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Reconsidering the Role of AI in the New Advertising Landscape


Data Privacy Regulations have forced advertisers to rethink their strategies. Randi Stripes from IBM Watson Revisions the Role of AI in the New Advertising Arena

The advertising industry is being upended.

The trifecta of the shifting privacy landscape, policy changes coming out of big tech, and the global economic and cultural unrest is putting a lot of pressure on the advertising industry faster than anyone could have predicted when we were kicking off 2020 with our normal CES ritual.

That time in Las Vegas seems like, well, a lifetime ago.

By all accounts, digital marketing as we know it will never be the same once 2020 is behind us.

There are Apple’s changes to The Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA), which will require users to explicitly opt into data sharing. If a majority of users don’t opt-in, as they are expected to do, this change will impact everything from campaign targeting measurement to ad value, publisher revenue, and subscription pricing.

And then there’s Google’s commitment to eliminating 3rd party cookies from its market-leading web browser by the end of next year.

Without cookies, the entire programmatic ecosystem – where nearly 90% of all digital media is bought and sold – will have to confront an entirely new economic paradigm.

While the industry will undoubtedly be disrupted, these changes do present an opportunity to re-build the digital advertising infrastructure in ways that benefit consumers, brands, and publishers alike.  Even though this is more of a fait accompli, shouldn’t we take the opportunity to rebuild in ways that finally deliver on the medium’s promise?

With the existing programmatic ecosystem plagued by ineffective value exchanges (due in part to its reliance on the 3rd party cookie) and a renewed expectation from consumers that brands be transparent and authentic in every engagement, now is the time to stop ignoring what isn’t working and evolve our industry for the better.

When IBM purchased The Weather Channel’s digital assets back in 2016, I started learning a lot more about AI and what it was capable of. Sure,

we had all been using AI to help programmatic function – automation, compilation, to speed basic stuff up – but it became quickly clear to me that our industry hadn’t even started chipping at the ice, much less reached the tip of the iceberg.

No time like the present, particularly at this inflection point where many of the tools advertisers once relied on are being disbanded.

AI can now help advertisers understand tone, sentiment, creative preferences — even which influencers are more likely to resonate with a consumer – at scale. AI advertising can help augment the human thought process by recognizing patterns; making more accurate predictions, and providing insights on the still endless data signals that remain available.

It has revolutionized industries like healthcare and financial services by making it possible to make more accurate predictions about which treatment regimens are most likely to work or how markets are more likely to react.

And now we have the opportunity to help our own industry benefit from AI’s virtually unlimited potential. As privacy comes to the fold, advertisers will have to do more with less (or at least different) data, budget and time. We are going to need an ecosystem that is unbiased, that builds trust across all constituents, and that delivers results.  And from what I’ve seen inside the most sophisticated AI in the world, we’d be fools not to make AI the backbone of the go forward.

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Randi Stipes, Chief Marketing Officer of IBM Watson Advertising
Randi Stipes is the Chief Marketing Officer of IBM Watson Advertising, The Weather Company and Developer Marketing. In her role, she takes an agile, data-driven approach to deliver measurable results for customers across The Weather Company, Watson Advertising and the Developer ecosystem at IBM.
As Chief Marketing Officer, Stipes is passionate about marketing transformation, having helped build The Weather Channel into the world’s most downloaded weather app, evolve Watson Advertising from a publisher to an AI-driven ecosystem, and devise solutions that help consumers and brands confidently leverage data and technology to make more informed decisions and create a more authentic value exchange.

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