AI in Marketing Communications: Just How Safe Are Our Jobs?

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AI schools in the syllabus from present year onwards - OIB News

“If a machine can think, it might think more intelligently than we do, and then where should we be? Even if we could keep the machines in a subservient position, for instance by turning off the power at strategic moments, we should, as a species, feel greatly humbled.” – Alan Turing, the father of modern computing, in a 1951 talk on BBC Radio.

If Turing’s words now ring true, should we feel humbled or anxious? Of a truth, technology has now transformed our lives, it has both improved and disrupted it. It has transformed the way we work and communicate. The rise of Artificial Intelligence or AI as it is known for short, will further cause disruptions and create opportunities. AI will replace certain types of jobs we have been managing for decades for sure.

This has already begun. Google’s AI can now read lips better than a professional and can master video games within hours. IBM’s artificial intelligence (AI) platform, Watson, is loquacious; it can tell jokes, answer questions and write songs (Basketmouth, beware!). MIT’s AI can predict action on video two seconds before it begins. Tesla’s AI powers the company’s innovative self-driving car. All seem to propel us closer to Turing’s world of machines with more intelligence than humans.

Understanding AI and its powerful potential to shape marketing and communication is critical. Preparation and optimism are required to manage the changes AI will bring. Unfortunately, for many marketers, as it was for me, terms like AI, machine learning, and master algorithms may seem akin to something still far away or a foreign language. But the reality and awareness of what AI can do for the world of marketing is leading to an awakening.

Automated content, advanced customization of offers, dynamic pricing, virtual agents …, artificial intelligence now marks each step of the customer journey and this trend is apparently only the beginning. We have entered a new era. The business world is changing in a way never seen before. The current digital marketing (for example based on geolocation or on your digital footprint) is mutating. What does it mean for the integrated marketing industry in Nigeria?

This conversation was brought to the fore recently when the Advertising PR actioners Council of Nigeria (APCON) recently held an IMC webinar on ‘Brand Management in the Age of Artificial Intelligence.’ On ground to justice to the topic is Nigeria’s frontline AI expert and Chief Transformation Officer for MTN Nigeria, Bayo Adekanmbi who was the Keynote Speaker. Adekambi’s keynote address followed a robust panel session moderated by the CEO of DKK & Associates, Temitope Jemerigbe, and made-up of speakers from key subsectors of the Nigerian market including the President of the Media Independent Practitioners Association of Nigeria (MIPAN), Femi Adelusi; Acting President of the Advertising Association of Nigeria (ADVAN), Bunmi Adeniba and Chairman of the Lagos Advertising & Ideas Festival (LAIF) Management Board, Lanre Adisa.

I was quite enjoying Adekambi’s presentation on how AI is revolutionalizing marketing until he began to mention some AI products that can write and curate content. Now, that hit directly home as writing helps pay my bills and puts food on the table. The realization that AI can comfortably do what I can do for a living is rather unsettling. Further research into this area shows that tools like Articoolo, a content creation tool that writes an article just like a human, exist. Firstly, Articoloo understands the concept of the given topic. For example, if you want to write an article regarding “Variety of cars”, then the algorithm of the tool will understand what a “car” is and then start writing the article!

Yet another, is Article Forge. The platform uses insightful algorithms to automatically rewrite the articles just the way a human being does. The intelligent algorithms automatically research any topic, read an infinite number of articles and then writes the article in its own words. It also works as per the search engine optimization and works in accordance. Others are Word AI, Canva, Scoop.it, Wordlife, Tubebuddy, Quuu Promote, Wordsmith, Quill…the list appears inexhaustive.

The example of how AI can take away copywriters, writers, etc.’s jobs’ is just one of what can happen to other aspects of marketing communications job. Take the creative space as another example: in 2016, a McCann Erikkson agency in Japan employed the very first AI Creative Director. The Creative Director, AI-CD β (AI-CD beta) was developed through the Creative Genome Project, undertaken by McCann Millennials, with the capacity of replacing a human creative director in the design of TV ads. Fast-forward to 2017, at a conference, two spots are presented to more than 200 professionals in the advertising world. The first was made by the AI-CD β AI, the other was developed in a more traditional way, by a human creative director. To everyone’s surprise, the panel of professionals preferred the AI’s TV spot!

Just as there are the existential fears expressed by Bill Gates and Elon Musk that computers could become too smart and take over the world, the fear that AI will take over a vast majority of jobs, marketing inclusive, in no distant time is rife, almost palpable. After all, robots and computers don’t make a yearly salary! According to a June 2016 report from Forrester, AI, machine learning, robots, and automation will mean a net loss of 7% of U.S. jobs by 2025. The technology will mainly eat away at office and administrative support staff. New jobs, such as data scientists and robot monitoring professionals, will be created, but the losses will be greater than the gains.

But despite unraveling reality and even with fears of job loss looming in marketing and across other industries, humans will still be necessary. This necessity will be based on the individual in context. Alvin Toffler, an American writer, futurist, and businessman known for his works discussing modern technologies, including the digital revolution and the communication revolution, with emphasis on their effects on cultures worldwide, once noted, “the illiterate of the 21st century will not be those that cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.”

Femi Adelusi appears to be in agreement with Toffler when he said that until marketing professionals learn to evolve; learn, unlearn and relearn continuously, AI will take away available marketing jobs.  The onus lies on every marketing communication professional reinventing himself.

I believe we humans, will continue to drive the creative and strategic aspect of marketing function. Humans will continue to lead in the automated future. It is necessary to look for areas where human intelligence and emotions are vastly superior to AI. AI will have least or no impact on the EQ element of our work that has a profound and immediate impact on our professional outcomes. Emotional Intelligence plays a critical role in conversations and negotiations leading to creative outcomes.

Can a machine learn the emotional intelligence of human beings? For example-read between the lines and understanding what’s not said. AI or chatbots will never be able to develop a sensibility to distill social meaning from everyday encounters. Reading between the lines is vital to comprehending developing situations, understanding potential, and existing conditions that are necessary for expected outcomes; understand the contextual meaning of a situation. AI will never be able to do things with human understanding. It will never know when to pause or when to sneer. It will also never do the irony.

It cannot interpret a situation. To understand a situation, it is not enough to simply read the text, it happens by understanding what is mentioned, consider a different point of view and the degree of significance. Understanding a situation is a must before it is interpreted to develop a point of view or a strategy.

AI cannot understand the social culture, local customs, and traditions. Consumer buying decision is deeply influenced by it. Values and attitudes vary between people, markets, and nations. They differ even within nations. Take countries like Nigeria, India and China where there is enormous diversity. It also depends on the level and nature of education. If we are planning to take a product or service it is imperative to have a good grasp of the social culture besides business and economic situations before entering the market. Undertaking this is a human activity.

What AI does is bring about changes by improved understanding and better insight of the digital landscape. This will empower decision-making by giving practitioners the most in-depth and comprehensive look at problem-solving.

Ramifications of AI, therefore, are not all about doom and gloom. The future looks promising, especially in a world where creative input, craftsmanship, and human judgment will remain superior to machines. I believe as many others do too, AI will be a tool for marketing and communications. I believe doing what machines and AI can’t perform will elevate the profession and our expertise to a higher level.

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