Marketing insights that spark conversions

October 4, 2017 // 3:59 PM

5 Big Names In Advertising Using AI to Grow Their Business

Written by Matt Allegretti


Gil Pratt, Head of Toyota Research Institute, recently compared the current AI revolution to the Cambrian explosion from 500 million years ago which resulted in the incredible creation of the majority of species living today. He may be onto something. The meteoric rise of artificial intelligence and machine learning is already having a huge impact on our society. The effect of AI is evident in voice recognition software like Alexa and Siri, in “smart” devices that can scan medical images to detect cancer, and in the use of AI to recognize fake ads on Facebook. AI technology is already changing many aspects of our everyday lives, including the way we do business.

Many companies have started implementing AI/machine learning into their business processes because machine learning is superior at many tasks once performed by humans, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to lose your job anytime soon. It’s more likely that you might share some tasks with AI machines, which excel at doing one thing and doing it extremely well, but they still can’t learn or think like humans.

As Mike Grehan, CMO at Acronym Media says, “Machines can learn to perform systems and processes when programmed by humans, and machines can be taught to learn by other machines, but whether taught by humans or by machines, they can’t be taught to think for themselves yet.”


Still, what AI has accomplished in the last few years is extraordinary. From correctly predicting the superfecta at the Kentucky Derby, to understanding speech better than humans, to improving cancer diagnoses, the benefits far outweigh the risks when it comes to using AI, and more and more industries are beginning to trust and leverage its astounding capabilities. In fact, internal and external investment in AI reached as much as $39 billion in 2016, with external investment tripling since 2013. A recent study completed by the McKinsey Global Institute found that of 3,073 C-level executives 20% were already using AI as part of their business, and 41% were experimenting with or piloting the technology.

One of the major industries increasingly embracing AI is advertising. In recent years, major digital media companies and ad agencies have started to integrate the technology into their digital platforms in order to create better targeted campaigns, establish more efficient business processes, and grow their client base. Check out these 5 leading marketing and advertising companies that are doing just that:



5 Big Names in Advertising Leveraging AI/Machine Learning


1. Persado


Persado is a content generation platform that uses machine learning and language processing to produce “smarter” marketing copy. Their AI technology is able to sort through vast amounts of marketing language (i.e. any content that might appear in display ads, tweets, SMS, etc) and identify phrases that best express the message users are looking to communicate to their audience. The technology can identify emotional language and phrases like “don’t miss out” or “just for you” and categorize them into 19 types of feelings, including joy, guilt, anxiety, and achievement. Users are then provided with numerous language options to choose from.
Assaf Baciu, SVP of Product and cofounder at Persado, says "Writing messages day in, day out, and analyzing the signals of the feedback, is impossible to do for humans. The machine can do that." Despite Persado’s incredible content generation capabilities, Baciu says that "AI without context does not really work. There is no generic AI. We are still defining our knowledge with every campaign."

In the five years since the company was founded, Persado has already achieved a great amount of success. According to their website, “more than 100 global brands” are currently using Persado, and their clients have seen a 75% “better response”  in terms of opens, click-throughs, and conversions than content written by humans.


2. Saatchi & Saatchi LA


In early 2017, Saatchi & Saatchi LA, a leading global creative agency, ran a series of Facebook campaigns with Toyota that combined creative programmatics and AI using IBM’s Watson. Watson helped the agency create more personalized ad content by identifying consumer insights from vast amounts of Facebook data.

In January, for a campaign promoting the Rav4 crossover, Saatchi created 1,000 Facebook videos based on interests identified in people’s Facebook pages, and things they had liked and clicked on. The videos featured different activities related to these interests, and were shown to people identified to have those interests. For example, one of the ads targeted people who liked both martial arts and barbecue, and encouraged them to try a made-up activity called “taikwan tenderizer” which is using hand-to-hand combat to tenderize pieces of meat on your backyard BBQ.

Chris Pierantozzi, ecd of Saatchi LA, says that the technology “allows us to deep dive into insights that we normally wouldn’t have access to. We’re looking at machines to help us break into unique patterns that people have been talking about, behaviors that they’re doing or other things that we normally wouldn’t see.” Pierantozzi calls these type of ads “flexible storytelling.” He says, “You still have a story, you still have an idea, [but] what we’ve done is we’ve made that kind of stuff that makes it feel like it’s more personal to who you are.”

In May, Saatchi LA launched another successful Watson-powered campaign called, “Thousands of Ways to Say Yes” that targeted potential buyers via Facebook - again based on their Facebook data. The campaign pitched the car through a series of short video clips. To create the campaign, Saatchi LA wrote “50 scripts based on location, behavioral insights, and occupation data that explained the car’s features.” Then they fed the scripts to Watson, which used them - as well as content from the internet - to generate copy for the video clips. It took about three months for Watson to come up with the right copy, but eventually the final video clips included copy that targeted the audiences it was shown to.



“When we started to look at the people who were going to be interested in this car, we realized it was people who were new technology adopters,—it was psychologists; it was engineers,” said Pierantozzi, “So we wanted to make an ad for almost every single potential buyer of this car—one for every type of Mirai driver.”

It’s still not an exact science yet, and Watson needs human assistance in order to create strong copy, but it’s an exciting start. As Pierantozzi says, “We realized that we couldn’t just let it go and try to figure out the creative on its own. We had to give it guidelines with exactly what we wanted, so then it then had a little bit of creative freedom to come up with some of the thoughts on its own.”


With its digital campaigns for Toyota, Saatchi LA is breaking new ground in advertising. Pierantozzi says, “This is not an easy process to train the AI to write like a human. A lot of these lines at the end of the day could have probably been written by a human, but we wouldn’t have been able to write thousands and thousands of ads,” he said. “At the end of the day, this campaign is still an idea that we came up.”

3. JWT Canada

Another major marketing and communications company integrating AI into their business is JWT Canada.

In 2015 the agency worked with Starmind, a Swiss A.I. software company, to create an AI-powered internal communication platform they call Pangaea. Using a mobile device, desktop computer, or standalone website, JWT’s 12,000 employees can use Pangaea to communicate with the agency’s internal network. Whether they need to ask a question, or need help with something, employees can just simply open the app and submit their question. What makes this different from say a mass email, or other messaging apps is that Pangea uses AI to ensure the question gets to the right people.

“It’s a bit like programmatic advertising,” says Guy Murphy, JWT Worldwide Planning Director. “It can tightly target, if need be, the questions to the most relevant person in the network.”

Over time, Pangaea will only become smarter, as it accumulates more and more correspondence and data from employees, allowing it to determine solutions fasters and with more accuracy.


Jamie McLellan, Chief Technical Officer at JWT Worldwide, sees the current model of Pangaea as just the beginning. In the future, JWT plans to implement voice recognition. “If we have an Alexa or equivalent in every board room or meeting room, now it’s not just eight people trying to crack the problem,” McLellan says. “You could actually reach out on Pangaea, via Alexa, to the entire network for help.”

So far, Pangaea has been very successful at bringing together the JWT community across different disciplines (about a third of the company are active users), and it’s already helped the agency on winning new business and client projects.


4. Publicis Groupe


Similar to JWT, advertising and PR giant, Publicis Groupe is currently developing an AI-powered professional assistant called Marcel, to assist the company’s 80,000 employees. Described as a mixture of Alexa, Google for Work, Kickstarter, and Creative Community, Marcel will be an internal interactive platform that allows employees to collaborate on projects from around the globe. Publicis hopes the innovative platform will lead to new ideas, new ways of doing business, and better company wide collaborations.

“If we are looking to create an environment where people’s ideas are listened to, incubated, nurtured and grown, this is the platform for that,” says Mark Tutssel, chair of the Publicis Communications global creative board. “Really, it’s creativity without borders. I think it will radically change the way we behave and the way we think about work because everything has an opportunity to evolve and grow.”
In addition to remote collaborations, Marcel will also be able to pair the “right people with the right skills” together for client projects. “The algorithm is going to be able to assemble the perfect team and also suggest team members that you might not thought you might require for certain projects,” says Carla Serrano, chief strategy officer of Publicis Communications.

Marcel will also have the ability to “connect clients with the right expert within the network to answer any and all questions.”


Publicis is hopeful that Marcel will be completed by the summer of 2018, and they’re planning to debut it next year at the group’s annual technology conference, Viva Tech, in Paris.




5. Maxus


Leading global media agency Maxus, is currently using an AI platform called Lucy to “process and rearrange structured data for better efficiency.”

For example, Maxus recently tested Lucy in Asia for a cosmetics brand in order to better understand audience segmentation across its product lines and then use that information to identify which media source would be most effective for each product line.

Despite Lucy’s incredible ability to organize structured data, it still has it’s limitations. For example, the platform struggles to process unstructured data like consumer surveys, media consumption data, and client data. Currently, media planners still need to formulate the data before Lucy can use it effectively, which is very time consuming.

Lucy also has trouble recommending specific social networks to use for a campaign because there is no “consistent measurement across the different platforms,” and Lucy gets confused with broad questions like “What kind of people stay at these hotels?” simply because the possible answers are so varied.

“Lucy is excellent at delivering a collection of data that is effectively the observations,” says David Gaines, Chief Planning Officer for Maxus North America operations. “But what AI can’t do right now is then tell you what the insight is from those observations, which means we still have a job for awhile.”

Of course as more and more data is fed to Lucy over time, the platform will only become smarter and better able to identify insights from broader kinds of data - whether structured or not.

All Roads Lead To AI

These are just five examples of ad companies effectively using AI to help grow their businesses. At this very minute, many others are doing the same thing and experimenting with the technology in all kinds of innovative ways that are sure to change the advertising landscape as we know it. .

As more and more agencies begin to integrate AI into their business processes, it will be exciting to see how the technology revolutionizes the industry in the next decade. If you haven’t already, you should seriously consider integrating AI into your business, or be left trying to catch up with those who did.  

To learn more about the different types of AI, check out our blog page!



Topics: video advertising, AI