Artificial intelligence favours brands with a short tail: Rob Norman

Rob Norman, chief digital officer, GroupM
In the case of digital media, scales are tilted in favour of companies with a long tail. On the contrary, AI favours brands looking to optimise knowledge, Rob Norman tells Sangeeta Tanwar.

In what ways should organisations align with technology companies to disrupt existing businesses models?

There are two parts to leveraging technology like artificial intelligence (AI) and IoT (Internet of Things) etc. AI can help businesses make a difference in an industry by making judicious use of limited resources. On the back of technology, it is the capital-light businesses that are proving to be disruptive. The environmental consequences of the capital-light businesses are much lower than the capital-heavy businesses. Therefore, there are inherent advantages for organisations to leverage technologies like AI and IoT to innovate.

We are already seeing innovation in the transportation industry with technology-based disruptive services like Uber and Ola. We need to replicate such business templates in other industries as well. Today, businesses need to align their capital with science to move closer to finding solutions to issues like water crisis and traffic management in overcrowded cities. Technology companies need to move away from organising the information for the world at one place to collaborating with businesses and ensuring optimal usage of resources.

For example, today 95 per cent of the private cars are stationary. It is a clear case of misappropriation of resources. AI can be used to address this sheer wastage of resources by coming up with smart vehicle sharing and parking solutions. With technology advances, speed of disruption is high. At the policy and organisational level, the questions that need to be answered include what happens to the people travelling on the roads, the parking lots and attendants managing these parking lots following the adoption of technology. Even as we leverage technology we need to ask ourselves how do we innovate and make sure that the resultant changes benefits everyone and helps create a more economically equitable world.

How can planners leverage AI to push their brands closer to users?

In a digital and mobile world, planners need to place their brand across platforms, they cannot promote a brand by sticking to a particular format or placement (that is a single media vehicle). Media planners need to aim for optimisation of different media vehicles providing the client maximum exposure, eyeballs and feedback. As an industry we need to bring back the power of imagination while building the right products. In the case of digital media, scales are tilted in favour of companies (brands) with a long tail. On the contrary, AI favours brands that have short tail and those who are looking to optimise knowledge. With AI it is time for brands to stop playing safe and be curious, use your imagination and experiment with AI to create great products and services.

What are your thoughts on measurability? It is still an issue with brands looking to advertise on digital media?

Much to my surprise, over the past two years, advertisers have been using a larger number of new tools and platforms to bring greater integrity to the digital supply chain. The industry as a whole is constantly putting in efforts to improve the measurability of digital campaigns. In the case of digital advertising, there is tension at two places. Here, the platforms are open and even as they allow you to build an enormous business, the medium exposes you to greater risks. Recognising this, the industry has put in adequate control systems to minimise risks arising out of widespread exposure. With advances in technology and a connected and open world becoming a reality with every passing day, brand managers need to put in place their own brand practice activities to contain unwarranted risks. The truth is, the more you democratise and open media platforms, the more you create risk for the brand.

How can brand managers work around these challenges?

As an advertiser one has to determine tolerance levels of risk. Even as an advertiser you push for protection you have to be mindful of the fact that if you stop taking risk you are going to stop growing.


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