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Seminar insight - Will AI take over your job?

By Stefan Finsinger
from Quality Financial Media
04 October 2016
A few weeks ago, the European financial marketing and advertising industry came together to answer the question “Do we need to rethink?” in the first Pan European seminar from Quality Financial Media.

One question raised is whether marketing departments, media agencies and sales departments of publishers will exist in the future or if AI will take over their roles. Rob Avis from Ptarmigan Media raised the question but the other panellists Mathew Greenlay from Aberdeen Asset Management and Mark Bembridge from Smartology disagreed.

Systems like IBM Watson could be a seismic change in every sector and every piece of the value chain. Marketing departments are already implementing some of the new automated technologies and soon AI could change the terms of media planning and buying. People spend huge amounts of money in this area and now that AI has arrived on the scene, its advance is expected to be rapid.

So what does compliance make of this trend? It is crucial that all departments of a company are up to speed with the digital revolution. This should come from the top and the compliance department must be on board in order that a company can thrive in today’s fast moving world. In the UK, the FCA has started “Project Innovate” which is a group supporting fintech start-ups as well as established companies to advise on regulatory restrictions and challenges. They champion new technologies and support new innovations as they are taken into the market.

“I think if we are looking at targeting, as long as we fit the usual compliance requirements, and clearly aren’t misleading, then we don’t have a problem if we get the right message to the right audience. Because this means that you are actually reducing the opportunity to get the wrong message to the wrong audience and that is what compliance is ultimately concerned about.” said Mathew Greenlay.

Micro-targeting featured as a key theme throughout the panel discussion and all three participants agree that machine learning has started to add significant value in this area. In the financial industry, some target audiences consist of only a few thousand people in Europe and the world. Nowadays, third party data providers can be overlaid to exactly pin-point these specific target audiences. Publishers with rich first party data, like the Financial Times, can extend the audience reach outside of their platforms.

It is now possible to utilize the platform to understand if it’s the right time, the right platform and the right device to deliver your message. AI may soon understand the meaning of content, which will help to pinpoint financial content very accurately. Machines will help you to deliver much more personalised messages to your specific target markets.

Automation platforms will help to improve and reduce the workload of marketers, as long as you know how to use them. Machines can now have millions of touchpoints which can be fed into underlying algorithms, but we should not forget that even the best systems are only as good as the data sources used. If the data is poor, the campaign will fall over. The panel agreed that there would always need to be a degree of human interaction.

A key them of the day was that companies should become digital savvy across the entire organisations. There shouldn’t just be an individual digital specialist, but rather everyone, especially within marketing, should embrace digital and its functionalities. Companies are hiring in new skill sets into their organisation because across the marketing industry the traditional digital marketing bible of pushing two or three key themes and objectives has gone out of the window in favour of always on branded content demonstrating key value being driven across the organisation.

Nevertheless, the panellists agree that the industry will continue to embrace direct buying, especially in B2B, for a while. Niche trade publishers normally tend to sell out their inventory and there is no need to fix something which isn’t broken. Furthermore, there will always be a role of quality, premium publishers in the media mix. Programmatic is growing in a rapid rate at the expense of direct selling. But buying programmatically at a premium B2B level generally still requires media planning and is still an IO based business. “I know that we are all thinking that we are moving into this magically automated world, but that’s not yet the case.” said Mark Bembridge.

• Mathew Greenlay is Head of Digital Delivery at Aberdeen Asset Management, a global asset manager. He manages a team of digital specialists who work within the group marketing team and work collaboratively on all aspects of digital media buying.

• Mark Bembridge is the CEO of Smartology, an advertising technology company offering solutions to the world's leading publishers and advertisers by contextually aligning content and advertising to deliver engagement.

• Rob Avis works at Ptarmigan Media, a media agency with a dedicated digital team. They have worked closely with different automation platforms to streamline their working practises and to improve the services for their clients.