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Unleashing AI’s Potential: How Marketers Are Harnessing its Power in the Real World

Unleashing AI’s Potential: How Marketers Are Harnessing its Power in the Real World

Those who take a passing interest in AI may think that it is all hype, but a closer look will unearth genuinely transformative AI applications that can deliver game-changing impact for marketers.

We saw at last month’s Google Marketing Live just how AI-powered innovations are making a real difference to marketers. From using AI in the creative process to improving the relevance of ad campaigns — new technology, coupled with human expertise, is fundamentally altering marketing as an industry.

Some brands are already harnessing the power of AI, while others are looking for guidance on where to start. That’s why we’ve asked industry leaders from across Europe, the Middle East, and Africa to share the exciting ways they are using these tools to transform their business and deliver results.

It’s not too late to be early on AI

Headshot of Vanessa Hartley, Vice President, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, Google

As we immerse ourselves in this new era of AI, and for advertising, it’s never been a more exciting moment to be a marketer. For me, 2024 is the year of action.

Over the last year, I’ve listened as AI questions from marketers across EMEA have moved from “what is it” to “how can I use it today”. What this tells me is that marketers are eager to get started, but have questions about how these AI-powered innovations can make a real difference to their businesses.

The good news is that it’s not too late to be early with AI. While I understand that taking action might feel like a leap, like every leap forward it begins with simple steps. Our AI Essentials checklist, for instance, has already been used by millions of marketers. It outlines how they can set themselves up for success by putting AI to work for their businesses.

Marketers have also told us they want more hands-on partnership, whether that’s with Google or an agency partner. I’ve seen this first hand and believe strong partnerships are key to getting ahead. With the right partners and foundations in place, anything is possible. This is what excites me the most.

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AI is breaking down international barriers for retailers

Headshot of Tony Preedy, managing director, Fruugo

For retailers, AI is becoming the critical foundation for how to balance efficiency and personalisation with the need to protect consumers’ privacy. The latter remains non-negotiable in the age of data-driven marketing, so AI has genuinely become pivotal to the way in which we run our advertising.

We’re already using AI tools to get the right foundations in place to do this. We’ve been testing, learning, and scaling our AI-powered campaigns. They are remarkably efficient in placing the right ad in front of the right person at the right time, whilst optimising our advertising spend, too. And where consumer expectations around privacy online are evolving, so too is our ability to model our conversion measurement more accurately using first party data.

But more than that, technology is helping retailers take down international barriers. Take Fruugo, for example. We’re an online marketplace connecting retailers with their customers. And now thanks to AI we can help those retailers advertise their products to an international audience by allowing shoppers to buy in their local language and currency, irrespective of where the retailer operates from. It’s effectively internationalisation as a service for retail.

On top of all that, it also considers the consumer’s individual, anonymised preferences, so that they get personalised results. It’s honestly remarkable: retailers get a predictable return on their advertising investment, and the shopper gets what they want to see.

The human factor is in upholding the ethical standards customers come to expect. AI doesn’t need deconstructing, but the marketer still needs to understand what parameters and elements are required to responsibly drive growth and provide more personalised experiences.

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AI is now a creative gamechanger

Headshot of Alberto Hernandez, global chief growth officer, Sanofi Consumer Healthcare

As a chief growth officer, I’m always on the lookout for ways to embrace innovation and bring it into my team. And as we all continue to build our digital capabilities with AI, I’m a huge advocate of looking outside our walls for inspiration and talent.

We’re learning from the best in consumer engagement, in industries such as travel and hospitality. We’re learning from the best creatives, who might typically operate outside our sector, and having conversations about the tools that are elevating their creativity to the next level. By looking elsewhere for best-in-class trailblazers, marketers are able to come up with exciting ideas that change how we work.

We’ve seen huge leaps in creativity, for instance. Since testing generative AI tools and learning just what we can do with them, we’ve built out an internal studio to help us create hundreds of creative assets for each of our different brands. There’s a reason we have nicknamed it “The Factory”. The interesting part for me is the ability to embed specific direction, such as brand guidelines, tone of voice, and even regulations, restrictions and governance. Not only do we get nuanced, relevant ideas and outputs, but the inputs also allow us to be more compliant by design. We’re able to quickly eliminate red flags in our creative work earlier on.

Our metrics prove this technology is a game changer; increasing traffic, engagement and conversions, but for me success is far more fundamental than that. AI isn’t just about the latest and greatest tools; it’s a process transformation where the human element remains crucial.

Our teams play a critical role in guiding generative AI models to deliver on strategic objectives, applying lessons learned along the way. Ultimately, generative AI isn’t just about technology; it’s also about empowering our teams to think creatively, build deeper connections with consumers, streamline processes, and deliver exceptional brand experiences.

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AI is giving us more time for critical thinking

Headshot of Filipe Rodrigues, head of digital and innovation at Arena Media, part of Havas Media Network

I’m impressed by the possibilities AI is offering us in automating repetitive tasks, freeing up valuable time. For instance, with SEO projects, we now leverage large language models to generate suggestions and streamline keyword research. This allows the team the time to delve deeper into the nuances of data and develop more impactful strategies.

Beyond efficiency, AI is opening up new creative possibilities. Imagine using AI image models to bring campaign concepts to life at an early stage, providing clients with a visual representation of their potential artwork, facilitating more informed decision-making.

However, while AI is a powerful tool, it’s crucial that the human touch remains critical. Brands strive to connect with their audience on a personal level, delivering the right message at the right time. Over-reliance on AI can lead to generic messaging and a loss of brand differentiation. Marketers can draw inspiration from AI, just as artists find inspiration in the works of others, but ultimately human ingenuity is what sets brands apart and makes them memorable.

Data too, can often lack nuance. AI algorithms may struggle to understand the subtle context behind human behaviour. For example, a child playing outside may seem like a laundry detergent opportunity to AI, but a human marketer understands the importance of carefree play.

In the future, AI will undoubtedly play a more significant role in marketing. We may even see AI optimising campaigns with a focus on minimising their carbon footprint. AI doesn’t always need to be used for profit.

The brands that understand the symbiotic relationship between human marketers and AI will be the ones that thrive.

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