Feb 1 2019
Basis Technologies

A Gentle Introduction to Artificial Intelligence


Speech recognition. Virtual assistants. Self-driving cars. If you’re a Sci-Fi fan, or if you’ve ever seen a classic apocalyptic movie, you likely know that the concept of intelligent machines is hardly new. Historically it’s been the fodder for books, movies and imagination for the past few generations. But the last several years have shown us that Artificial Intelligence is not only here to stay, but is not-so-gradually disrupting industries and changing our lives.

That said, contrary to popular perception, AI likely won’t supplant digital marketing jobs anytime soon -- but rather help strengthen digital marketing strategies and make the jobs of digital advertisers and marketers more productive, efficient and easier in general. In the following, we’ll provide a brief history of AI, explore the different types and use cases of the technology, and discuss how this technology is becoming a critical and necessary tool in an increasingly sophisticated digital marketing arsenal.

What is Artificial Intelligence?

So what exactly is Artificial Intelligence? At its core, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is an advanced software-based technology that combines sophisticated computer programming with elements of human intelligence in various combinations to complete a wide range of functions previously thought only possible by humans.

The concept of AI has its origins in the the development of stored-program electronic computers. Computer scientist John McCarthy first coined the term “Artificial Intelligence” at a Dartmouth College conference in 1956. But while the study of AI started to gain momentum, interest waned in the 1970s and eventually the government withdrew funding for the technology's development. Although bringing AI to real-world scenarios was never quite realized over the next few decades, the concept of AI, or intelligent machines, surfaced erratically in popular movies such as Blade Runner, Terminator, and War Games. Then IBM’s computer touting early-stage AI capabilities beat a Russian Grandmaster chess champion in 1997, turning the heads of the scientific community along with the rest of the world, and rejuvenating interest in potential real-world applications of the technology.

Flash forward a few decades, and Artificial Intelligence is becoming less of a luxury and more of a necessity for numerous industries around the world. A 2017  IDC Future Scapes report noted that 75% of developer teams planned to actively implement some type of AI in at least one service or application in the next three years. What’s more, global analyst firm Gartner predicts that by 2020, 85% of customer interactions will be managed with no human involved. The implication of course, is that AI is well on its path to upending and revolutionizing numerous industries -- including digital marketing.

The Spectrum of Artificial Intelligence

At a high level, there are three types of AI systems: the first one is designed and programmed to perform specific tasks or adhere to certain requests. The second is designed to greatly outpace human cognitive performance. And the last one combines AI technology with elements of the human brain.

Intelligence from Data Algorithms

If you’ve ever told Siri to find the nearest taqueria or told Google to play your favorite indie rock tunes, you know that these systems can understand and process a human command, and then respond intelligently -- at least most of the time.

Perhaps the most common, recognizable, and ubiquitous form of Artificial Intelligence can be found in virtual assistants such as Apple’s Siri or Amazon’s Alexa, which leverage copious data inputs to emulate certain human behaviors with the aim of achieving very specific tasks. The learning process includes natural language processing (NLP) capabilities that enable these systems to understand and communicate human language. This capability in turn enables these systems to acquire information, along with a limited ability to reason and self-correct when they’ve made errors.

Artificial Super Intelligence

Think Artificial Intelligence but on steroids. As its name implies Artificial Super Intelligence is a technology with capabilities that greatly surpass normal human intelligence and cognitive thought. In short, it can easily exceed almost all human activity. In addition to being able to solve complex problems, this advanced technology also outpaces humans in numerous other areas as well, such as creativity, social interaction, and wisdom.

While still being developed, these highly sophisticated intelligence capabilities are achieved through digital emulation of a human brain by replicating the brain’s neural network and linking to a computer interface, putting us one step closer to true man-made human intuition that thus far, has been the stuff of futuristic movies.

Artificial Intelligence and the Human Brain

The blurred lines between humans and machines might be closer than we think. One tech start-up, backed by Tesla’s Elon Musk, is attempting to actually blend human brain activity with the enormous computing power of AI-driven intelligence in an effort to enable people to keep up with AI-enabled devices in terms of problem-solving and other processing capabilities.

Artificial Intelligence and Digital Marketing

So far, we’ve discussed Artificial Intelligence based on data algorithms, Artificial Intelligence that's more intelligent than people and Artificial Intelligence technologies that integrate with human brains. So how does that impact digital advertising?

Well, in a lot of ways. In fact, Artificial Intelligence is becoming an increasingly essential tool in the digital marketers’ toolkit, with more advanced capabilities that help marketers identify and refine their targets, improve marketing strategy and give a big boost to ROI.

Personalized Email Campaigns

Of its numerous benefits to marketers, Artificial Intelligence is critical for helping scale email marketing efforts, particularly when it comes to analyzing audience and segmentation data. Specifically, AI is the driving force that allows you to capture relevant data about campaign activity, such as the number of targets, who opened emails, who and how many people clicked the CTAs, visited the landing pages, or interacted with the website - all with the aim of better understanding your audience.

To that end, AI-driven marketing platforms can also help automatically generate uniquely personal content in the body of the email specific to individual users, with subject lines tailored to the person’s interests, profession, hobbies, and buying patterns. A hospitality company, for example, might send users personalized content that offers room deals and specials that suit their needs based on their demographic (e.g. families with small children, couples, senior citizens, etc..), as well as activities and sites that might be of interest to them if they stay. These kinds of highly personalized insights, in turn, allow you to create more targeted and relevant campaigns that will likely give a big boost to open rates.

In addition to personalizing content, marketers can now use AI-driven tools to both assess and improve the quality and effectiveness of their marketing campaigns, optimizing every step of the email campaign process at granular level, all the way down to the ideal time of day for sending an email to potential leads. What’s more, Artificial Intelligence gives marketers the ability to immediately access campaign results in real-time. This means that labor-intensive A/B tests with weeks-long analysis will slowly fade into a distant memory for marketers, who will instead be able to access relevant campaign data at the drop of a hat anytime they want.

Improved Ad Copy and Content Creation

Okay, so Artificial Intelligence can be used to analyze data, optimize campaigns and otherwise perform repetitive tasks, but can it actually be used in a creative capacity for ad copy and other content creation?  The short answer: Yes.

While it still has its limitations, it can also be used for producing creative marketing content based on a plethora of inputs that include raw consumer information and specific targeting and segmentation data. AI-based tools, such as Articoolo and Quill, are already are being used to quickly and efficiently generate high-quality marketing content - including ad, landing page, and email copy. Among other things, AI can be used to create content that gauges audience relevance, produces engaging and compelling storytelling, or triggers an action or response. For marketers, this means they now have an enhanced ability to generate different types of content for a multitude of campaigns without adding resources to their creative team or investing in an external agency.

Whether informative blog posts, customer testimonial videos, or recorded webinars, in recent years, digital marketers are constantly generating new content in an effort to better engage and reach their target audience. Thus, as these solutions become more refined, it’s likely that marketers will increasingly rely on Artificial Intelligence to fuel content creation more quickly and even more creatively than ever before.

Reduced Ad Spend Waste

It’s no secret that Artificial Intelligence uncovers a dearth of new efficiencies that enhance productivity and boost ROI. And as such, one of the biggest benefits will be to significantly reduce ad spend waste.

The most obvious, of course, is its ability to optimize your campaigns and PPC strategy as a whole. AI-based tools can breathe new life into your PPC campaigns by providing:

  • Necessary metrics you need to grow your business and accelerate performance
  • More strategic decision-making based on real-time performance data
  • Ways to overcome challenges that create roadblocks or prevent you from achieving PPC goals

But perhaps less known is that AI can also be crucial in identifying malicious bots and other types of ad fraud activities, helping marketers identify and avoid costly attacks before they occur while ensuring that their advertising dollars are only spent on real customers and genuine clicks and views.

Increased Conversions

It’s no secret that AI-enabled platforms have the ability to learn, analyze, and adapt -- all good news for marketers attempting to get a finger on the pulse of their audience. Now becoming a staple to digital marketers and advertisers, AI is routinely being used to uncover relevant product and brand recommendations, as well as offering tips to consumers at just the right time in their buyers’ journey. For brands, that means countless new avenues to create customer loyalty and build trust within their consumer base.

In addition to creating a better overall customer experience, AI-driven tools can even be the conversion funnel itself. Global beauty giant Olay’s skin care analysis tool, for example, leverages AI technologies to analyze customers’ skin, and then makes recommendations for ideal products that they can purchase based on their unique needs and individual tastes. From making recommendations about clothes to cars to the latest lawn care tools, the possibilities are just about endless.

In Summary

Artificial Intelligence is already making waves in the digital marketing industry. While still in nascent phases, it’s already a critical component in a plethora of tools designed to boost PPC efficiency, ROI, and even creativity.

Safe to say, these are exciting times for marketers. As Artificial Intelligence progresses in its sophistication and acceptance in the industry, marketers will be uniquely positioned to access new ways of reaching and connecting with their audience. The scope of AI’s innovation is only going to expand in the months and years ahead -- and for marketers, now is the perfect time to find ways to leverage its vast potential to make their marketing efforts faster, more efficient, and more profitable than ever before.