The Future of Agencies in a World of Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence has become one of those buzz words hasn’t it? But do we actually know what it is? How often we interact with it? And what our future holds, particularly for an agency environment with AI at our fingertips? 

Quite astonishing, only 22% of consumers recognise that they interact with artificial intelligence, yet it’s all around us. That Snapchat filter you used this morning on the way to work? Yep. That was AI. “Alexa?” Yep. She’s AI. Netflix’s latest recommendations? The list really does go on. 

Artificial Intelligence is best defined as a theory or development of technology which can efficiently perform tasks normally requiring human intelligence. This can manifest in many forms such as translation between languages, visual recognition, speech recognition, and most interestingly for marketing agencies, decision-making. 

Those recommendations on Netflix were by no means a mistake. They are a calculated proposal, all thanks to that little piece of technology we call AI. Through likelihood and probability, products, services and solutions are being cleverly tee’d up to ensure we interact and engage with them at the right place, at the right time – changing the dynamic of how brands need to consider and adapt their marketing communications. 

It is likely that as a result, we will see a duality of brands. Starting with convenience brands, or FMCGs, it comes as no real surprise that these brands will suffer the biggest threat from AI and require the largest changes in their communication direction. They can be easily compared against and chosen based on a low investment of emotion during the path to purchase. I don’t love any kind of washing liquid, I just need one. It’s functional at best. So how do these brands overcome the AI tidal wave that’s about to hit them? Well… it comes in changing their positioning from an easily comparable product to a value-added service. Unilever’s Dollar Shave Club will go down in history as one of the gold standard examples of this. How can an everyday razor become more desirable? Easy. You turn your business model into an online subscription service with some sh** hot messaging to create a memorable brand, with strong emphasis on consumer experience that caters to the growing male grooming trend, making it relevant and transforming the shaving market. Not bad going. 

Luxury brands or brands with any kind of emotional storytelling already in place hold a bit more dominance when it comes to AI as the path to purchase is usually more pleasurable with consumers openly saying they enjoy researching and purchasing brands that resonate with their lifestyles. However, AI will play a key role in their future, securing a competitive advantage which allows you to truly bring your brand or product to life – designing the “ultimate experience” through increased usage of augmented-reality, virtual-reality and “mixed reality”. But to be effective, these brands need to consider these technologies with longevity in mind, not just a one-off stunt. 

So, what does this mean for agencies? How do our roles change as we support clients across a range of industries and sectors, all the way through from convenience to luxury? Well first of all, we have nothing to fear with AI. Given that AI is a learning machine, the way at which it can mimic learning techniques and understand the decision-making process is still very simple in its approach. The objectives of AI are nothing new, in fact it’s what we marketers have been trying to achieve all along – using databases of information to identify the positive experiences (satisfaction with a product purchase) and aim to repeat these – looking for these behaviours in order to engineer/influence a positive response, i.e. purchase behaviour. AI may automate many of our agency tasks and functions, but there is still a need for human interaction to operate on a more consultative basis and effectively bring creativity and lateral thinking together to form strategies, in a way that technology cannot yet achieve. 

AI is unquestionably switching up the way we do things but by no means should it be a barrier. Only the very best brands will survive. And it’s those brands that we at Guerilla enjoy working with.

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