AI is changing the marketing industry and offers companies of all sizes innovative tools that allow them to grow and develop in the future. As a business leader, marketers have the responsibility to re-educate, reinvest, and even consider revenue models and talent systems to use AI in a new, creative way, and not just achieve marginal efficiency gains.

Did that paragraph fool you?

Because I didn’t write it. An algorithm did. All I did was plug the headline of this article into AI Writer, which uses Artificial Intelligence to generate prose automatically. It isn’t magic – the algorithm created these lines by cobbling together and rewording two blogposts on the subject, which were both written by humans. If I was seriously trying to pass it off as my own work, I’d be in risky copyright territory.

In the marketing industry, use of Artificial Intelligence has grown exponentially over the last few years. It’s proved invaluable for data gathering, customer targeting, and creating more immersive brand experiences. Given the deafening hype, it feels important to take a step back and take a look at AI. In the words of Rick Deckard, the jaded android-hunter from Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, “replicants are like any other machine. They’re either a benefit or a hazard.”

This article investigates the benefits and hazards of three major AI technologies in an experiential marketing context: virtual assistants, personalised networking software, and facial recognition.

I) VIRTUAL ASSISTANTS

Virtual assistants and chatbots are everywhere you look these days: just say “Alexa”, “hey Siri” or “OK Google”. For event marketers, they enable 24/7 responsiveness on a smaller budget and free staff from answering simple repeated attendee queries. In the near future, they may also help production complete logistics tasks and make bookings.

But while virtual assistants are useful for quick and easy questions, personal interaction is needed for more complex or personal attendee issues. Fail to make this distinction, and you risk making your attendees feel unvalued.

Another key question is trust. As virtual assistants advance, they’ll likely become almost indistinguishable from real people over phone or text – just look at this creepily real Google demo. Marketers who don’t make the distinction between bot and person clear, risk losing their audience’s trust.

Virtual assistants represent great potential. But reservations must be overcome, and etiquette developed, before they go into widespread use for experiential marketing.

II) PERSONALISED NETWORKING SOFTWARE

In an era where dating apps are more popular than they’ve ever been, AI-powered matchmaking engines may become the new normal for any event or brand experience with a networking component.

Personalised networking software receives input from attendees about their goals, interests and social media presence, then uses it to match likeminded people and create personalised recommendations. The end result, ideally, is a structured and seamless way to network.

At the same time, it’s important to think about what would be lost if AI matchmaking became the norm. For starters we’d lose the chaos of organic networking and, with it, the random connections that seem useless at first but later prove anything but. Those unexpected, unpredictable collaborations. Perhaps matchmaking engines should keep an element of randomness to preserve this?

The other question is whether networking software will become intelligent enough to classify personality to the same degree as we do. If not, and we’re pre-matched by algorithm, we’d lose some of that initial intuition that can guide us towards successful meetings when we see people face-to-face. Though this may remove unfair biases, too…

And finally, there’s the data ethics of matchmaking engines. How will you store attendee data to an ethical standard, and what should that standard be? The EU’s GDPR guidelines certainly apply here and for international events it is important to consider the different regional rules and regulations when implementing technologies like these.

III) FACIAL RECOGNITION

Probably the most controversial technology on this list, facial recognition technology raises a lot of data ethics concerns.

In terms of benefits, facial recognition allows for faster check-ins and security clearances at events, while also offering nuanced real-time analytics for attendance and attendee flow. Advances in emotion-detection technology may soon give us the ability to measure live sentiment at an event by ‘reading’ facial expressions.

But with the EU considering a temporary ban on facial recognition technology in public places while some US cities have banned it entirely, there are clear concerns.

One of the most pressing is the fact that facial recognition algorithms tend to suffer from demographic bias. When the selection of faces they are ‘trained’ on is insufficiently diverse, certain ethnicities become more prone to misrecognition.

If using facial recognition technology for brand experiences, you need to consider your audience; accuracy and privacy, and the issues that come with managing a large database of personal, physically identifying information covering potentially thousands of people.

BE SMART ABOUT IT

Artificial Intelligence is already changing how audiences interact with brands. From creating highly specific real-time data, to cutting costs through speedier project management, to automatically tailoring experiences for the individual.

These technologies will continue to disrupt the traditional ways brands and audiences interact. But the question we must continue to ask is how do we make sure we use AI in a trustworthy, ethical way?

Thoughts or questions about the future of AI in marketing? Please get in touch, we’d love to chat – and we promise you won’t be talking to a bot.