Since the dawn of the Internet age, businesses that use online advertising as a primary sales driver have been fighting an increasingly pitched battle to win a slice of dwindling user attention spans all over the globe. Part of the problem they face is the sheer number of advertisements online. Another part is the fact that users seemingly don’t want to see ads at all, leading to exploding penetration rates of ad-blocking technology in the marketplace.
Now, as businesses begin to embrace personalization and using Big Data for precise message targeting, there’s reason to believe that digital advertising is about to turn a corner of sorts, and it’s finding a powerful new ally in artificial intelligence. That’s because the latest in AI-powered conversational technology is enabling a whole new breed of Internet advertising, which leverages the power of natural language processing to provide audiences with something that traditional advertising lacks: real value.
Bringing interactivity to advertising
Today’s consumers face a barrage of advertising on both digital and traditional media platforms, and all of that advertising has one thing in common: It represents a brand message with a one-size-fits-all approach. That’s because online advertising has always been comprised of static media, like images and pre-recorded video. Now, as chatbots and other AI tools have gone mainstream and have started to help companies deliver personalized experiences to users on their digital platforms via interactive customer service offerings, it was only a matter of time before the lessons learned in that arena made their way into advertising. Now, it seems to be happening via some strange bedfellows: IBM and The Weather Company.
AI-powered advertising goes live
In 2015, when IBM purchased The Weather Company (of Weather Channel fame), most expected that the marriage would be all about data. Few, however, expected it would be about advertising, too. Last year, though. IBM announced that that would be creating an AI-powered advertising unit to drive ad sales on The Weather Company’s properties. Almost immediately afterward, several major brands, from Lufthansa to Toyota announced advertising initiatives using IBM’s technology. The ads offered consumers the ability to have a two-way, informative conversation about the products on offer, without ever having to visit the brand’s main site (unless they chose to).
The broader implications
The new AI-powered ads offer a unique value proposition for businesses, as well as the consumers they covet. They offer a usefulness not found in static advertising, which provides a real incentive for Internet users to eschew ad-blocking. They also give marketers a new, personalized way to funnel all-important traffic to traditional web properties. According to paid media expert David Meck of Ignite Visibility, the AI ads “allow us to initiate meaningful, interactive contact with consumers by reaching them where they already are, rather than having to bring them to places they otherwise may not have visited.” In short, bringing the personalized experience to the consumer, rather than bringing the consumer to the personalized experience, which is far more difficult.
Coming to a site near you
So far, the AI-powered advertisements have been confined to the Weather Channel app, Weather.com, and the web properties of the businesses using the service. That’s about to change, however, as IBM has just announced that their service will henceforth be available on all digital platforms, beginning with a holiday ad blitz for LEGO Systems, Inc. That means that the 2018 holiday shopping season is going to be a proving ground for AI in digital advertising. If the results are positive, it could usher in a whole new era in the digital advertising medium – one that finally delivers on the promise of personalization at a scale that marketers could never have dreamed of – and that may finally give consumers a reason to appreciate ads after years of doing everything possible to avoid them.
To learn more about how AI is bringing change to industries of all kinds, read The Robot That Recruited Me.