Adweek’s Elevate: AI Summit Took on Prediction, Personalization and Hype

Artificial intelligence and its implications for marketing and ecommerce

Quantcast chief marketing and communications officer Steven Wolfe Pereira Raquel Beauchamp for Adweek
Headshot of Corinne Grinapol

At the beginning of her keynote kicking off Adweek’s Elevate: AI summit—a half-day discussion, at times heated, on the role AI does and will play in marketing—Deloitte Digital CMO Alicia Hatch reminded the audience of another, earlier advancement meant to transform the industry, one that is complement and partner to AI. “Do we really need any more data?” she said. “We don’t even use the data that we have.”

Hatch wasn’t calling for a slowdown of data collection, but rather, setting up the idea that machine learning will be able to process and make sense of existing data, and incorporate new metrics in the process so that “marketing will actually become data-driven.”

“What will happen when we can capture, at scale, the changes in retina, eye movements,” she said as one example, “as people interact with these experience or products, or consume your content?”

Throughout the day, speakers broadly addressed what AI can and will be able to do. The possibilities touched on many areas of the marketing and ecommerce worlds, from prediction to personalization. That there was a range of diversity in the ideas presented highlighted the fact that there will be a lot of exploring and learning in the months and years to come.

Vikram Somaya, svp, global data officer and ad platforms for ESPN, agreed with Hatch’s vision of emotional capture. “I do believe the future of data is in emotion, too,” he told Quantcast chief marketing and communications officer Steven Wolfe Pereira.

Somaya believes parent company Disney is in a good place for that. “Disney is really good at making machines feel warm and fuzzy,” he said.

He also touched on the idea that developing effective machine intelligence is a long haul, saying you need to “water and grow it for a very long time.” That includes “building a broad test and control methodology” and “standardizing, categorizing everything we see before us,” he said.

“You have to teach [computers] the right way,” he said. And if you do, the rewards will be not just in getting “insight” into those things you’re expecting, but also those you “wouldn’t have thought to think about, ask about or validate in any way.”

Panelists for the first panel discussion of the day, led by Adweek senior editor Lauren Johnson, not only delved into how machine learning can enhance and change the way companies interact with customers, but grappled with the very meaning of AI itself.

“The ‘A’ stands for augmented as much as it does artificial,” said Sherif Mityas, chief information officer and chief strategy officer at TGI Fridays.

Ben Lamm, CEO of Conversable and Hypergiant called it a “tapestry of technologies.”

In her presentation, Boston Consulting Group principal Ugwechi Amadi focused on the power of AI as it applies to personalization, making its use “relevant across industries.”

Like those before her, Amadi discussed the role emotion plays in effective personalization strategies. “Emotions are actually up here,” Amadi, a neuroscientist by training said, pointing to her head. As such, emotion is “something that can be predicted, something that can be influenced.”

After all of those enthusiastic explorations on the bright future of AI, the final panel of the day sparked an intense discussion on whether that enthusiasm is warranted.

Trying out every new technology is a “virtue-signal to the whole world that we understand the stuff,” said Tom Goodwin, evp and head of innovation at Zenith Media.

Whether that understanding leads to a return on investment is another matter.