Gabey Goh
Jun 21, 2016

Before dreaming about AI, get fundamentals right: Oracle

Kevin Akeroyd, GM & SVP of Oracle Marketing Cloud, speaks to Campaign Asia-Pacific at Cannes about getting the fundamentals of data correct, before AI comes into the picture.

Kevin Akeroyd
Kevin Akeroyd

CANNES - Many a CMO is excited about the prospect of having machine-learning algorithms or artificial intelligence (AI) do the heavy lifting when it comes to harvesting actionable insights from the data onslaught.

But Kevin Akeroyd, GM and SVP of Oracle Marketing Cloud, does his best to let them down easy, pointing out that there’s still plenty to be done today.

“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves,” he told Campaign Asia-Pacific on the sidelines of the Cannes Lions Festival in France.

You know what, let’s get you really, really good at listening and responding to data before you get yourself all hot and bothered about machine learning.

In his view, many brands are not even listening to all the available data, tying it together and making an activation decision up into a consistent channel experience.

For example, he cited a scenario where a car brand picks up a tweet about a consumer looking for a new car, combines that with additional insights about which websites that person is visiting and the research he or she is doing, and then gets the brand's cars and messaging in front of that user on the same day.

“I'm not even doing that yet as a brand, so the notion that I need to be up there in the stars doing AI or machine learning...” he added. “You know what, let’s get you really, really good at listening and responding to data before you get yourself all hot and bothered about machine learning.”

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Akeroyd has no doubt that such tools will hit the CMO, but he believes that there’s much that can be done right now in terms of better integrating disparate data sources and enabling real-time responses.

“I really think that AI is a mid-term solution, not a long-term one, and I think it’ll start to play out in three to five years,” he said.

“Will we be talking about AI three years from now? Yes," he said. "Doing it five years from now? Yes. But right now, we’re at the stage of getting the fundamentals right.”

He added that if the fundamental layer is figured out, then organisations will be better prepared in terms of “what data where and how to feed an AI machine”.

“That’s where it’s at right now, the conversations that we’ll be having all week at Cannes that we’ve been having for the last couple of years,” Akeroyd said.

This is Oracle’s second year participating and having a presence at the Cannes Lions Festival, which Akeroyd views as the company’s commitment to engaging the industry and boosting its reputation in the adtech and martech space.

Unicorns to horses

Akeroyd is a 30-year veteran of the advertising and marketing technology space, and for him, some sense of closure is finally at hand.

“We’ve been talking about the single view of the customer for 30 years—haven’t gotten there yet," he said. "We’ve been talking about omnichannel for 20 years, and we’re still not there yet." 

Akeroyd added that his emphasis on present-day things aside, it’s still a “very forward-thinking time”, and he acknowledges that for the first time, the industry is finally able to do what it's been talking about for the last 20 years.

"The unicorns have turned into horses for the first time,” he said.

Those forward-thinking conversations are happening in one of Oracle's fastest-growing regions, Asia, because the fundamental needs of organisations seeking to transform are universal.

What makes the Asia-Pacific region unique for Akeroyd is that while by and large the region on average is less sophisticated, the pace of commitment to play catchup is aggressive.

“Asia is our fastest-growing region on a percentage basis because clients recognise the need to catch up, so the investment and urgency level [is strong], especially in markets like India, Singapore, Korea, Japan and Australia,” he said.

The rapid rise of technology maturity and readiness is also being accelerated from the other side of the spectrum by global brands cascading out upgrade platforms and best practises to the region.

Crystal ball gazing

Akeroyd shared the trends that will dominate industry discussions in the coming months:

1) Shrinking ad-tech vendor list

The proliferation of ad tech companies and all the venture capital that went into that for the last five years..., the shift is happening and you’re going to see the overall field really compress. The world doesn’t need 3,000 ad-tech and mar-tech companies.

2) Solution compression

Even within paid media, you are siloed, as you need multiple platforms just to get the same impression out of all them. Pick your flavour of consolidation, the tech giants will continue to amalgamate, and you’re going to see brands having more meaningful conversations but with fewer players.

3) Managing across walled gardens

If I’m a CMO, I recognise that Google is not there to optimise my budget, they’re there to optimise my spend on them, Facebook as well. They have no interest in optimising my dollar across all media and want me to read their analytics on their media. So media efficacy is not really happening across these gardens.

Closed garden management is a big topic right now, and with digital spend predicted to explode, that's billions of dollars in spend that can’t be beholden to these walled gardens. The concentration of power is so overt that it is accelerating the conversation, and it's an issue many feel they need to deal with now.

4) Less technology that does more

If I’m a marketer, I have 20 to 30 pieces of technology to deal with, so less technology that does more is a huge theme right now. We’re in the first inning of this, and there are eight more to go.

5) Feeding the content beast

A content explosion will occur once companies establish their data and tech and media operations. How do marketers then satisfy the content appetite, where different pieces of content need to be pushed out to millions of consumers via different channels? How do they make the content creation and curation sustainable and responsive, because you can’t get 10 million pieces of content “blessed through legal” before you push it out?

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