THE LAST couple of years have seen much moral panic about the tide of automation – scare stories about robots making human jobs redundant.
But that’s all nonsense. Technological revolutions alleviate humans from the mundanity of repetitive tasks. If a machine can do something better, more efficiently, and without wasting human minds on banal processes, then it should.
Enter Albert, who is making the world of marketing less tedious by the day. Despite the fact I’m meeting him, Albert is not a person. He is the creation of Israeli tech firm Albert Technologies, and chief executive Or Shani is introducing me to the world’s first artificial intelligence marketing platform.
“All of our clients refer to him as ‘He’. He has his own personality at the end of the day. When you purchase Albert, it’s a little bit like you hired another team member. We really replace work that otherwise would be done manually. So that’s why it’s easier to call it ‘he’.”
Shani’s background is in marketing for gaming firms, in which he spent his days analysing data, buying media, running campaigns and whatever else. But he knew it could be done more efficiently, so set about making his own job redundant.
“All of my career I felt it very weird that an industry that’s supposed to be very sophisticated, very heavy on technology, is actually very manual. Even in cutting edge companies, everything is manual. You come to work, download a lot of spreadsheets from a lot of systems, they analyse and compare them – this is really not effective. And with multiple devices this becomes even more complex.”
The idea of Albert was to centralise and automate the manual processes a marketer does day to day: planning, executing and reporting on campaigns, across all channels – search, social, email and display.
“That means that if you’re a brand and you have a new campaign, instead of having a team of five or 10 people run it for you, you can create the creative, upload it to Albert, and he’ll take care of everything. All the optimisation. Everything. There’s really not a lot for you to do.”
Shani demonstrated Albert to me, and I must admit he is impressive. But what sets him apart is that, unlike some human marketers I’ve met, he learns and adapts in real time using machine learning.
“He learns as time goes by,” says Shani. “So let’s say that he plans to put a specific brand on a specific website using specific keywords. He tries them out, measures the response, and if the response is as good as he predicted, he’ll start to evolve that, adapt it. If you have an automotive search campaign,for example, the keywords will be ‘buy a car’, ‘buy a new car’ that sort of thing. He then runs a very short analysis, evaluates the success, and will automatically add more keywords to improve accuracy and efficiency.”
One can of course tweak as time goes by, depending on your budget or expectations – setting goals essentially. “This will change how Albert will perform. Say I want to get to X impressions, or I want to get X amount of return on investment. If you change your budget from £150 to £200, Albert will be more aggressive in how he spends the budget. If you lower it down to £120 he’ll be more frugal. So there’s tweaking, but you don’t have to do all the heavy lifting.”
This, Shani has found, has left some marketers feeling a bit redundant. It’s almost too simple. So the Albert Technologies team have added a new functionality, to give thumb-twiddling marketers something to do.
“If you go the dashboard, there is a section is called insights. One of the things people in marketng hate doing is running reports. So we taught Albert to run reports on your behalf. He makes conclusions about the interesting nuggets and brings them to your attention. So if you click here, you see all the insights. ‘Geopotential’ for example. It says, if you target Mexico, it will produce 30 percent higher returns.”
There are myriad analytical reports for optimising your marketing spend. I joke to Shani that the only human input Albert requires is determined by the machine itself. He nods, “I suppose so, yes!”
We move on to discuss whether the AI revolution is welcome in the world of marketing. Every firm uses technology of some sort, but if I had one takeaway from Cannes this year, it’s that some are feeling undermined by platforms that can do their job better than they can. Shani had given a speech to the IPA the week prior to our meeting, which he reiterated to me.
“They miss the point. You need to focus on the problems. If you think that you have no problem and the marketing is perfect as it is, then you don’t need us, you don’t need anybody. But if you think that marketing is not quite good enough, not personal enough, or if you need 200 people to operate the organisation, there’s a problem. And maybe AI can solve some part of it. You need to think of the solution.”
Elliott Haworth is business features writer at City A.M.