“It’s 11:59pm on the eve of the ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence (AI) revo­lu­tion and one of the first in­dus­tries to be im­pacted is mar­ket­ing.” This was the open­ing state­ment at this year’s edi­tion of Brains cape, the an­nual thought lead­er­ship con­fer­ence st aged by PH DU A E. Held mid-oc­to­ber at the Ar­mani Ho­tel, the event in­tro­duced more than 240 mar­ket­ing pro­fes­sion­als to a fu­ture driven by AI, with all of its im­pli­ca­tions on the mar­ket­ing in­dus­try.

Kevin Slavin, founder of Play­ful Sys­tems Group and an as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor at MIT Me­dia Lab, started by ex­plain­ing how hu­mans have al­ways sought ways to learn what will hap­pen to them be­fore it does. “That has been the bulk of the move­ments in the 21st cen­tury”, said Slavin, and as a re­sult, we have de­vel­oped ad­vanced al­go­rithms that no longer re­quire hu­man in­put in or­der to learn and grow fur­ther. “We have col­lec­tively writ­ten some­thing that we can no longer read. We are pro­duc­ing greater com­plex­ity in the sys­tems that we use and a di­min­ish­ing ca­pa­bil­ity to understand what we’ve built.” How­ever, re­ly­ing solely on al­go­rithms does not usu­ally re­sult in suc­cess, Slavin con­tin­ued. The best ap­proach is one that re­quires a co­op­er­a­tion be­tween al­go­rithms and hu­mans, to cre­ate out­put that nei­ther one could on their own.

Ha­roon Syed, di­rec­tor of dig­i­tal data so­lu­tions at An­nalect MENA, dis­cussed the im­pli­ca­tions of al­go­rithms on mar­ket­ing, em­pha­sis­ing the rise of vir­tual per­sonal as­sis­tants (VPAS). “Long gone are the days of broad mes­sages on groups of peo­ple we think will buy some­thing,” said Syed. “VPAS will be the gate­way be­tween brands and con­sumers. We need to learn how to speak the lan­guage of VPAS and the fo­cus for mar­ket­ing will be to in­flu­ence the al­go­rithm and en­sure VPAS sur­face your brand or prod­uct ahead of com­peti­tors. We may even see ads adopt a per­son­al­ity and talk di­rectly to us.” He de­scribed how CRM and me­dia will merge, with first party data driv­ing all mar­ket­ing ac­tiv­ity to in­crease ac­cu­racy, and new cre­ative routes will emerge along with busi­ness strat­egy.

The phys­i­cal ap­pli­ca­tion of AI was fur­ther il­lus­trated by Behshad Be­hzadi, a prin­ci­pal en­gi­neer at Google Zurich, through his live demonstration of the most re­cent devel­op­ments in the com­pany’s voice recog­ni­tion, search and VPA ca­pa­bil­i­ties. VPAS need to be able to an­swer ques­tions about one’s world, as well as in­te­grate with search and apps, in or­der to in­ter­pret the con­text of spe­cific queries and de­liver the best re­sponse pos­si­ble. “Con­text is the sit­u­a­tion you’re in. It’s very im­por­tant to understand con­text to as­sist users in the right way,” said Be­hzadi. “We also have to an­a­lyse what’s vis­i­ble on other apps like Face­book, in or­der to in­ter­pret the con­text of what you have seen so that your VPA can de­ter­mine what ac­tion it should take next.” When asked by the au­di­ence whether the com­pany in­tends to in­cor­po­rate ads into their voice search prod­uct, Be­hzadi stated: “The an­swer is yes. But we want to do it in the right mo­ment and the right way.”

“Our an­nual con­fer­ence is de­signed to pre­pare mar­keters for what’s ahead of them. This is the best way to fu­ture­proof their strate­gies and en­sure their con­tin­ued suc­cess,” said Elda Chou­cair, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of PHD UAE. “This year, Brain­scape fo­cused on the devel­op­ments, im­pli­ca­tions and ap­pli­ca­tions of ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence for con­sumers and brands. AI will have pro­found and pos­i­tive ef­fects on our roles and it’s all about making bet­ter de­ci­sions. Ev­ery new sit­u­a­tion presents both chal­lenges and op­por­tu­ni­ties and we at PHD are al­ready ex­plor­ing them.”

PHD’S Brain­scape con­fer­ence was pro­duced with Choueiri Group’s ded­i­cated dig­i­tal me­dia rep­re­sen­ta­tion unit, Dig­i­tal Me­dia Ser­vices (DMS), as strate­gic part­ner.

Ha­roon Syed, Di­rec­tor – Dig­i­tal Data So­lu­tions, An­nalect MENA

Kevin Slavin, Asst. Pro­fes­sor MIT Me­dia Lab

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