Patrick Moriarty, SVP Analytics at Kantar North America, examines the emerging role artificial intelligence can play in advertising research and improving creative outcomes.

When it comes to the potential of artificial intelligence to reshape advertising, most of the headlines focus on flashy generative AI tools like ChatGPT. Those technologies are enabling new scale in creative production, which is no doubt exciting.

But an equally compelling story underpinning advertising’s future success lies at the intersection of AI and advertising research. Even with tools to increase creative output exponentially, what’s guiding your decisions in messaging, tone, and copy? How can you identify and act on the campaign decisions that are most likely to produce your desired business outcomes? This is the strategy that drives creative success behind the scenes.

AI will help companies take advantage of increased data granularity available for advertising research, from surveying the marketplace for customer preferences to sifting through vast datasets of both historical and real-time campaign performance.

Here’s how marketers can leverage AI to accelerate market research and improve strategy, more quickly test best practices, and optimize campaigns in real-time.

1. Analyze the digital ecosystem to identify emerging trends

AI helps marketers be better listeners. When researching customer sentiment, surveying the internet for popular products, and scouring the marketplace for resonant messaging approaches, AI enables new speed and scale, constantly gathering and synthesizing data from across touchpoints like search, social, and reviews.

This AI-enabled research also provides crucial context before the typical phase of running surveys, informing which questions to ask and where to focus for the particular product or industry. It provides the ability to cast a wide net to find people talking about brands in organic moments to paint a holistic picture of consumer sentiment.

For instance, a trends report analyzing how people are talking about food online from 2018 to 2023 identified gut health and plant-based protein as top-of-mind issues for consumers, as seen by search and social data. This approach informs how brands in the food and beverage sector approach their messaging and creative briefs – without them having to take months to run their own surveys.

The scale at which AI is able to scan, recognize, and collect vast amounts of content would take massive teams hundreds of hours. Using AI to discern how people are reacting to different ideas and products in the marketplace catalyzes advertising research, informs creative decision making, and can save companies a lot of time – one of their most valuable resources.

2. Expediting creative testing with predictive analytics

Scalable, efficient research is the foundation of effective and timely creative decisions, media planning, and campaign strategy. Testing is the next step.

This is where predictive AI comes into play, analyzing deep historical datasets to gauge the future success of copy or creative. For instance, do video ads with narration or conversation perform better? How does this vary across verticals?

Being able to answer these questions, and others like them, based on years of campaign performance data helps marketers pick the right approach upfront instead of wasting time and money on suboptimal campaigns. Analyzing datasets from your brand’s own historical campaigns is a great start, and data partners can help broaden your scope of advertising analytics to draw on learnings from a larger pool.

With enough bonafide data, AI-based digital solutions can predict the performance of specific copy based on thousands of historical and current campaigns. Surfacing these insights quickly and merging research with reality is where AI is rewriting the standards.

AI not only identifies the most likely successful creative strategies and persuasion measures, but it also increases productivity around creative testing. This is where the aforementioned generative AI tools can be a huge boon, letting designers quickly mock up briefs and get new elements into market sooner. This gives marketers the ability to research and test new creative in real time and quickly adjust campaigns with those findings.

3. Optimizing campaign performance with real-time insights

Marketers have an ever-growing number of metrics to track as their campaigns run. AI enables advertisers and agencies to identify the most impactful campaign factors and track how those factors are shaping performance in real time.

AI’s insights inform optimizations to make the most of every dollar. In some applications, AI can even make the optimization without the intervention of a human, driving even faster adaptation. Of course, human supervision is vital, but these tools are increasing the scale of what’s possible for humans to achieve.

As marketers adjust to working with more data across the media activation landscape, they’ll also find new levels of insight available to them. With AI, findings from campaign performance and attribution can be swiftly identified and channeled back into the original phase of researching across the digital landscape, fueling a virtuous cycle of research and optimization.

AI is no longer an experimental pursuit but a competitive imperative for marketers to make informed decisions with as much data as possible. By coupling human expertise with deep datasets and AI’s capability to surface meaning from research and analytics, marketers will be able to test, ship, and optimize campaigns faster than ever before.