In 2011, The Wall Street Journal published Marc Andreessen’s now-famous essay, “Why Software Is Eating the World.” In it, the internet pioneer—seeming to predict the future—wrote that “every company needs to become a software company.” His work aimed to highlight the macro shift from a hardware-based to a software-based economy and the eventual economic and technological change where the traditional economy is completely revolutionized.
Today, in 2018, Andreeseen’s prediction seems as relevant as ever. In fact, it appears that software is eating the world at a far more aggressive pace—and that the advent of artificial intelligence is only going to accelerate it.
According to Andrew Ng, former head of Google Brain’s deep learning project, “Artificial intelligence is the new electricity.” Its influence on society is expected to be bigger than the internet itself. It’s anticipated to impact, transform, and potentially disrupt all industries, companies, and customer experiences. AI’s mantra? “Anything that can be automated will be.”
But as AI continues to permeate businesses, consumers, and society, the potential complications or consequences it brings begin to emerge. How will AI impact the future of agencies? How will companies offer value to their customers? As agencies and their clients evolve, new opportunities also materialize.
As AI and automation take hold, agencies should place their focus on business aspects that they do best and that requires the human element.
As software expands across the globe, companies that are not software-oriented find themselves choosing between acquiring and building their own technology infrastructure or partnering with a company and developing the expertise needed. With the highly rapid cycles of AI development, many companies find that it is far too expensive to try to build their own tech systems. Instead, consultancies are finding it is more beneficial to own their role of being the best advisor on how best to partner and connect the marketing ecosystem.
Even with the new opportunities and challenges the internet brought, media planning remained relatively the same: find the largest pool of people, sprinkle in some demographics and run an ad. But now, with digital marketing, it is no longer necessary to search out the broadest possible audience for clients. Technology’s evolution has made way for an excellent replacement for media planning—audience planning.
Through networks using NASA-level technology, such as TripAdvisor or Facebook, an agency can predict who is a product’s “best customer” and seek them out. For example, a business can choose to solely advertise their hotel to future attendees of a convention in their area. In essence, anything you can think of can now be the right way to use your advertising budget.
As AI marches forward, the marketing and advertising constructs will become far more competent and capable. As automation takes away from the mindless or trivial tasks placed upon employees shoulders, the more time that opens up for them to work on valuable aspects of the agency such as insights, planning, and creativity. Through the implementation of easier navigation and company flexibility, agencies can place their focal point on expanding the talent that brands want to pay for.
To survive the shift to the AI age, agencies will need to focus on client aspects that will enable companies to grow and generate new consumers continually.