A.I. and Ad Agencies: Bringing Cognitive Intelligence to Clients

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It's a pivotal moment for technology and marketing. These two industries have collided to augment and even build worlds from scratch, telling comprehensive and compelling stories. Yet one of the most astounding and useful advances comes not from a new type of virtual reality but in how marketers soon will be able to analyze the most sophisticated tool around: the human mind.

I'm speaking here of the principle known as "cognitive intelligence," or C.I., which offers a crystal-clear window into the behaviors, wants and needs of the people around us.

Cognitive is an umbrella term encompassing numerous aspects of how machine thinking mimics how we as humans think. Terms like machine learning, artificial intelligence, deep learning, adaptive neural networks, etc. all touch on components of what is encompassed in the broader term "cognitive."

Cognitive intelligence is an output of using cognitive services and technology to understand more insights at an individual or personal level. When applying cognitive to marketing, Cognitive Intelligence is about the uniqueness of the customer -- i.e. who they are as individuals. Examples can be things like their personality, character, media consumption habits, desires and passions.

C.I. has proven to be life-changing in countless ways, from early detection of Alzheimer's to advances in self-driving cars. While this type of A.I. will reach far and wide, it's still in its infancy in many ways. Nevertheless, as marketers, it's our duty to understand, reimagine and implement C.I. to benefit consumers and brands. Moreover, advertising agencies are in a unique position, and hold the keys for these new applications. In fact, agencies can and should take the reigns when it comes to C.I.

There's a mistaken belief that C.I.'s greatest value to advertising and marketing will be in bringing just efficiency to data and analytics. Traditional CRM or customer insights offer a limited understanding of the customer as a real individual. Cognitive insights demonstrate remarkable value to brand and consumers, as the marketing output is customized to the individual rather than as a member of a persona group or cohort. We call this "marketing to a market of one." Cognitive intelligence enables this to happen through the use of cognitive services (IBM Watson for example) to gain individual and personal insights to drive a custom, deep, personal experience.

Cognitive technology has the power to illuminate unstructured data. That means brands can gain deeper insights about our customers and provide them with more valuable, personalized experiences Stated simply: Cognitive shines the light on dark data.

This is only the beginning of where cognitive powered marketing will take us. We see cognitive intelligence driving the digital experience forward to the point that the interface itself anticipates the user need. The digital brand experience at the interface level is affected by the insights from the individual.

This forces a shift in how agencies work with clients across industries, a crumbling of the one-size fits all approach and, as the industry is already seeing, a shift to one-to-one experiences.

Brand marketers will get to the future of "marketing to a market of one" by viewing technologies like IBM Watson as more than just a formidable competitor on Jeopardy and thinking critically about how to tie A.I. into marketing in creative ways. Advertising has reached a tipping point where it's not enough to come up with a catchy tagline or a creative design to make a lasting impression. Marketers are now facing an obstacle course in which marketing is intertwined with the complex ecosystem of today: a fusion of the entertainment, media and technology industries. If advertisers are not taking this change seriously, they're not doing their jobs.

To keep up, marketers have to pool their resources and bring their expertise together in smart and strategic ways. For instance, my agency works closely with IBM's Watson team, and we haven't been shy about employing Watson as a resource for our clients. HOW? As a result, we've gained a better understanding of the consumers that we're targeting and given them personalized experiences that directly correlate with what they want. We use the insights from C.I. to create personal, data-driven, interactive, brand experiences that enable our clients to create smarter recommendations, thus shortening the purchase journey.

The less marketers limit themselves with C.I., the more they'll accomplish. Advertisers need to find the connection between these far-reaching capabilities and institutional advertising know how to take marketing into the next level.

At its core, C.I. doesn't constrain itself to what has been tried before. It finds new patterns, turns data on its head and uses new perspectives to come up with better individually personalized solutions. As marketers, it's our responsibility to bring this type of thinking to how we use technology. Brands that do this in the right way, by serving it up to consumers in their voice with their individual preferences, process we will be the Brands of tomorrow. Cognitively intelligent brands will be the brands that matter.

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