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Opinion: Modern marketing: AI vs. humans

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“The future of AI is human.”

Such is the belief held by Michael Bartlett, the director of experience innovation at JMark Business Solutions. Michael has a master’s degree in artificial intelligence from the University of Sussex and uses his understanding of machine learning to craft custom technology to improve the experience of JMark’s employees and customers.

What does Michael mean with this somewhat cryptic statement? In a recent study by Pegasystems, the software solutions company found that “less than half of respondents believe AI can improve customer experience.” They found that “human interaction is still preferred over AI” and more than a third of respondents admitted to being concerned that robots would take their jobs.

Michael and I have had many conversations about the business applications of artificial intelligence. With my work in growth strategy, I often experience machine learning differently than he does in his customer experience work. I see marketers attempting to use AI to sell more products or services through chatbot marketing or in Google Ads with “smart bidding” systems. 

Times are changing
In my experience working with marketing agencies, there are few things changing the way marketing is done like AI. Google’s aforementioned smart bidding is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Google Ads has even gone so far as to provide the option for completely automated smart campaigns. These campaigns have very limited input from the advertiser, targeting search queries and generating ad headlines based on selected website content. 

In some cases, these dynamic campaigns do not perform as well as others, but as Google collects more data, the machines get better at predicting user behavior. In many cases, smart campaigns can outperform user-created ad campaigns and generate more conversion actions at a lower cost. 

This development has caused some Google ad managers to fret. Ad specialists have historically set themselves apart with their ability to write compelling ad copy, adjust bids appropriately on target keywords, and manually test variations. With AI taking over these tasks and providing results better and faster than humanly possible, what purpose does a human ad manager serve in modern marketing?

Humans or AI?
The role of humans in advertising is not diminishing, but it is changing significantly. Google has a phrase that is touted by many of its ad platform’s representatives: “Smart humans with smart machines.” The goal with these AI features is not to replace humans but to provide them with the tools to achieve better results. A human harnessing AI properly will see better results than either could achieve on their own.

Humans that wish to get the most out of their marketing efforts need to shift their perspective to focus on their strengths and allow machines to do what they do best. Just as the industrial revolution allowed humans to move beyond their physical limitations, AI will allow us to move beyond our cognitive limits. Humans will never outperform AI when it comes to testing and optimizing data, but machines will never understand humans. The role of humans in modern marketing is to understand other humans thoroughly and to provide better data for the machine learning to test and optimize.

This is true for paid advertising platforms, as well as search engine optimization and organic social media. It’s true for traditional media that does not rely on machine learning, and it’s true for face-to-face interactions as well. Understanding our fellow humans will allow us to better solve each other’s problems and build a level of trust that only can be developed between human beings.

It’s not either/or
Machines may be able to predict human behavior with some reliability, but they can never fully understand humans and relate to them. Because of this, we need not be concerned about machines taking our jobs. If we understand how to provide value to our fellow humans and harness the power of AI, we can provide better information to the AI. Thus, we can all grow together.

The future of humanity is bound to have more AI designed to enhance our quality of life. But as we learn more about using machines, it becomes increasingly apparent the future of AI is human.

Ryan Baker is the founder of growth strategy firm Kingly Consulting LLC, and he’s a certified customer experience professional through the Customer Experience Professionals Association. He can be reached at


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