Last month, over a delicious dinner in Singapore with 15 of The Marketing Society’s change makers, it felt clear that we are facing a marketing paradox. I was left thinking about a question that is not just a marketing quandary but one that plagues our careers - do we risk it all on something new or keep it safe?
The great thing about putting together a handful of the industry’s best is that, despite everyone having experienced a somewhat volatile year, the consensus was - in uncertainty, there is opportunity.
This battle between safety and freshness has loomed over our industry since the dawn of time. Still, with AI in the picture, we need to think about practical ways of bringing in the cutting edge without creating unnecessary turmoil in already turbulent times.
Identifying the practical internal blockers
There are some very vital, tangible blockers to working with AI. There are ethical and legal questions that responsible, modern brands need to work with at speed. Marketers face a brick wall of legacy structures and systems that need help to keep up with technological changes and creative thinking.
The first step here is to understand which systems are slowing down the adoption of AI. Is it a particular process? Some internal red tape? Once you identify that, you can start understanding how to work alongside them.
Bigger, more established, companies need help in relation to new or local digital-first competitors built with shorter timeframes and response to market. The truth is - most marketers won’t be able to undo these blockers fast enough to keep up. Instead, we need to start existing within this paradox of safety and innovation by working towards something Media.Monks likes to call meaningful experimentation.
Sharing the risk with more agile partners
If you find that the internal hurdles can’t be fixed quickly by yourself, the best next step is to find a more agile partner who can help unburden the risk.
This doesn’t mean due diligence is thrown out the window, trust is needed from partners around the important ethical and legal challenges should be the baseline of collaboration. Make sure your partner has the chops regarding the data and governance of technology, as well as the sexy stuff that gets us marketers fired up.
When working with partners, the best foundation for success is clearly understanding what you want to achieve. Do you want to use AI as a tool to improve your marketing in the longterm, or is this more of a pilot to test something new and creative?
The marketer’s safe space: ROI
One of the biggest challenges a marketer faces is that models are set against 12-month planning cycles. This is because this is still a best-in-class way to look at your brand’s plan and, alternatively, short-termism can be very damaging to adopt as the norm. However, these longer cycles are not always fit for innovation and experimentation. How do you get more nimble and agile in a company with a marketing model that won’t behave that way?
This also comes when there is pressure from the top to prove the value and defend the marketing ROI. It is one of the first budgets challenged at a board level. So how do we demonstrate performance and impact as quickly as possible?
Delivering a good ROI is a safe space for marketers. If you can find a space for marketers to operate, where the meaning of the experiment has been set out against business goals, then you will find a little more wiggle room to do the new stuff. Having a partner share in that risk makes this burden less of a gamble.
New models of engagement
So what does this new model of engagement look like? Some partnerships between agencies, technologies and brands come in the form of shared IP and elsewhere, it’s in new ways of working.
Starting smaller on a project-based experiment with clear goals can serve as a taster for the board level to approve more long-term projects.
Finding a way to experiment within commercial and social success parameters will be the best way to approach new technologies. Call it meaningful experimentation or disciplined innovation, we can find a way to take the risk and reap the rewards with AI, through good partnerships and setting goals that matter.
By Jessica Davey, SVP Client Services APAC, Media.Monks
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