GroupM On AI And Brands: Advertising Has To Be Useful

'Useful advertising is a function of relevance which in turn is a function of time, place, context, cognitive targeting and creation, and actionability,' writes GroupM's Chief Digital Officer Rob Norman.

For brands and agencies trying to figure out how to apply the methods of traditional advertising to the new wave of artificial intelligence powering voice-activated digital assistants, WPP’s GroupM warns that they should stop right there.

Much like social media and search advertising has forced a different standard for reaching consumers with information that is directly relevant to consumers’ mindsets at a particular place and time, the rise of tools by Amazon, Apple, Google, Microsoft, and others implies a vastly different frame of reference, writes GroupM Chief Digital Officer Rob Norman in the media unit’s annual Interaction report.

“Only the exceptional survive in any useful form, and it’s certainly true to say that any exposure you earn is largely a function of the media you own,” Norman says.

“This means that advertisers have to deliver an exceptionally high degree of usefulness to their audience, and in owned media that means telling them something they did not know (how to apply a great make- up look or paint a window frame),” Norman adds. “It means building apps and digital destinations that allow the user to choose, and, buy or book. It means creating content with a clear understanding of the value it creates and the likelihood of it leading to a share or a recommendation.”

As for what that means from a media planning/buying and creative standpoint, Norman outlines four levels that agencies will have to meet on behalf of their clients:

  • Think “watchability” over “viewability.”
  • With a constantly growing landscape of choices for consumers’ limited attention, the only way to get to views is to have something people actually want to see. Not all media can measured the same way.
  • In other words, give up on the hope for a single standard metric like the Nielsen ratings point. Strive for balance between consumers’ demand for personalization and marketers’ need for scale and mass appeal. (“The Marriott Hotel Bogota has 57 images on Marriott / Starwood operates over 7,000 properties. That’s a lot of images,” Norman notes.)
  • Prepare for new classes of content to meet e-commerce and m-commerce.

Telling Brands’ Data Story

The idea of the “value exchange” between marketers and consumers has become a singular underlying concept amid the blurring of paid and earned/social media.

“Attention is a reward, not a right,” Norman reminds brands.  “Useful advertising is a function of relevance which in turn is a function of time, place, context, cognitive targeting and creation, and actionability,” he says. All of those points of relevance are directed by data.

Without a “data story,” brands cannot be discovered online or offline.

Among the biggest changes in the ways that marketers connect with consumers will be in the area of voice-activated search.

Instead of viewing a page of links, consumers will be given direct answers to specific questions like “What’s the most recommended anti-dandruff shampoo?” or “Where is best place to meet for coffee near me?”

“Brands need an actual voice or at least the ability to respond to the human voice,” Norman says. “Voice search, voice commands to IoT devices from Echo to the autonomous vehicle will, in some cases at least, require a spoken response.  “As artificial intelligence becomes part of the taxonomy of everything the structured and unstructured story around the brand, its purpose, origin and the conversation it creates will become part of the consumer experience” Norman concludes. “It had better be a good one.”

About The Author
David Kaplan David Kaplan @davidakaplan

A New York City-based journalist for over 20 years, David Kaplan is managing editor of A former editor and reporter at AdExchanger, paidContent, Adweek and MediaPost.