The advent of artificial intelligence is now. The promise of its arrival has circulated for decades. AI in its rudimentary form has existed for quite some time and it happened to be a hot topic at SXSW this year. But now more than ever are the effects taking hold within the public relations and advertising business. AI is changing the traditional approach to strategic communications and will only continue to have a greater impact as the technology evolves. Depending on who you ask, you will receive positive or negative AI forecasts. I tend to agree more so with those in the later category.
The best way to learn how the industry is presently, and prospectively will be affected, we can listen to the voices of those in the trenches, already facing the ramifications of artificial intelligence. Agencies have a lot to say regarding AI, given that it will revolutionize the industry for better or for worse.
Adam Hirsch, VP of Edelman Digital, views the potential of AI positively. The tech will help make sense of ambiguity that would be nearly impossible to sift through as a human. As the internet of things grows, so does the size of accessible data sets on the subject of audience preferences and habits. Bigger typically means better, or more accurate, in the world of data. However, if a set is too large it can prove difficult to yield beneficial, executable insights. AI can be utilized in making sense of large data pools saving time, cutting costs, and producing the same results one could expect from a human practitioner.
Edelman is likely looking at AI with rose colored glasses. Reality could be much harsher for the individual communications practitioner. So, how long before HAL keeps you from opening your office door? It looks as though it may be sooner than you expected. The digital agency Isobar issued an article cautioning the fields of media buying and E-commerce. AI has exceptional targeting abilities when combined with various types of customer tracking. It can build detailed profiles of potential customers and monitor their real world location and deploy timely communications that could be the motivator for a purchase. That is, if it does not send the customer running for the wilderness to live off the grid. But, they may be convinced to re-join civilization by AI capable of conversation. Many brands have started development on their own chatbots. Samsung is currently working on giving their augmented reality emoji real character through the use of AI. These chatbots could streamline E-commerce and the customer experience with businesses and their products without the human element.
Meanwhile, ad creatives might have to compete with IBM’s Watson for their seat. Saatchi LA has already successfully used the supercomputer to produce some pretty effective copy for Toyota’s ecofriendly hydrogen fuel cell powered car. As of current, someone needs to feed the beast. AI is not advanced enough, for now, to just spit out copy without rigorous training. Initially the system only produced illegible sentences with vague buzz words, which was good news for ad crafters. Yet, after a few months of trial and error, the system became capable of producing snappy lines of copy like “Yes, it’s for fans of possibility.” A rudimentary system that produced copy that was both interesting and on point with the science savvy target audience could unsettle even those well into their careers. The idea that AI is incapable of mastering the nuances of human communication to produce solid story telling is being chipped away with each line of code.
The public relations and advertising industry should tread carefully as AI continues to develop. Artificial intelligence cuts down on costs associated with literal man power, which in the short term may be great for agencies. The problem arises when the business of PR and advertising become simplified enough that companies pull their communications efforts in house for good; cutting out agencies as a whole with the use of AI.
The industry has to find a niche in order to stay ahead of the changes that come along with AI. What that will entail is hard to say. In order to avoid the threat of being substituted for AI, the industry will need to develop a positioning of exclusivity that will provide value that cannot be obtained by companies in house. In a sense, it could mirror the model seen today. An agency may differentiate itself and fend off competitors by having uniquely trained AI systems that provide creative, research, or media plans that cannot be replicated elsewhere.
Cognitive Communication: AI in Public Relations and Advertising