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Marketing Forecast: Cloudy With a Chance of AI

Bridget Johnston November 28, 2018

On December 14, I’ll be giving a talk on how machine learning and artificial intelligence is impacting marketing, what the difference between these technologies is and what I see on the horizon for 2019.

By now, you have probably heard that machine learning and artificial intelligence are going to change the world in ways we can and can’t imagine. You probably think this technology is only limited to multi-billion dollar organizations with extremely sophisticated staff: the Amazons, Googles and Facebooks of the world. Or maybe you haven’t thought about how this technology will affect marketing, and are either waiting to see how everyone else responds or haven’t made the steps to implement the technology.

New tools are being developed, making it possible for anyone to apply AI and machine learning to their work. Research studies from McKinsey are also saying artificial intelligence will have the largest impact on the marketing and sales industries. It looks like 2019 will be an important year to start applying these technologies.

First, what’s the difference?

Machine learning is the ability of computers to find patterns in data. For machine learning to work correctly, those developing machine learning models need to have sufficient amounts of clearly labeled data so a computer can find patterns in it. Often is the case, the more data a computer has, the better! Datasets, including ImageNet– the most commonly used image recognition dataset– has over 14 million labeled images of everything from dogs to cars.

Artificial intelligence is going one step further and having computers create knowledge or take actions. While a little harder to explain, the best examples of AI I have seen is Google’s AlphaGo, the computer program designed to play Go, using sequences of moves humans have never explored using, producing results that are far superior. Or, Albert AI, a media buying platform that makes decisions about which ads should be placed where and how much to bid on them.

But everyone is behind

Despite the hype, AI and machine learning in marketing is still in its infancy and many marketers have not developed a solid plan to implement these technologies. In my presentation, I will show how few marketers are using these technologies. You may be surprised how new trends that are all the rage, like voice, automated ad buying and chatbots are also not frequently used by marketers and have limited use by consumers.

But that doesn’t mean everyone is behind. Companies that have rich CRM databases have made investments in data and AI, and are using this technology with astounding results. In my presentation, I will cover examples of how companies like Netflix, Amazon and Starbucks have made billions of incremental revenue from personalization, how companies like IBM and Cosabella have saved significant amounts on media optimizing spend through AI and companies like Charter have simplified the customer experience using chatbots.

2019 will be different

The upcoming year will be the time you need to implement some form of machine learning. In this presentation, we will cover some of the trends I see on the horizon for 2019, which include everything from the democratization of AI, how attribution models will be built and how to prioritize data for your first AI/machine learning project. If the past five years have been used to experiment with the technology, the next five years will be all about implementation and driving outcomes.

How will you apply AI in 2019? Watch my presentation below for some ideas.


Andrew Van Aken is currently a senior consultant within the Ogilvy analytics department. His focus is applying machine learning an artificial intelligence to different marketing initiatives and writes weekly on the topic of artificial intelligence, which can be found here.