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How Artificial Intelligence Can Boost Your Advertising Strategy

How Artificial Intelligence Can Boost Your Advertising Strategy

By leveraging AI, small businesses can run and optimize ad campaigns with ease, and use what the technology learns to continuously improve their approach.

Great advertising rewards attention. Instead of scrolling past an ad online, you click through and find yourself offered the perfect opportunity to buy an item you want at a special discount. Or, rather than simply swipe past an ad on social media, you watch a video showcasing the ideal accessory to a product you recently bought.

This kind of advertising never feels annoying. It doesn’t go overboard to get in your face. In fact, the smartest brands only present an ad to you because, to them you’ve become a familiar face. That’s what happens when advertisers make strategic use of data by taking advantage of artificial intelligence (AI).

AI can play a role in every stage of advertising, from campaign planning to distribution, and even assisting with the development of creative assets. It also brings a lot of power directly into the hands of Canadian small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) who would otherwise rely entirely on agencies or other third parties.

Leveraging the AI capabilities in a platform like Marketing Cloud, for example, SMBs can run and optimize ad campaigns with ease, and use what the technology learns to continuously improve their approach.

The increased interest in AI, particularly generative AI that helps produce or summarize content, will likely increase the technology’s overall adoption as Canadian brands tackle a challenging economy. Already, many recognize that the shift towards digital channels is here to stay. No wonder a recent survey from Ipsos found one in four Canadian marketers have “fundamentally changed” their digital strategy.

AI is ideally suited to boost the performance of digital advertising. Compared to more traditional channels such as billboards or direct mail, there is much more data to gather as connected customers visit a brand’s web site, engage on social media or respond to text messages.

To fully understand the scope of what AI can bring to advertising, however, you need to consider:

AI as a means of audience discovery and segmentation

The goal of most advertising has usually been about “reach,” which has often been defined as getting your marketing messages in front of as many people as possible. Over time, however, marketing has become much more sophisticated, where brands recognize that they might see greater results by being more specific about who they’re trying to attract.

The challenge is that there isn’t a marketing team in the world large enough to manually keep on top of every click, scroll, or “like” that customers might make at any given time. It gets even trickier because the same consumer might be on a PC one minute and a smartphone the next.

Enter AI, which was purpose-built to sift through massive volumes of data in a fraction of the time it would take a human being to do the same thing. This means brands can begin to carve out slices of their total addressable market into those most likely to make a purchase, those who need to be nurtured with more compelling content, and those who will only engage with them periodically.

AI as a platform for data unification and harmonization

The message from regulators and search engines is becoming crystal clear: it is probably going to be increasingly difficult to effectively advertise using third-party data.

Until recently, website “cookies” collected third-party data which brands could then use to retarget ads to consumers as they browsed around the Web. The emphasis now is on advertising using first-party data, such as the data a brand collects via e-mail subscriptions, surveys, or even their CRM.

Instead of forcing marketing teams to do a lot of detective work where they are searching for first-party data, AI can help bring it all together from disparate sources with ease. That puts brands in a much better position to make greater use of one of their biggest assets: their own customer data.

AI as a tool for personalizing ads at scale

The old way to advertise a product was to show the same size, colour, and style of product to the entire world. The new way? Look more closely at each consumer’s preferences and only show them an ad that reflects them. AI makes this possible.

Brands are also capitalizing on AI to create just-in-time promotions that respond to intent signals customers make when they engage with them through digital channels. Sometimes it might only take a coupon code or a free shipping offer to nudge tire-kickers into going through with a purchase.

Customers that see brands tailoring their approach with AI are more likely to trust them with even more data about their purchase histories, demographics, and other data that makes the technology even more powerful from an advertising perspective.

AI as a mechanism for automating ad campaign execution

The marketing world changed a lot when ad networks moved to what is known as programmatic buying, where brands must compete for space on search engines and other popular digital properties.

Brands were once limited to making programmatic bids based on factors such as location or target age group. AI allows marketers to explore many other options, such as keywords relating to their products and services, or even those who have been browsing around on a competitor’s website.

This is just one example of how AI enhances marketing automation. Another important area looks at how marketers can analyze campaign performance and A/B test different ad variations to see what resonates best with their target audience.

AI as a content creation assistant

It can take creative professionals hours, days, or even weeks to come up with the right ideas for taglines, calls to action, and visual concepts for an ad campaign. Generative AI is quickly advancing to help spur the process of ideation and content development.

Though copywriters and designers will still need to refine ideas and make strategic choices, AI can provide a rich set of options for them to work with and build upon to get campaign materials out the door quicker than ever.

Whether you’re a retailer, a manufacturing company, or working in any other sector, there’s probably a great use case for bringing AI into your advertising campaigns. To learn more about how technology and changes in audience behaviour are aligning, check out Salesforce’s most recent State of the Connected Consumer Report.

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