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Artificial Intelligence is marketing’s new frontier, here’s your crash course

(TECHNOLOGY) Marketing is rapidly evolving, and the knowledge required to dominate in the future is changing just as quickly. Time to get up to speed!

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Back in the day, the idea of interacting with robots and computers seemed out of an episode of The Jetsons. But fast-forward to today, and some of the most far-fetched ideas back then have become our reality, and you know what? It’s awesome.

In Back to The Future II, they used tablets to get Marty to sign up to save the Clock Tower, and then this massive shark pops out of a sign, which freaked 1984 Marty out. The only thing is – do you remember how pixelated the shark was? Magic Leap is augmenting reality to look like a whale can literally crash into a gymnasium, without so much as a drop of water.

Our cars have precise navigation systems (still can’t fly, though), radio stations from around the world stream into our stereos, our phones can control every aspect of our lives down to how much sleep we get a night. And while it was once thought to be nothing more than fantasy from the pages of a Spielberg script, Artificial Intelligence (AI) has embedded itself into our daily lives, too.

For marketers, there’s much to love about AI: it’s redefining the industry because we can move the chess pieces in ways that previously, we’ve only imagined. AI will change how people interact with data, but also impact how consumers get information much like television commercials and traditional advertising in the analog heyday.

If you’re unaware of what Artificial Intelligence is, it’s the study of making machines super intelligent, and giving them the capability to problem solve. Machine learning creates constantly evolving systems that teach computers to learn organically. Google Photo is a prime example of how machine learning works: photos are fed into Google’s AI and eventually after seeing so many photos of a face, it will eventually recognize the person in the picture.

Artificial Intelligence is marketing’s new frontier

Think about Netflix, how it knows what shows we want to watch, or when a site can predict a new pair of shoes that are exactly your style – that’s AI at work. All of the world’s premier brands are investing in AI. One of the strongest reasons why, is simple – targeted suggestions.

Because of AI’s data collecting capabilities, marketers can collect and analyze swaths of data to enable predictive strategies at every stage of the funnel. We can find ways to move the needle in terms of what a customer wants, and provide different strategies to ensure they’re empowered to make a choice they may have not known about.

All of tech’s biggest players are investing heavily into AI right now. Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and Atlassian are all competing against one another, and then against the biggest companies in China, Japan, and Europe – all for the world’s top talent to understand how we make machines do more for us.

But, don’t forget, Target, Walmart, and Zappos are all investing in AI, too.

Everyone is.

Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai said in January that AI was “one of the most important things that humanity is working on” and also went on to double down its importance, stating, that it was “more profound than electricity or fire.”

ROI is everything

When you talk to a marketer, the term ROI (Return On Investment) comes up A LOT.

Running campaigns is somewhat of a science, but with the right data, you can take the ‘somewhat’ out of the equation.

By relying on AI, taking the guesswork on what will hit regarding a campaign becomes clearer, thanks to having a defined understanding of Customer Relationship Management (CRM), social data, and analytics. Machine Learning makes it easier for marketers to identify trends.

By combining AI and marketing fundamentals, teams can create multi-layered strategies that offer customized messages to the user.

According to Adobe, “Forty-seven percent of digitally mature organizations, or those that have advanced digital practices, said they have a defined AI strategy.”

Search like never before

Think about what we used to consider as “search” – yes, we still type a word or phrase into Google and see what pops up, but that’s changing. Search engines are smarter, thanks to AI-infused digital marketing.

AI tracks searches, remembers what you were looking for, what you’ve recently ordered, what sites you’ve visited in the past few months, and then compile all of that data into one powerhouse when it comes time to buy that next fridge or find a new pair of boots.

Because of the continual development, Google’s ability to predict keywords is getting crazy. Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) generates keywords semantically related to a main keyword, which offers a fine tuned search result.

Alexa and Siri might considered “home assistants,” but both can order toilet paper for you or tell you when you need to change the air filter in the house. We use them for everything from asking the simplest way to make an alfredo sauce, to asking what the weather looks like.

While some detractors aren’t too keen on the idea of a robot listening to our personal conversations, the facts are simple – more and more houses will integrate AI into their construction and remodels thanks to their demand and proven ease of use.

But, for marketers, these machines are active ways to search something without touching a keyboard, and an effective way to market an idea, if the user is open to new products when it comes time to tell Alexa to buy a certain brand of dish soap, and another is on sale.

User experience drives everything

If you’re looking for support for a product, most sites have a chatbot ready to answer questions. Instead of a human having to find a query and search endlessly through knowledge bases for an answer, a chatbot can recognize patterns in questions and hone in on a few keywords to make a suggestion that’s based on data versus a human’s best guess.

Chatbots are based on the AI principle of storing information and self-learning.

Tools like Wit.ai, IBM Watson, and Api.ai, incorporate language processing and learning faculties.

But, aside from customer support or online ordering, we can also tailor websites and the buyer journey to what a user’s needs are. Because of the collected data, website personality can hone in on a specific product type or suggest things based on a past history of browsing.

This is an opportunity for a marketer to run specific campaigns based on someone who’s looking for old-school Adidas and see if they’d be interested in a new streetwear magazine that’s launching this fall. The partnership opportunities are endless thanks to a fluid AI-based UX experience.

Social media giants Facebook are all in when it comes to investing in artificial intelligence, too. Yann LeCun, Facebook’s chief AI scientist, and an early machine-learning architect, told the Washington Post that boss, Mark Zuckerberg told him to press down on the gas pedal and make Facebook more AI-inclusive.

“AI has become so central to the operations of companies like ours, that what our leadership has been telling us is: ‘Go faster. You’re not going fast enough,’” LeCun said.

What else will AI drive in marketing?

For marketers, AI is a massive win, we can track, improve upon, and watch AI evolve. According to TowardDataScience, marketing’s next significant trend is consumer personalization (29 percent), and then AI (26 percent) – data via BrightEdge.

We’ll soon be able to offer deeply personalized website experiences, change how we use PPCs (Pay Per Clicks), and we’ll start seeing data collection for traffic, and budget in ways we never thought considered.

Because of how we concentrate PPCs, AI will help target ads with thousands of variations on ad copy or swap out a photo for greater impact, based on user data.

Writers will create boilerplate copy and then updated snippets that will automatically move in and out or rearrange, depending on the user.

We’ll also have a clearer idea of when to run specific ads for a high click through based on emotional data and reactionary times, which will calibrate the fight against lowest priced clicks for lead conversion.

MemSQL surveyed 1,600 marketing professionals, and 61 percent, regardless of company size, named machine learning and AI as their most significant investment for next fiscal year. These numbers will only increase as in-house teams and agencies alike will adopt AI as a new tool to get the customer excited and clicking.

Artificial Intelligence is like the wild west in marketing – there’s so much to explore, and to experiment with. We could see gains like never before because we’re dedicating the experience to the customers’ wants and needs, which is a new tactic. We’ve always tried, but armed with this level of data, we can now be precise in regards to the the buyer’s journey.

The future is bright for AI and marketing. We’re standing at the forefront of a technology that will change the world. Talking houses are a slice of the next wave, and it’s exciting. Personally, I’m waiting for a robot best friend or a Delorean – I’ll take either.

Robert Dean is a writer at Adia and The American Genius. He is a writer, journalist, and cynic. His most recent novel, The Red Seven is in stores. Currently, he’s working on his newest novel, Tragedy Wish Me Luck. He also likes ice cream and panda bears. He currently lives in Austin. Stalk him on Twitter.

Tech News

Airbnb has blocked 50K+ bookings for being too big during COVID-19

(NEWS) Airbnb has cancelled a huge number of reservations as a security precaution during COVID-19 in the past year or so.

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In the last year or so, Airbnb has purposefully prevented at least 50,000 people from making irresponsible reservations on their properties, in many cases blocking those people from the platform itself. This prevention, at least in theory, helped cut down on the number of COVID parties during the pandemic.

According to The Verge, Airbnb’s head of trust and safety communication, Ben Breit, acknowledged blocked reservations in several cities across the United States, including Dallas, San Diego, and New Orleans. Breit confirmed that this response was an attempt to prevent large gatherings and parties during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic during which many areas banned group activities involving more than a few people.

While some requests for reservations were simply denied or “redirected”, many users were blocked from using Airbnb entirely. Airbnb noted that the number of blocked requests outpaced the number of people who were blocked, signifying that some accounts attempted to make more than one reservation before being removed from the platform.
Airbnb reportedly stated that “Instituting a global ban on parties and events is in the best interest of public health” prior to enacting a total ban on rentals at the beginning of 2020, a decision that gave way to the blocks and redirections in the last 12 months.

The evaluation system used to flag problematic reservations is relatively simple, according to Breit: “If you are under the age of 25 and you don’t have a history of positive reviews, we will not allow you to book an entire home listing local to where you live.”

But Airbnb didn’t entirely remove multiple-body listings or large rentals. The Verge reports that flagged users with the aforementioned criteria were still able to book both small rentals in local locations and larger rentals in reasonably distant locations.

Regardless of the optics here, Airbnb’s policy efficacy can’t be ignored. Multiple cities reported comparatively “quiet” holiday seasons–something that may contribute to Airbnb’s decision to extend their policy through the end of this summer.

The hosting company is also offering increased security measures, such as noise detection and a 24-hour hotline, at a discounted rate to property owners.

As both the vaccine gap and the proliferation of the Delta variant of COVID-19 continue to contribute to outbreaks, one can reasonably expect Airbnb to hold to this policy.

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TL;DV summarizes video meetings so folks can catch up in quickly *with* context

(TECHNOLOGY) TL;DV makes catching up on video team meetings slightly more tolerable and easily digestable.

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2021 was the year of virtual meetings, and while there are some perks associated with remote collaboration (I’m looking at you, pair of work pants that I didn’t have to wear once this year), these meetings often feel exponentially more arduous than their dressed-up counterparts. TL;DV, a consolidation app for Google Meet, looks to give back a bit of your time.

TL;DV (an acronym for “Too Long; Didn’t View”) is a Google Chrome recording extension that helps users specify important sections of meetings for anyone who needs to view them asynchronously. Users can tag specific segments in Google Meet sessions, transcribe audio, and leave notes above tagged sections for timestamp purposes, and the subsequent file can be shared via a host of both Google and third-party apps.

While the extension is only available for Google Meet at the time of writing, the TL;DV team has included a link to a survey for Zoom and MS Teams users on their site, thus implying that the team is looking into expanding into those platforms in the future.

The mission behind TL;DV is, according to the website, to empower users to “control how we spend our precious time” in the interest of combatting FOMO and meeting fatigue. By dramatically shortening the amount of time one must spend perusing a meeting recording, they seem well on their way to doing so.

Of course, the issue of human oversight remains. It seems likely that meeting facilitators will drop the ball here and there while tagging sections of the recording, and employees who miss crucial information in a recorded session are sure to be frustrated in the process–just not as frustrated as they might be if they attended the entire meeting live.

The current (free) version of TL;DV is in Beta, so users will have a three-hour cap on their videos. The development team promises a professional version by the end of 2021, with the added bonus of leaving prior recordings available for free for anyone who used the Beta. This is certainly an extension to keep an eye on–whether or not you’re remaining remote in 2022, virtual conferencing is no doubt here to stay.

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Hiding from facial recognition is a booming business

(TECH NEWS) ‘Cloaking’ is the new way to hide your face. Companies are making big money designing cloaking apps that thwart your features by adding a layer of make up, clothing, blurring, and even transforming you into your favorite celebrity.

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Facial recognition companies and those who seek to thwart them are currently locked in a grand game of cat and mouse. Though it’s been relentlessly pursued by police, politicians, and technocrats alike, the increasing use of facial recognition technology in public spaces, workplaces, and housing complexes remains a widely unpopular phenomenon.

So it’s no surprise that there is big money to be made in the field of “cloaking,” or dodging facial recognition tech – particularly during COVID times while facial coverings are, literally, in fashion.

Take Fawkes, a cloaking app designed by researchers at the University of Chicago. It is named for Guy Fawkes, the 17th century English revolutionary whose likeness was popularized as a symbol of anonymity, and solidarity in V For Vendetta.

Fawkes works by subtly overlaying a celebrity’s facial information over your selfies at the pixel level. To your friends, the changes will go completely unnoticed, but to an artificial intelligence trying to identify your face, you’d theoretically look just like Beyonce.

Fawkes isn’t available to the general public yet, but if you’re looking for strategies to fly under the radar of facial recognition, don’t fret; it is just one example of the ways in which cloaking has entered the mainstream.

Other forms of cloaking have emerged in the forms of Tik Tok makeup trends, clothes that confuse recognition algorithms, tools that automatically blur identifying features on the face, and much more. Since effective facial recognition relies on having as much information about human faces as possible, cloaking enthusiasts like Ben Zhao, Professor of computer science at the University of Chicago and co-developer of Fawkes, hope to make facial recognition less effective against the rest of the population too. In an interview with The New York Times, Zhao asserts, “our [team’s] goal is to make Clearview [AI] go away.”

For the uninitiated, Clearview AI is a start-up that recently became infamous for scraping billions of public photos from the internet and privately using them to build the database for a law enforcement facial recognition tool.

The CEO of Clearview, Hoan Ton-That, claimed that the tool would only be improved by these workarounds and that in long run, cloaking is futile. If that sounds like supervillain talk, you might see why he’s earned himself a reputation similar to the likes of Martin Shkreli or Ajit Pai with his company’s uniquely aggressive approach to data harvesting.

It all feels like the beginning of a cyberpunk western: a story of man vs. machine. The deck is stacked, the rules are undecided, and the world is watching. But so far, you can rest assured that no algorithm has completely outsmarted our own eyeballs… yet.

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