Could AI Help Advertising Feel More Human?

Advertising, at its best, helps people find products and services they’ll enjoy. But at its worst, advertising annoys, interrupts, frustrates, and even angers the population it’s striving to reach. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of people frustrated with poor ads that don’t help. (Source)

So, how does advertising become helpful, useful, and winsome? It adapts and thinks for itself.
Consider what happens when you’re in a conversation with a friend or co-worker that isn’t going well. Maybe you pull a face, sigh, or tap your foot—eager to leave the conversation. If the other individual is listening, watching, and attentive they may adapt their approach. Perhaps they switch the conversation topic or offer to chat later. Maybe they apologize or ask if you’re OK. Regardless of what change they make, the important thing is to shift the approach.

Advertising needs to do the same thing. This isn’t another plea to uncover more data or tap into the online history of millions of consumers. When done correctly (and ethically) those tactics can be helpful. But they lack the nuance that human relationships thrive off of: ADAPTABILITY.

Historic data may predict certain elements but it can’t account for facial expressions that reveal human emotion.

Data can’t adapt when someone isn’t in the mood for another car commercial because they just got in a car accident. Data can’t help the shoe advertiser when all of sudden mom of 3 isn’t shopping for her kids, or herself—but her husband. And historical information won’t be able to change when an individual is elated and in a prime position for a luxury purchase.

But artificial intelligence (AI) can.
Consider the recent development in AI for safe driving from Affectiva.

Using face and head tracking with near-infrared and RGB cameras, the AI system measures facial expressions and emotions like joy, anger, and surprise. It also listens for sounds of anger, arousal, and laughter. For sleepiness, it looks at yawning, eye closing, and blinking patterns.” (Source)

Yes, consumers would need to opt-in to being screened. And yes, it proposes all sorts of questions on proper consent, privacy, and terms of use. But, for the brands that get it right, they could effectively change ads based on someone smiling, crying, or shouting.

AI can help advertisers adapt in real time.

This isn’t unlike the savvy sales professional who doesn’t go with the same canned pitch whenever a prospect picks up the phone, walks through the door, or answers an email. Good selling is problem-oriented and situation specific. People buy when they feel understood, validated, and confident. When we don’t feel understood, we get annoyed. When we don’t feel validated, we press mute. When we don’t feel confident, we don’t buy.

This is the core problem with modern advertising: advertisers don’t know what we feel—just what we’re interested in.

AI has the power to change that. Exactly how it will be implemented remains to be seen. But make no mistake, artificial intelligence stands to make consumers feel understood.

And that can make advertising useful—not annoying.