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Ben Davis: AI is much hyped but often misunderstood

Artificial intelligence continues to garner much attention from marketers eager to learn how it can make their lives easier.

Of the 12 stages at the Festival of Marketing 2017, for example, the AI stage was perhaps where audiences were most rapt. Marketers were dutifully listening to industry experts and wondering whether off-the-shelf machine learning solutions exist to match their needs, or indeed if such solutions are everything their vendors say they are.

Marketers now have the daunting task of navigating the 'AI summer', a term given to the current period of excitement about the technology. Previous summers have come and gone.

The term 'machine learning' was coined in 1959, and Nicola Millard of BT Global Services says she has been working on it for the last 27 years. But the current AI summer is significant because it comes along when marketing seems ready for it.

We may not be close to 'strong AI', where artificial intelligence matches that of humans, but the flood of 'big data', faster processors and open source algorithms that kick-started this summer are all grist to the mill of new marketing channels and software. Machine learning as 'automation-plus'.

So, how can marketers avoid the hype, and being stung for 'AI' tech or platforms which deliver little?

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