Artificial intelligence is surely the buzzword of 2017, says Stevan Randjelovic. Here he pulls out the key takeaways from EACA's annual Evolution Lab conference in Brussels on the theme of ‘Advertising in the Age of Artificial Intelligence’. 

Stop talking and start making

Now is the time to invest in AI. The ad industry does not devote enough resources to finding solutions and products that would be relevant to clients. Clients may be reticent at the beginning but if a product works, they will use it. It is the agencies’ task to guide clients by breaking down barriers between different departments, by bursting their ego bubble and asking better questions.

There may not yet be an AI ad leader, but there is potential for strong players who can get out fast with new AI solutions, which will improve marketing efficiencies and provide better consumer insight. This development should be encouraged.

Once again, the consumer is king

AI will deliver better consumer insights which cannot otherwise be detected. For example, it will help marketers to gain a better understanding of consumer motivations and it will identify ways to improve the internet experience. The best AI will not be recognisable. It will run like electricity in the background. It should help marketers to reach their consumers better and to reach them in a way that was unimaginable before. But, a question that will grow in relevance, remains: do consumers want to be dealt with by an algorithm?

Privacy and AI: a possible and desired marriage

An AI application sounds cool, but it does raise a lot of ethical questions which need to be answered. One of them concerns privacy: how to ensure consumer control over how their data is collected and processed by an algorithm? The General Data Protection Regulation will address this issue to a great extent, as it will strengthen certain consumer rights and obligations of data processors. Innovative tech strides should be used to encourage the use of anonymous data. But the issue remains: what if machines start making decisions on behalf of people, without their involvement?

Some humans are more replaceable than others

Many junior roles in marketing will be lost. Logistics jobs will be the first ones to be replaced, but the workforce will be deployed to other areas which are not yet obvious. It is worth bearing in mind that AI is a technological application - it cannot replace the brilliance of people, or at least those not working only on Excel sheets. That’s because AI looks for logic and people are anything but logical.

In the age of AI, people and especially young graduates need to learn to do what AI cannot do. The talent that the ad industry can attract will be their dividing line between other industries. Those attracting the best tech and problem-solving talent will win. And the best talent is expensive. 

More about AI and talent prospects here.