AI Is Top of Mind

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Artificial Intelligence and what it can do for both television and advertising has become a focal point for MediaLink Chairman and Chief Executive Michael Kassan.  The big ones that are top of mind: Siri, Alexa, Google Assistant and other AI-fueled audio functionality built into a growing number of smart television sets and TV-connected devices in recent months.  “We’re just seeing the tip of the iceberg here,” Kassan declared before a Paley Center for Media audience in New York last week.  “Most brands seem to have no choice but to adopt AI (in various ways).  If I had my druthers, I’d spend a whole session on this.”

In Kassan’s thinking, smart sets and connected units incorporating AI could lead to a dramatic surge of usage among smart set/device consumers. That consumer universe stands at 60 percent of all U.S. households, according to Nielsen.  As of mid-spring, usage was on the order of two-to-three hours per day, 19 or 20 days per month.

“You have this smart TV population, [but] you don’t have smart consumers … yet,” he explained, offering a personal admission.  “I know 10 percent of what my smartphone can do.  I don’t know the other 90 percent, and that’s the 90 percent that can change my life.  The same is true of these TVs. When we speed up the learning curve (through AI), people will play around with the (90 percent of) apps and services they don’t know are available.”

Kassan exchanged viewpoints at Paley Center with CNET Editor-at-Large Brian Cooney, another person bullish on how AI can impact both TV and advertising.  “I see this becoming a main component of brands using the Internet (and TV),” he said.  “Dialogue is a powerful way to relate to consumers.”

Cooney also sees AI as a stepping stone to implementing other technology that generates even deeper relationships between advertisers and TV consumers.  Sensors placed inside a TV set or connected device by Google and other companies, with permission from a household, could track what people like and dislike at any time.  Advertisers could retrieve that data and develop commercials and commerce transactions, personalized to individual households or consumer groups.

As smart TVs and devices open people up to a wider world of digital-delivered programming and apps, “the brand marketplace is going to demand participation in the fullest digital platform possible,” Kassan continued.  “We’re still searching for the right content for the right person in the right device at the right moment.”

Will Netflix and other current non-commercial digital services change their tune and accept ads along the way?  Maybe not, Kassan said.  “A dozen clients in the last 18 months have asked me to get them a meeting with Netflix,” he acknowledged.  “I say, ‘no.’”

Whether or not Netflix reverses its current no ad policy, Cooney’s clear the public will accept the contribution advertisers will make to this expanding TV environment.  “The ad is not [their] enemy, the schedule is the enemy,” he asserted.  “If ads don’t come off as an interruption, consumers will come to see ads as valuable content.”

Photo by Alex Knight on Unsplash

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