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The future is already here...

If you’ve been reading the marketing press recently, you might be forgiven for thinking that the robots are coming for your job, possibly as a precursor to taking over the planet. If that’s worrying you, I’ve got bad news. They’re already here.

The good news for paranoid marketers is that the tasks AI can perform are currently limited - we’re still a long way from building the complete robot marketer. What that means - in the short to medium term at least - is that AI will augment what marketers do, performing new tasks rather than taking over old ones.

Much of what’s driving the adoption of AI and machine learning is marketer’s age-old desire to deliver a personalised, relevant experience to consumers in as close to real-time as possible. As this moves increasingly towards dealing in “segments of one”, the data-processing and decision-making is simply beyond the capacity of humans; that’s where AI comes in. But while machines may be responsible for delivering the right message to the right person at the right time, the thinking behind of all those “right messages” will be done by a human being for the foreseeable future.

Alongside this, it’s worth thinking about how AI might impact on customers, rather than marketers. This is where AI meets what used to be known as VRM (Vendor Relationship Management) and is now called the Personal Information Economy. For some time, proponents of VRM have talked about an approach that reverses the established approach to marketing. Instead of companies collecting data about consumers and using it to tailor their messages, why shouldn’t consumers control their data and make it available to brands as and when they wanted to buy something, via some form of digital interface.

So if I decide I want a new TV, I might equip an intelligent agent with the details of what I want and ask it to find me the best deal matching my criteria. It’s not so different to booking a hotel via an aggregator, except that the agent would have more information about my preferences and would learn about my likes and dislikes with time.

There are many stumbling blocks to this approach but one, the absence of the intelligent agent, is being removed by growth in both acceptance and capability of services like Siri and Alexa. So the question now becomes how marketers might deliver information to the intelligent digital assistants of the future to maximise the chance of their product being selected.

So what might machine-to-machine advertising look like? What effect might the rise of this sector have on how we market to humans? And how might our relationship with our digital assistants change if we knew they were in some way being advertised to without us knowing?

These are some of the ideas I’ll be discussing further at the Mindshare Huddle event in London on 9 November.

Michael Nutley - Journalist, editor and content strategist

Michael will be speaking at Sizmek's session: 'The toolkit for the next revolution'