Advertisers! Is a Robot Coming to Take Your Job?

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Culture & Trends

Advertisers! Is a Robot Coming to Take Your Job?Will Kitson
April 3, 2018

AI’s greatest practical function in advertising is saving money through product and processes, says Byte London lead project manager and AI expert Isabel Perry.

The rise of artificial intelligence and automation has been one of the most discussed and highly publicized topics when concerning the future of work. Indeed, it’s been a subject that V1 has continued to explore, and one that we have identified as one of four major trends that will most affect employment in the coming years.

V1 recently spoke with lead project manager and AI expert Isabel Perry of Byte London, a marketing technology agency. We were particularly interested in the impact that AI and automation are having on the advertising industry, as it’s a sector where creativity often meets with analytics. It’s also an area where AI is at its most innovative, with organizations investing heavily in technologies to better understand and communicate with consumers. Here, we learned that, as powerful as AI is becoming, a collaboration between human and machine is likely to be the most effective model in the advertising agency of the future.   

One of the most pressing and immediate concerns surrounding Artificial Intelligence is the impact it will have on the job market. In 2017, the Occupational Information Network (O*NET) identified 70 occupations that have become between “moderately” and “highly” automated, ranging from travel agents to accountants. Unsurprisingly, many people are asking themselves how safe their job is.

Supposedly, the jobs untouched by the rise of robots are and will continue to be those that require human traits that machines find difficult to replicate, such as empathy and creativity.And those most in danger are in industries such as retail, manufacturing, transport and analytics.

An industry that represents roles from both of these sides is advertising. Creatives generate engaging, imaginative campaigns, and data scientists analyze and interpret statistics and trends in the market.

When V1 sat down with Isabel Perry – lead project manager and AI expert at Byte London –  she explained that AI’s greatest practical function in advertising currently is saving money through product and processes, and how that will affect the way agencies are set up.

“There’ll be a lot of money to be made by companies that use AI to save production costs, and that will be the area where it changes first,” says Perry. “If you were starting an agency today, it would make sense to have some sort of AI offering because people believe in the power of it, and also it enables you to do more than a human.”  

In this vein, the creative roles within the industry are still safe. So far, most attempts by machines to engage with consumers are less effective than when done by a human counterpart. Take chatbots, for example. Their inability to understand complex linguistic traits like sarcasm and irony make it tricky to get a straight answer out of them – but they’re ubiquitous because they're scalable and cost-effective (there’s no way a team of humans could man the 100,000 bots on Messenger). According to Perry, whose expertise is in natural language recognition and bots, “Creativity is so far away from being machine generated, and I think it always will be.”  

Perry says we don’t know how far away we are from the next big shift in AI. “Things are slower than we expect,” she says. But that doesn’t mean that change isn’t right around the corner. “It will just take a couple of those incredibly out-of-the-box, creative examples and case studies to make people see the potential of [AI].”

Perry isn’t oblivious to the concerns surrounding AI and its potential. However, she is optimistic. She believes strongly that the future lies in a symbiotic relationship that will create more possibility than problems. “The reality is, the most powerful combination is, and will probably always be, a human with a machine. We can easily worry that computers are coming and will do everything, but actually we will always need ideas or human empathy.”

As Perry explained, occupations that require a human touch go beyond those of traditional creative roles. Understanding and being able to implement long-term strategies are still very much in a human’s remit, as well as the necessity to work with cooperation and empathy in a team environment. As Perry said, the far-off implications of AI are still out of sight, but the next step will be one where our current roles are complemented by our robotic colleagues, rather than threatened by them.  

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