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Breaking Down AI: A Beginners Guide to Artificial Intelligence in Marketing

You may have heard “Artificial Intelligence”, or AI, thrown around in the digital space a lot lately. When people think of AI, they think of self-driving cars, or Siri. In reality, AI is a combination of behind the scenes tools and systems that aim to make people’s lives more efficient, effective and simple through automations. 

In this blog, we highlight what AI is and what you need to know about this technology which is having a significant impact on the digital marketing space, businesses and our everyday lives. 

How AI is Utilised as a Marketing Strategy

In marketing, AI utilises digital data models, algorithms and machine learning to produce customer insights that marketers can use to optimise spending, customise content and personalise the customer journey.

Marketers can regularly use AI tools such as:

  • Chatbots and conversational experiences 
  • Personal assistants 
  • Content personalisation 
  • Personalised website experience 
  • Automated emails


Although AI has been used by brands for years in a variety of ever-evolving ways, in 2015, M&C Saatchi developed an advertisement that is widely considered to be the first AI-powered ad. This ad debuted to promote a coffee company, Bahio. The virtual “poster” had the ability to take into account reactions, analysing if audiences were looking at it, and assessing the level of success. No images or data were stored due to privacy issues, and each interaction was given a number, so that the data could be utilised for future insights and predictions.

As traditional advertising such as billboards, signs and posters have always been limited by their potential to track efficacy, the additional of technology and AI to track, analyse and report on user behaviour is truly game-changing.

M&C Saatchi's artificial intelligence ad on Oxford Street
M&C Saatchi’s artificial intelligence ad on Oxford Street

With the use of AI and machine learning, marketers can now gain insights in real time and at scale, which allows them to understand their audience better and make more informed, personalised optimisations based on data. With this data, further marketing strategies can be developed to address what their audience needs and where they’re looking for it, either in real-time or quicker than ever before. This helps to enhance business performance & efficiency, while building trust and empowering the creation of better online experiences for customers. 

AI vs. AR vs. VR: Understanding the Differences 

Amongst the evolution of technology AI is being surrounded with other technological processes like Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR). AR can be most commonly seen in apps such as Pokemon Go or Snapchat, that uses facial recognition software which is taken advantage of by the iconic Snapchat filters. Another example is with Google Translate. With the use of AR, Google Translate allows users to use their device camera to translate signs in foreign languages. 

VR immerses and surrounds users in a computerised three-dimensional environment, where visuals and sounds allow you to feel as if your virtual world is reality. This is most commonly used in gaming experiences or flying simulations for pilots. Clothing brands such as ASOS and Adidas have also used VR to create a virtual change room, allowing users to “try on” clothes over the internet. We’re even looking to implement VR for one of our clients on their website, utilising an app to showcase a customers room with different flooring options.

ASOS virtual change room. Source ASOS
ASOS virtual change room. Source: ASOS

Whilst AR and VR can immerse us in the virtual world, AI is more about systems learning how to solve issues and make the user experience more efficient. Like all marketing tools and technologies, AI comes with pros and cons:

Pros of Utilising AI in Marketing 

  • Deliver responsive customer experiences 
  • Produce higher website conversion rates
  • More efficient use of your data
  • Better use of time & real-time responses

Cons of Utilising AI in Marketing 

  • Lacking human touch
  • Algorithms can fail
  • AI can be costly and require frequent maintenance 

Standard practice of AI in marketing and business today is to utilise this tool to help advance a buyer’s journey, without eliminating human connection and emotions. AI takes out the guesswork and replaces it with real data that marketers can use to personalise each customers journey, making it more tailored to each individual.

It is evident that as technology evolves, AI is leading the future of digital marketing. Like everything though, AI has its pros and cons that need to be considered to see if it aligns with your business needs, values and budget. Our biggest tip is to never solely rely on AI, as all information generated from machine technology needs to human oversight and input to work at its best.

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