Oct 19, 2016

Closing the marketing loop with artificial intelligence

The industry is poised to shift from big data to artificial intelligence marketing — as the promise of simulated human thinking brings renewed promise to advertising delivery.

Visionary futurists: Tencent’s Lau and Tong agree machine-learning for marketing is a crucial step forward.
Visionary futurists: Tencent’s Lau and Tong agree machine-learning for marketing is a crucial step forward.

Advertisers must plan their entry into artificial intelligence. This was the rallying cry from SY Lau, SEVP of Tencent and President of Online Media Group (OMG). He was speaking at the 2016 Ninth Tencent MIND Conference where he laid out a three-step plan for brands looking to break past the A.I barrier in their marketing operations. 

His first piece of advice was reminiscent of advertising’s ultimate promise -- be a trusted brand to people. He observed that rich user data is the fuel for the continuous growth of all brands in this period of digital sophistication. And trust will open the door for users to share their data. “Marketers have to make themselves a trusted brand and advisor to their users,” he told the conference. “This will empower users to willingly share their data, which the brand can then use to optimize the user experience. A winning brand must be one that users trust.”

The future belongs to the master linguist of AI, he continued. Learning the language of AI is the next step. Investments in technology and human resources are only the first entry-point of mastering AI. According to Lau, old boundaries and habits of thinking must be demolished in order for a brand to fully benefit from an AI transformation. “They must make the transformation from intuition- and experience-based decision-making toward data analysis and a fact-driven decision model.” 

The third most crucial step is to inject creativity into the process of AI implementation. While the industry continues to develop at a breakneck pace, marketers will find opportunity when they oscillate between innovation and creating. “Defining issues in a fast-changing and unchartered area requires not only a mindset to innovate, but also the ability to create. What AI has brought to the table is the ability to identify untapped innovation opportunities.” 

As the industry matures and mass adoption of AI in the marketing arena is on the horizon, Dowson Tong, SEVP of Tencent and President of Social Network Group (SNG) also discussed how developments in the sharing economy will have an impact on marketing operations. Incremental advancements in cloud computing in the technology sector will directly impact marketing. 

“AI is moving closer to the way humans think,” he said. “And future marketing will become increasingly data focused. I believe the convergence of marketing, the cloud, data and AI represent the future of marketing.”

Tong mentioned Tencent’s Qcloud, an integrated marketing product which has linked up media-based sales and services in a closed loop of digital marketing, creating improved marketing efficiency for brand owners. 

Tong and Lau agreed that the sharing economy is the future “cloudification” of productivity. “Since AI cannot develop without data, which is now definitely stored on the cloud, future marketing will rely on a combination of AI and cloud technologies,” Tong said.  

“What truly brings out the value of data assets is going to be cloud-based marketing, which is also the only way to upgrade from Big Data Marketing to AI Marketing,” SY Lau said in conclusion.

Tong and Lau both represent Tencent’s double-powered proposal to brand owners – a whole-chain service provider within the context of the sharing economy. The event, which is considered a barometer of what’s to come in the Chinese digital marketing landscape, was attended by digital evangelists and influencers acrosss China.  

Don Tapscott, President of the Social Network Group and CEO of Tapscott Group, also spoke at the event. Other presenters included experts form Isobar APAC, Google, IBM,, Mondelez, L’Oreal, McDonald, BMW, Dongfeng Nissan, McKinsey, Publicis Media and Mediacom. 

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