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It’s Time to Break the Cycle and Restore Trust in Advertising

By James Dennin, Chief Storyteller at IBM

As part of the CES 2021 conference, IBM’s Bob Lord participated in a panel with leaders from CVS and Delta to discuss the importance of marketers using advanced technology like AI for social good and to transform the ad industry.

Q. Over the last year there has been an almost singular focus for most businesses and organizations: surviving the COVID-19 pandemic. What are some of the ways advanced technologies like AI have helped meet this moment?

And as the pandemic dramatically changes the way we work, shop and interact, AI has played a significant role in helping organizations adapt to unprecedented challenges. Restaurants needed to find ways to feed people without their dining rooms. Large companies like IBM needed to find ways to move tens of thousands of employees out of the office and set them up to begin working remote.

From chatbots and natural language processing that helped companies meet overwhelming demand, to AI-based insights that help employers make informed decisions on workplace re-entry and facilities management, advanced technologies like AI have been crucial to confronting the most pressing problems that arose during the pandemic. As we look ahead post-pandemic, we believe these technologies will also play a role in helping companies reimagine their organizations and break the cycle of archaic technology that doesn’t suit today’s needs.

Q. Are there areas where AI has the potential to play an even greater role?

Bob: We believe the advertising and media industry will have an increasingly important role to play as far as harnessing AI and applying it to urgent social problems. And with advertising being upended by ongoing changes to traditional identifiers and increased privacy regulations, AI holds the key to completely transform the media and marketing industry. That’s the potential of AI.

Q. You mention “break the cycle” in the advertising industry. What does that mean?

Bob: The advertising industry has been caught in a vicious cycle for nearly a decade, with a dependency on the same traditional identifiers and cookies. AI holds the key to breaking the cycle and propelling the industry forward. For instance, with AI in advertising, brands can take the trove of anonymized public or opted-in data to which marketers and publishers have access, and produce insights that can provide a mutually beneficial value exchange with consumers.

Q. How should brands be using AI in their advertising? Can AI-based ads still be creative?

In June last year as racial injustice protests spread rapidly across the country, the Ad Council used IBM Watson Advertising’s “Accelerator” to educate and build awareness of their “Love Has No Labels” campaign to promote diversity, equity and the inclusion of all people.

“Accelerator” uses AI to better understand a multitude of different data sets which it uses to then deliver a unique ad unit loaded with the most inviting creative. So in the case of “Love Has No Labels,” “Accelerator” was assembling, in near real time, more than 81 unique ad variations urging viewers to resist bias and promoting inclusion.

Q. What has you the most hopeful about 2021?

Bob: I am hopeful that we use this moment in time to reflect on what hasn’t served our industry. Rather than cling to existing practices, now is our time to break the cycle of continuing to do the same things, use the same technologies, operate in the same old ways while expecting different results. Whether we’re talking about ending the pandemic or tackling the problems of the future from climate change to food scarcity, AI can help us get there.

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Feb 16, 2021 at 03:38

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