Let’s do AI – How Artificial Intelligence is Amplifying Human and Marketing Ingenuity – Ellie England’s Benchmark 2018 talk review

Sep 13th, 2018

AI is not going to take over the world or replace human intelligence, even at its most powerful. Instead, it’s helping us to live our lives better, achieve more and, as marketers, to create dramatically improved customer experiences 

That was the main message to come from Ellie’s Benchmark presentation. The Bing Ads Sales Director explained that our life is changed by AI because this technology is used in a wide area of day-to-day services, and integrated into how we live, work, and communicate in the world. But she emphasised that the technology is only a tool – it’s not about what technology can do, but what you can do with it. AI empowers us.

To have great AI you need great data. Ellie was confident to share Bing’s perspective, as it’s a data source with knowledge of 2.5 billion entities and entity relationships, people and actions and the largest application of AI in Microsoft.

Today you have more power than the generations that came before you – what will you do with it?

Ellie England, Bing Ads

Saving us from a data landslide

The enormity of AI can be overwhelming. We’re talking unfathomable amounts of data that needs to be harnessed.

A recent IBM study indicates that we create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data every day – and 90% of the world’s data has been created in the last two years.

We have deep learning and analytics – essential everyday tools that help make sense of the data in real-time for actionable results. And artificial intelligence is augmenting our ability to make sense and reason over this breadth of data.

We are in the middle of an industry revolution. What AI offers is really a breakthrough: an opportunity to move to a very different world in which software is created by the machines being taught how to solve problems, rather than being programmed how to solve them.

AI is all around us

AI is probably one of the least understood technologies: what many people don’t realise is that they’re probably relying on technology that uses AI every day.

While digital assistants like Cortana or Alexa are probably more widely recognised applications of AI, it’s also at play if you watch a recommended movie on Netflix, or use Google or Bing Maps to find the quickest way to your destination. Meanwhile other AI applications include robotics, facial recognitions and self-driving cars – we’re some way to go with these but consumers will be or already are embracing these developments.

The idea of AI is not to replace people with machines, but to supplement human capabilities with the unmatched ability of AI to analyse huge amounts of data and find patterns that would otherwise be impossible to detect.​

Integrating art and science for marketers

The growth of the amount of data available, the ability to bring software and hardware together and with advancement in the cloud, and milestones in vision, speech recognition, and reading comprehension, AI delivers marketing personalisation, automation and operational efficiencies that free up marketers to focus more on creativity.​

Intelligent technology can help humans be better at what they already do

Ellie took is through some examples of the tools Bing is creating to address some of the challenges society faces:

AI for society

Seeing AI. An iOS app that helps people who are visually impaired to recognise facial expressions, read text from any object, and identify products and paper currency.

Education dropout reduction. Microsoft’s machine learning lab uses existing data to predict which students are at risk of dropping out, so teachers can know they need to monitor those students more closely and provide support as needed.​

InnerEye. A research project that uses machine learning and computer vision to delineate cancerous tumours as well as healthy anatomy, and to deliver tools that radiation oncologists can use in planning radiotherapy treatment. ​AI machine learning models that show you when you should discharge patients so that they don’t have to be re-admitted.

FarmBeats: ​Using AI to help address issues such as climate change, food supply and water needs in poorer countries and create more sustainable agricultural systems.​ ​This is already seeing results: under the FarmBeat scheme farmers in India saw a 30% higher yield average per hectare than those who followed their traditional planting schedule.​

​How does AI apply to Bing?

We then moved onto how AI has helped Bing evolve into an intelligent search engine.  Because of AI, Bing has developed intelligent features like: ​

Visual search: where searching with Bing goes beyond typing a phrase. With intelligent visual search, you can search for an image within an image.​ This could power future capabilities for companies to promote their products by leveraging Bing APIs and Microsoft cognitive services.

Now instead of looking at an image, consumers can search within that image and find related products available for sale as well as similar images.

Multi perspective answers: Whether you need instant facts or multiple-perspectives, simply ask Bing and get the information you need.

Bing prediction: Bing uses search, social, and other relevant data to make intelligent predictions about upcoming events, like sports games and reality TV shows.

Harnessing AI to gain business efficiency and advantage

Ellie outlined three opportunities for marketers to harness the vast potential of AI:

  • Connect and engage – enrich your relationships with your audiences
  • Personalise – open doors to build new personalised experiences
  • Automate – make it easier to do our jobs

ai for marketers

Through using AI within tools and platforms, marketers are able to gain from the automation and ability to reason, reaping the benefits of machines learning over time

Connecting and engaging

Consumers have come to expect more personalised offerings and recommendations.

More internet connected devices are coming into the home every day, making search a pervasive tool, providing data that is constantly updated and is constantly improving and learning.  AI only works if it can access this data. Intent data from search creates a powerful match between the user’s intent and the advertiser’s offering to deliver greater performance.

Wouldn’t it be nice to identify and reconnect with disengaged customer segments? With churn prediction modelling, you can. This technology uses AI to identify disengaged segments, and model, test, and validate the likelihood of churn to give you specific actions to take to keep these customers engaged.

There is potential to identify users based on their past behaviours (across websites, searches and content) as useful predictors of future activities, using AI and machine learning to better understand search intent and therefore potential purchase intent.

Personalising experiences

AI systems can constantly search on a consumer’s behalf.  Those systems learn preferences to ensure that consumers have the best experience possible, and receive more relevant and accurate recommendations. For example, Spotify does this for music suggestions. Amazon has also used consumers’ past searches and purchases to create curated recommendations. Ellie calls this personalisation at scale.

Smart personalisation enables you to customise brand experiences in real time based on a consumer’s location, demographics, device, and behaviours, including automatically serving up a dynamic creative right when they need it.

Moreover, marketers can interact and connect with consumers using more natural and emotive methods across channels. For instance, chatbots use natural language processing to talk to consumers. Bots are a great way to deepen engagements with consumers and provide you with great data and insights on what your customers want and need that can be employed in other areas of your marketing.


As an example, HomeAdvisor is a home services marketplace that helps consumers find pre-screened professionals. It facilitate connections between consumers and contractors by using Microsoft Cognitive Services APIs to look at a picture that depicts a problem or an issue that the consumer is trying to get fixed and can help the person find a local contractor.


Marmite TasteFace

Cognitive computing encompasses vision, language, speech, and knowledge processing, mimicking the human brain to help marketers make better decisions around consumer behaviours, shopping habits, and more.

Aiming to increase brand engagement and attract a younger audience, Unilever harnessed this to create an innovative sampling web app that invites people to try Marmite and uses facial recognition to analysis their reaction.

More than 500,000 people visited TasteFace and spent on average 2.5 mins playing with the content.  It also beat X-Factor to the top trending spot on Twitter and sold a lot of Marmite!

Streamlining and automation

A key way that AI can automate marketing is through programmatic advertising – technology takes care of buying, selling, and optimising digital ads on your behalf.

Marketers can also mine huge data volumes and use machine learning to unlock insights and find predictive signals, taking the guesswork out of keyword bidding, ad testing and optimisation, and even email campaign creation.

Ellie rounded off her Benchmark debut by reiterating her point from the beginning and leaving the audience with the message:

AI is a ‘must have‘ for businesses if you want to compete and lead in the future– and not the far off future

Ellie England, Bing Ads

For more detail on the 2018 Benchmark Search Conference, you can view all the talks and slide decks here. Alternatively, you can check out our resources page for even more actionable insights, or contact us today to see what we can do for your brand. 

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