Link to home

News from the open internet

Marketing Strategy

AI has taken over ad tech conversations, but it didn’t happen overnight

A robot hand manipulates a browser window, a 3D cursor, and a yellow button suspended on strings.

Illustration by Holly Warfield / Getty / The Current

When the chatbot ChatGPT launched in November, it opened the floodgates for a seeming artificial-intelligence boom throughout the tech industry, and ad tech has been no exception.  

“Forms of AI have been in place inside of DSPs for a while,” Joanna O’Connell, an independent research analyst, told Ad Age. But, she added, “AI has infiltrated advertising.”  

It’s true: AI isn’t new to the ad tech industry. It’s been used in programmatic ad buying since it rose to prominence in the 2010s, but has only recently entered the spotlight thanks to improved accessibility and innovation. Experts told The Current that they believe AI is here to stay and isn’t just the latest trend in the tech space; forms of AI have played an essential role in programmatic advertising for some time and will continue to as it evolves. 

Dan Taylor, Google’s VP of ads, said during a recent industry event hosted by IAB Tech Lab, that AI has been “quietly working in the background,” but the jump from predictive AI to generative AI has led to this current moment. 

The former makes predictions based on existing data, while the latter generates new content such as text or images based on learned patterns, as Ishan Kapoor, an exec with AI marketing firm Scibids, wrote on LinkedIn. 

Predictive AI “enables businesses to anticipate consumer behavior, optimize advertising campaigns, and identify potential leads,” while generative AI “can assist writers, designers, and artists in producing fresh and engaging content,” Kapoor wrote. ChatGPT is an example of the latter.

AI in media buying has typically taken the form of machine learning, a type of predictive AI, experts told The Current. For now, there’s a lot of room for generative AI to become more sophisticated in media buying, said Alvaro Meza De Lama, EMEA programmatic manager at HP Inc.  

“You can’t ask an AI to write a media plan,” he told The Current. “You still need a set of human eyes. At the end of the day, AI is still a machine, programmed by people.”

Still, AI could make programmatic even more efficient in the short term, including helping traders allocate budgets, according to Esteban Boryszanski, the product manager for programmatic at Spanish financial services firm CaixaBank.  

It’s “not just a fashionable concept,” he said. 

AI could have ramifications throughout the ad industry beyond how it’s being used in programmatic ad buying — right down to what agencies, ad tech firms, and more look for when hiring, Larry Fisher, CEO of Chicago-based agency Rise Interactive, told The Current.

“The skillsets we’ve been hiring for in the last 10 years won’t be the same skillsets we’ll need in the next 10 years,” he said. 

Big picture: the AI “revolution” didn’t happen overnight. The biggest players in tech, like Google and Meta, have been working with AI for years. Tools like ChatGPT have just mainstreamed AI by making it available to all, Fisher said.

“Google, Facebook, and Microsoft had been building AI into their workflow behind the scenes more,” Fisher said.

He added, “Now those companies are revealing their innovations and bringing those things to the forefront.”