Paul Roetzer from the Marketing Artificial Intelligence Institute says marketers must get their heads around AI … but they will also need to be patient.
Marketers, choose your own tech adventure: Artificial intelligence will kill / save / improve / dehumanise content marketing. Which one would you choose, right now? How much impact do you believe this revolutionary / much written about / little understood / overhyped technology will have on the content world?
The truth is no one knows. And no one knows how long it’ll take for us to find out if any of the promised benefits / potential threats are right. Or if all of them are wrong.
One person on a mission to find some answers about AI’s impact on marketing is Paul Roetzer, who is the founder and CEO of Ohio-based inbound agency PR 20/20. Roetzer is an author and consultant who launched the Marketing Artificial Intelligence Institute in 2016. This content platform looks at how AI, machine learning and cognitive computing are upturning marketing’s business as usual.
In a piece in Curata, Roetzer explained how he got interested in the subject. “PR 20/20 was struggling to create enough content at scale while maintaining quality, a challenge faced by many marketing organisations,” he wrote. “At the same time, advancements in marketing AI convinced me that machine-assisted content could be a possibility in the near future.
“The big question I couldn’t get out of my mind was: Could my company automate and scale our content marketing activities using marketing AI to create greater value for our clients and efficiency for our business?”
Does this sound familiar? It’s a question many of us are asking even more as we wake up to the possibilities AI and its associated technologies create.
First, there are the perceived content-related advantages. We will have heard about financial and sports reports written by computers, and wondered if machines might soon replace expensive content producers. We may have downloaded programs such as Grammarly that offer advanced subediting capabilities in real time, and wondered if proofreaders might have already turned into anachronisms.
We use Siri or Alexa and acknowledge that voice search is something we need to get into (if only we could get that virtual woman to mention our brand). Did you know one in six American adults (that’s 39 million people) now own a voice-activated speaker?
More intriguingly, on the marketing side, we will have heard that AI will turn mass personalisation into reality. Finally, we will serve our content to the right people, right when they need it. Even perhaps before they know it themselves!
“Even though companies tout AI in their branding, the reality is most of the tech isn’t that ‘intelligent’ yet.”Paul Roetzer
AI is predicted to solve many data-obsessed marketers’ problems. Watch the ROI machine in action: just tweak the settings and push the AI play button. Out comes perfectly conceived, produced and targeted content, meaning happy customers and happy management! Effective, hands-off marketing is the AI promise, and we’re all winners.
Roetzer himself doesn’t believe it’ll be like this – well, not yet anyway. Although he’s not aware of any specific advances in Australia or the Asia-Pacific, the companies he sees pursuing AI tech are working on valuable tools that will help marketers make better content decisions. But that’s all it is, so far.
In this interview with Brand Tales, Roetzer says it’s just a lack of understanding that’s holding marketers back with AI, even now. Once they discover AI’s potential, a new world awaits … perhaps.
Brand Tales: Natural language processing has quickly become a valuable tool for content marketers. How much better do you think programs such as Grammarly will get?
Roetzer: The ability to intelligently automate real-time editing at scale is an extremely valuable application of artificial intelligence. Acrolinx is a great example of a company innovating in this space. Its product can analyse thousands of dimensions across multiple languages to improve content for entire content teams.
BT: Are you convinced that natural language generation (NLG) will take the place of large content teams soon?
Roetzer: No. Most NLG solutions today are still largely human-powered, and they will continue to be for the foreseeable future. NLG is ideal for data-driven narratives, such as analytics reports or quantitative research findings. But, even in those instances, the data-driven narratives are envisioned by humans and turned into templates written by humans, which can then be produced at large scale by machines. Content teams are safe, for now, but they can dramatically enhance the quality and quantity of their production with NLG.
BT: What role will humans play in an AI-dominated content world?
Roetzer: The role of content strategists and writers won’t change much in the near term, but the professionals who integrate AI into their jobs will have a significant competitive advantage over the laggards.
BT: What trends are emerging with AI and content?
Roetzer: As more funding pours into content marketing tech, the tools are getting smarter. Most of the technology is still very early in its development. And even though the companies tout AI in their branding, the reality is most of the tech isn’t that “intelligent” yet. It’s still largely guided by human-written algorithms that are managed and evolved by humans. That is slowly changing as more content tech integrates machine learning to advance the capabilities.
BT: Do you see AI as a big part of the solution for marketers to finally show content ROI?
Roetzer: Maybe. Many marketers still struggle to use traditional analytics to show the full value of their content efforts. You don’t need AI to do that, but I suppose it can help. For example, we use NLG to write our Google Analytics reports for clients. It’s not technically AI, but it certainly plays a role in demonstrating ROI.
BT: What tends to hold companies back from using AI – fear or ignorance?
Roetzer: In many cases, marketers don’t understand what AI is, and, therefore, don’t know how to get started. So, I wouldn’t say it’s fear or ignorance – it’s more that it’s an overwhelming and abstract topic, so marketers tend to avoid diving in. That’s why our mission at the Marketing Artificial Intelligence Institute is to make AI approachable and actionable. Basically, we want to help marketers understand it, and know what steps to take to apply it.
BT: Which companies are the ones to watch at the forefront of the AI content revolution?
Roetzer: Some of the big companies driving innovation in AI are Facebook, Google, IBM, Apple, Amazon, Salesforce, Microsoft and Nvidia. Their connection to content marketing may not be obvious in every case, but their technology, directly and indirectly, affects what we do as marketers. For example, voice search plays an increasingly important role in how consumers find information, and Google, Amazon, Apple and Microsoft all have a play in that space.
BT: Does the Marketing Artificial Intelligence Institute use AI to curate, check or generate any of its content? If so, what software do you use?
Roetzer: We test a lot of tools, but we don’t regularly use any of them for our content. Unfortunately, most AI tools today are built for enterprises with lots of content and lots of data. So, in many cases, we aren’t the target user yet.