Artificial Intelligence in Advertising

By: Alex Marella

One of the major changes that we’re seeing happen in advertising is the use and reliance on Artificial Intelligence. The term artificial intelligence covers a range of devices that are able to ‘learn’ either with help of a human or on its own, and this allows them to perform human tasks at an accelerated pace. AI has become very prevalent in marketing in the last decade and is transforming what was once possible in the world of advertising. AI is used in a number of ways in advertising from ad creation to audience targeting to ad buying, and that role is only getting bigger. “Brands today are beginning to use commercially available artificial intelligence to intelligently identify and segment audiences, build ad-creative, test variations, improve performance, and optimize spend—automatically, in real-time, and at scale.” With this increased role in artificial intelligence there are a lot of benefits and a lot of risks, (Kaput, 2020).

Advertisers rely on large sets of data such as click rates, demographics, impressions etc. to make decisions about how and where to spend resources. Artificial Intelligence can analyze those data sets and come to decisions much quicker and more efficiently. AI powered ad tools can detect patterns at scale in the advertising data and then predict what changes to campaigns will improve the ads performance. This potentially saves advertisers a fortune in misplaced ads and potential customers that they wouldn’t be able to reach. The possibilities with AI are endless; it already helps advertisers with audience targeting, ad creation, spending optimization, ad personalization and more, and the uses are expanding every day. 

While the possibilities for what AI can help us achieve are endless there are also many drawbacks and things to be concerned about with the transition to incorporating more AI in advertising. One of the main concerns about AI, is the lack of transparency. It often can’t explain why it’s arrived at a certain decision which is very problematic if the AI is making decisions of scale. Lack of transparency calls into question the legitimacy of the AI’s decisions because if it doesn’t know why it came to a certain conclusion, or at least we can’t see why, then people won’t be able to trust it (American, Kundu and Kundu, 2020).

Another concern is its ability to teach itself how to do things. AI’s were built by a designer, but their algorithm is always teaching them how to do new things that even the creator didn’t ask for. At first, this may be good in helping us solve unknown problems but it’s also eventually we would run into a problem with AI expanding into problems it shouldn’t. The last big problem with AI in advertising is invasion of privacy. Over the past few years, people have started noticing ads popping up on amazon for things they’ve googled, or you’ll start getting cat food commercials right after you get a cat. The scariest is when you just say or think something, and an ad pops up a minute later. AI can do a great job in connecting business to consumer and vice versa, but it does this without taking into account the user’s privacy or if they wanted their information used like that. I know every time an ad like that pops up for me, I feel violated and that my information is being exploited online. As advertisers I think it’s our job to make sure that we protect their privacy and determine what information is acceptable to use to advertise to them, (The Ethical Dilemmas of Artificial Intelligence, 2020).

There’s no question AI can offer some very beneficial tools to us as advertisers, but we also have to think about the ethical decision making that comes along with that. 

References: 2020. The Ethical Dilemmas Of Artificial Intelligence. [online]

Kaput, M., 2020. AI For Advertising: Everything You Need To Know. [online]

American, S., Kundu, S. and Kundu, S., 2020. Ethics In The Age Of Artificial Intelligence. [online] Scientific American Blog Network.

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