"People are doing whatever they can to avoid advertising." Ricky Ray Butler is CEO at Branded Entertainment Network (BEN) and was speaking at a lively panel discussion about AI’s progressive role in entertainment at CES 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
"Look at Netflix and Amazon Prime, they’re exploding. The viewer is in control, they only watch what they want. When a brand and content creator reach a consensus, the audience wins. They celebrate that the brand has empowered the content not disturbed it, leading to higher engagements and greater conversions."
Butler was joined by two content creation experts to explore how AI is revolutionising the entertainment industry – and the opportunities this offers brands.
Here are four ways brands can benefit today – and one prediction for the future:
1. AI helps you to get seen by your target audience, and to get results
A lot of content creators and brands are still planning campaigns off gut feelings, explained Matthew Patrick, host and creator of the YouTube channels The Game Theorists, The Film Theorists & GTLive.
And they are missing out on dozens and dozens of key data points, he explained: "AI empowers brands to do things that are optimised based on rich data and insights. This knowledge allows the brand to get more return on their investment so everyone wins and all ships rise."
Butler said that when brands use deep learning technology, like BEN's neural networks, they have seen click-through rates increase by over 250%. So what exactly can these insights tell you – and how does it make such an impact?
Derral Eves, CEO, Creatus and VidSummit gave one example of AI in action: "It can surf vast amounts of content and tell you when audiences are dipping and peaking. You can see what’s going to resonate for certain audiences and optimise based on this."
Patrick added: "As content creators and as marketers, if you want to have your content seen you have to play nice with the algorithms. You could have outstanding YouTube content but if you’re not playing by the rules of the algorithms and packaging content in a way people want to see, it won’t get seen. AI and experimentation can show what thumbnail, title and format will get the results."
2) AI stops you from irritating audiences
"AI takes a lot of the guesswork out of content creation. It helps create content that resonates," explained Patrick.
"Take movie trailers, for example. AI and deep learning can tell us things like you need to include an explosion half way through, hit them with the brand title twice, or show the main character within a few seconds. It helps you create a product that grips people and makes them want more. The beauty of AI is it can do it at a rate and scale that no one has ever been able to touch before."
Eves believes that there is a shift and advertisers risk alienating generation Z if they don’t move to less intrusive formats, which AI can help make happen at scale: "My children see ads play before something now and they’re like ‘What is that?’. They find it disruptive. We’ll see this audience shunning those types of ads and be more drawn to influencer marketing and product integration, which are less intrusive."
Patrick added that AI can help brands be much more relevant: "Location-based targeting is exciting as you can reference local places, not just big cities – you can really lean in to data-based tracking and make content much more personal. There is also mood-based targeting: you can target ads in cities based on a general mood determined by local sporting events, for instance. ESPN is doing this already."
3) AI equips you for better collaborators
Connecting a brand with the right content creator or influencer is a big challenge for marketers. AI can help hugely, explained Butler.
"There are millions of creators around the world – AI can sift through, look at all their data, find commonalities or anomalies that you have in your audiences and make this process much more streamlined.
Brands could easily end up working with thousands of influencers a week," he said.
4) AI can protect you from influencer fraud
Influencer fraud is a growing concern for brands as influencer marketing grows in popularity. Patrick believes AI can help: "AI is better able to parse real engagement and activity on the platforms compared with humans. You can run Instagram creator X through the system and that data can tell you all about that creator and throw up any concerns."
But Patrick also says that while there is much hype around the issue now, it is one that has long been around – and platforms such as YouTube and Instagram are continuing to tackle it.
"Influencer fraud is a buzzword right now – it’s happened for a while but people are catching on to it. AI can help brands and content creators tackle the issue but that is in addition to what the platforms are doing themselves, which isn’t always reflected in the press."
Butler believes the fraudsters are improving themselves though, as it is difficult to discern fake followers from real ones, even on machines.
He said: "This is one of those things where you’re never going to find a perfect creator with a perfect audience, without a single fake follower, but you’ll be able to tell through AI which creators are better than others."
Prediction: AI changes content, in real-time, based on viewer’s facial expressions
Netflix’s Black Mirror: Bandersnatch show greatly enthused the panel and the active participation it offers viewers; during the show viewers are asked to pick their own narrative. Many viewers completed the show then returned to view alternatives.
"This show is a great example of where AI can step in as it is a beautiful converging of video games, movies and content. It is me, as a viewer, dictating what’s happening on screen and it’s happening in front of me. Imagine content creators being able to do that on their own based on the viewers reactions – determining the next piece in the content based on whether we laughed or our facial expressions," said Patrick.
He also imagined a way brands can fit within this new world: "Maybe the viewer determines the narrative all the way through, and products are integrated within this. On Bandersnatch, the first choice they ask you is between two cereals – so you have people actively engaging with your product."
Butler said he was excited about where this is going – and the evolution of brand integration. He mentioned a Hulu study, carried out in 2018, which found that brand integration was 89% more effective in driving purchase intent than a 30-second ad.
"With AI added into the mix, it's going to be a lot of fun and offer brands vast opportunity to interact with audiences in new and inventive ways."