What AI Means for Intent-Based Advertising

Today, the biggest technology players are in a mad dash to develop the smartest conversational interface. There’s Google’s personal assistant, Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana, among others. 

These personal assistants are helpful, entertaining and already a powerful connector between people and their digital lives. While they function a little differently, they all source every bit of data they can find to engage in unique, valuable conversations with their owners.

The astounding pace of technology guarantees that there will always be a new connector, a new privileged broker that draws humans and the digital realm ever closer together. But this shouldn’t be a threat to marketers. Instead, it’s a great opportunity. 

Some industry experts hypothesize that the future of search and intent-based advertising could be up for grabs. It’s tempting to listen—with artificial intelligence, digital personal assistants, the internet of things, wearables and apps basking in the limelight. Who knows, by 2030, our AI-powered cars could be driving themselves to an oil change while we're on vacation. But let’s not forget that deep down, we’re all deeply involved with search. We depend on it. Imagine how much you would know about someone if they shared their last 100 searches with you. We never stop searching.

For marketers watching the AI race from the sidelines, now’s the time to start placing bets. Early adopters will win by taking advantage of this massive shift in discovery marketing, and will do so while the cost of entry is minimal for each engagement. Even though the terms will continue to change, search will always be a powerful ad platform for marketers.

So what can brands do today to prepare for the future of performance marketing? Here are a few insights:


Create conversational content. Fifty percent of search is mobile, and 20% of that is voice search. And voice search is growing quickly. It will open up richer data sets around consumers’ needs and wants as they relate to a brand’s products and services. Questions will be the new keywords and provide brands with an even better research opportunity to drive product and service innovation and ultimately provide the best customer experience. 

When Google releases voice search data through its analytics, use it to build out your database of content. In the meantime, leverage traditional sources of information such as the sales team or customer service team to help drive content creation in conversational or question-and-answer formats.  

Structured data 

The foundations of digital personal assistants are built on questions that contain keywords. Conversations become more specific when the AI asks the consumer to refine or elaborate on the question, and the responses are derived from an existing database. 

Brands need to make the right content available to answer the initial questions being asked by the consumer and then create content the personal assistant can leverage to refine the answer. Structured data will fill in details with things such as reviews, product attributes, real-time pricing and very important location-based information.  

Certainly for Google’s personal assistant this will be very similar to Google’s rich results or Knowledge Graph cards. Once in place, make sure your data is accurate and then distribute it to data aggregators. Most personal assistants will pull from their parent company, but there are examples such as Yelp currently powering local results for Amazon’s Alexa.

Voice advertising 

It is speculated that a form of auction-based advertising will be established for voice search and personal assistants. Of course it will, as Google, Microsoft, Amazon and others have always monetized content delivery. When the opportunity arises to pay to ensure your content is delivered first to personal assistants through voice search, it is critical you are ready with a foundational data set and content in the preferred formats of the assistants—think Amazon Skills for Alexa or SDK for Apple’s Siri. Time will tell how we will buy, but it will most likely be auction-based. 

As previously posted on Advertising Age.