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Insights in the Age of Artificial Intelligence

As a researcher and planner, I rely heavily on data to determine whom to target and what to say to them. Teams rely on me to provide actionable insights on culture, consumers and the categories they shop. The Internet of Things means millions of data points are now at my fingertips. IoT, progressively coupled with artificial intelligence, means marketers have unfathomable amounts of information about their target. And, ironically, I realize that human insight is increasingly reliant on computers.

I had my first unsettling encounter with AI 10 years ago. I discovered a tool that summarized hundreds of trends and produced target insights with messaging territories for a range of categories. All done within minutes. The list wasn’t exhaustive, nor did it take into account competitive claims, but it was fast. Today AI also performs creative functions. McCann Erickson has an AI Creative Director and Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba claims its AI copywriter generates thousands of ads a second.

So how can a human planner generate insight beyond that of AI? First, I believe good human planners intuitively ground their work in an understanding of their creative and client partners. We subtly assess the best way to communicate and inspire our teams to make decisions and take action. We craft our strategies in ways best suited for the key users to understand. Some need visuals more than copy, others react best to metaphor, etc. We also have an appreciation for illogical and paradoxical behaviors. We find magic in quirky acts that AI wouldn’t notice or consider relevant. Lastly, we bring imagination. We look at what is with an eye towards what could be.

Personally, I use AI as a benchmark. I look at each insight and strategy and ask myself, “Could a computer have come up with that?” If the answer is yes, I push a little harder.

Leslie Clifford is part of Spool's strategy team.