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A illustrated history of artificial intelligence in advertising

Lori Goldberg, CEO of Silverlight Digital writes for EconsultancySilverlight Digital CEO, Lori Goldberg writes for Econsultancy.

Somewhere in a sleepy North London suburb, a shopkeeper ritualistically opened his daily newspaper.

Eyeing the weather report, he moved a bin of black umbrellas to the front of the store, just inside the door where they could easily be seen by customers needing a quick respite from the approaching rain. The year is 1861 and a weather forecast, first published in London’s daily newspaper The Times, had likely influenced the purchase of an umbrella or two.

Over a century later, American Jule Gregory Charney – who is considered the father of modern meteorology, teamed with his Norwegian and American counterparts in mathematics, meteorology and computer programming to develop the first computerized program derived for the prediction of weather. Their computerized approach was perhaps the first example of artificial intelligence (also known as machine learning) influencing consumer behavior through weather reporting.

With this predictive analytics, shopkeepers and advertisers could effectively move merchandise associated with changes in weather, from simple umbrellas to pharmaceuticals, clothing, vacations, and air conditioners.

Today, IBM’s The Weather Company provides actionable weather forecasts and analytics to advertisers with relevance to thousands of businesses, globally. Through the speed and agility of digital advertising, ad campaigns can flight and pause with the precision of changes in the weather… and as we know, the weather always changes. Ads for cold weather products can appear when local temperatures drop below 68 degrees, while ads for Caribbean vacations can target New York days before an approaching snowstorm.

In the last 20 years, artificial intelligence has flooded the advertising market by helping to scale operations through programmatic and content creation, emulating human conversation via chatbots and virtual personal assistants, and refining advertising platforms to understand consumer intent.

Just as our ability to forecast weather allows us to target advertising dollars, artificial intelligence is influencing more and more advertising decisions on our behalf. To this point, below is a brief history of advertising’s use of artificial intelligence and perhaps a glimpse of the future.

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