“Okay, Google. Please ask Alexa to ask Cortana to tell Siri to look up funny cat videos.”

While a few consumers are totally going to try that, the age of artificial intelligence means tremendous potential for marketing applications (although you might want to invest in cat videos, too). AI has already leaped from the pages of science fiction and into our homes—and although the technology is still new, brands are feeling the pressure to adapt.

Research by The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) in April found that 37 percent of global marketing executives believe big data and AI were among the technologies they expected to have the biggest impact on marketing companies by 2020.

EMarketer’s latest report, Artificial Intelligence for Marketers: The Future Is Already Hereexplores industry predictions for the future of AI, but also how the technology is being used today. A November 2015 survey of IT executives in North America by 451 Research found that 30.4 percent of respondents used or planned to use machine learning techniques for campaign and sales program optimization and 26.8 percent for pricing optimization. These tasks were closely followed by cross-channel analytics (26.2 percent), ad targeting and selection (25.6 percent) and market and customer segmentation (24.4 percent).


With all the metrics-gathering programs out there, sometimes it’s hard to measure return on investment or plan where to budget the most effectively. Each social media platform, for example, has its own metrics analysis and brands must turn to a source that can compile this unstructured data.

AI systems excel at parsing and crunching massive volumes of data from disparate sources, and can take information from a variety of inputs, find relationships, connect dots and make predictions in ways that are not humanly possible. “Marketers are using these capabilities to enhance customer intelligence, marketing research and forecasting accuracy,” notes eMarketer.

A May study conducted by the National Business Research Institute (NBRI) for Narrative Science found that 38 percent of US business executives considered this type of data crunching and predictive activity to be the most important solution provided by AI.

IBM’s natural language processing service, Watson, analyzes unstructured data to help marketers make better use of the data they collect. “We’re at the very beginning of the possibilities with augmented intelligence and cognitive computing for marketing and advertising,” Nish Parekh, IBM’s program director of Watson client services, said in eMarketer’s report. “In the near future, we hope to see more brands across industries and throughout the world adopting cognitive systems, engaging with their customers to create personalization based on their location through mobile phones or wearable devices.”

The evolution of bots on smart devices is also expected to open up a market for new advertising opportunities, especially in the area of paid voice search. According to a September forecast from Juniper Research, more than $12 billion annually will be invested in this format by 2021, up a whopping 3,000 percent from the company’s estimate of 2016 paid voice search.

From messenger bots to super computers, AI is here and it’s learning, so marketers should, too.