriter and to become more efficient in developing advertising copies. Developing ad copies are not an easy job. Copywriters think day and night, and come up with tens of, sometimes, hundreds of options, most of which will be discarded in the process of internal reviews or client reviews till they get the one and only option which is finally going out to the public. Considering the copywriting is the product by an advertising agency, this process of “product development” takes weeks, or even months, depending on the capability of both clients and agencies to collaboratively create something new. Having said that, from clients’ perspective, it will be better if they can get the same quality of advertising copies in a faster mode under the supervisions from the real human copywriters. Here, AI copywriter AICO serves as an innovative tool for process improvement.
What will happen in a long run when AI technology improves further in terms of not only the quantity but also the quality of the output? Do clients not need advertising copywriters anymore?
The only answer I can get from what Dentsu is doing is that the complicated task of “integration” will be left to humans. Dentsu organized AI MIRAI (“mirai” means “future” in Japanese), a cross-functional project team who collect all the resources inside/outside the company related to AI and promote their use of AI into various marketing opportunities. AI technology can be used directly by clients themselves, but to integrate various opportunities created by AI and package them into IMC (Integrated Marketing Communication) which is specific to a client’s problem is something AI alone won’t be able to do.
As an MBA candidate who worked in the advertising industry for several years, I would like to suggest a few ideas to better tackle the rapidly changing situations around AI.
For a short term, they can expand AICO into other languages and own the space of a traditional advertising agency who is familiar with AI. AI, coming from its nature, is especially compatible with digital marketing space, and there are already implementations of AI copywriting in digital advertising, such as Google and Alibaba. However, one uniqueness of AICO is that it has machine-learned thousands of copywriting works of Dentsu’s copywriters. If an AI copywriter from a traditional advertising agency can differentiate itself from Google’s or Alibaba’s, then the key differentiator will be the quality of the inputs.
For a long term, end of the day, what they should do remains the same : Retain and nurture “human talents” for ad creative. As I analyzed above, in order for the advertising agencies to be kept needed by clients, it is important to notice that the more the AI technology improves, the better the quality of AI copywriting will be, the more important the human’s skill of integration will be. Moreover, the key differentiator of copywriting quality would be the input of base copywriting data created by Dentsu’s copywriters. Hence, it is crucial to keep nurturing creativity as well as integration skills using AI technology.
Yet, they cannot completely rest assured. What if AI start to learn how to “integrate” marketing communication into one packaged solution? What if clients start to “internalize” creative expertise within their company using AI and stop outsourcing to agency?
(Maybe it is a good idea to ask AICO to come up with an appealing concluding sentence.)
- “15 Business Applications for Artificial Intelligence And Machine Learning”, Forbes Technology Council, 2018, https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbestechcouncil/2018/09/27/15-business-applications-for-artificial-intelligence-and-machine-learning/#180cdf4a579f, accessed November 12, 2018
- Annual Report 2013, Dentsu Inc., 2013, http://www.dentsu.com/ir/data/annual/2013/bds/index.html?fbclid=IwAR3B_bijQ0GU8Lz0dYQJHMC9FbSjMdy6qtIge682FTjBr6pHvdKtNpy85m0, accessed November 12, 2018
- “AI Planners MAI & AICO”, Dentsu Inc., http://www.dentsu.com/business/showcase/ai_planners.html, accessed November 12, 2018
- “AI MIRAI – A Dentsu Project Team”, Dentsu Inc., http://www.dentsu.com/news/ideas/ai_mirai.html, accessed November 12, 2018
- Peter, Adams, “Google brings AI-powered ad suggestions to AdWords campaigns”, Marketingdive, April 18, 2018, https://www.marketingdive.com/news/google-brings-ai-powered-ad-suggestions-to-adwords-campaigns/521549/, accessed November 12, 2018
- Lisa, Lacy, “Alibaba Says Its AI Copywriting Tool Passed the Turing Test”, Adweek, July2, 2018, https://www.adweek.com/digital/alibaba-says-its-ai-copywriting-tool-passed-the-turing-test/, accessed November 12, 2018