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The AI future of marketing: Could Don Draper be replaced by a robot

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The key differentiator is repetition. A manual job that is being done repetitively and following the same process can be replaced by an algorithm.

Media planner With enough data about media outlets, pricing and response rates, an algorithm would be better at planning a media campaign than even the best human media planner. Forget even that humans are limited by hours in the day and their own stamina, even at optimum performance their decision making is limited, whereas software can make thousands of informed decisions in the blink of an eye.

Copywriter Natural language processors like Watson, and Googles TensorFlow technology make it possible for creative writing to be done by computers. Ive mentioned Automated Insights writing reports and articles without the need for people, the same could happen with marketing copy. If a computer can learn the words that get results, why do you think you can do better

Art director Millions of photos and videos exist in digital form. We already have the technology to enable us to analyse those and find patterns. Pattern recognition is a big part of machine learning, and one day a computer will be able to create a visual proposal as well as any designer.

Web designers Web designers follow a similar process for each website. Rather than start from scratch each time, why not let an algorithm do much of the grunt work If you can collate all the data about the best structure, the optimum layout, and tell a program what you want your website to do, it could create a wireframe layout for you in seconds.

You still dont think algorithms have the ability to think creatively and intuitively Recently, a tech company has started turning classic paintings into 3D art, for the benefit of blind people. By translating all those brush strokes into bytes of data, an algorithm could easily analyse what works. And Netflix famously uses data from its users to determine which types of drama, which actors and which storylines are likely to be popular. 

This doesnt mean well all be out of a job. If you work in any creative or service industry, artificial intelligence could replace the job you do. More than likely, it will replace some of the work you do in your job rather than you completely.

Currently, most algorithmic technology operates in the analytics and diagnostic space. Many algorithms collate data so that we can see numbers saving us many man hours of fiddling with spreadsheets and databases. Many algorithms also help with diagnostics, drawing correlations from big data to understand those numbers, in order for us to act on the information.

The marketing industry relies completely on analytics. Without feedback on what works, or on how people behave or where they go to shop, we can’t make decisions on how to reach them cost effectively. Analysis takes up a massive part of our lives and it is a mundane, repetitive task.

Human-powered marketing is perhaps made up of 75 per cent analysis and 25 per cent actual work. You could argue that the analysis is a fundamental part of the actual work, but that 75 per cent portion could be replaced by software. This liberates the marketer to have more time to think creatively.

The AI future for marketing is not about whether people will be replaced by robots but about how tasks will be replaced by robots. Marketing, like any other industry, is dominated by repetitive manual labour. Machine learning algorithms pervade more of the industry than you might realise. Humans can always be one step ahead.

The key thing is not to try to fight the technology for fear of your job, but evolve with it. Smart people are the glue that makes the technology evolve in the right way. The combination of algorithms and people is powerful. We can make better decisions, informed with big data, and we can do far more than we are capable of on our own.

Steve Masters is service director at Vertical Leap.

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