Why advertising veteran Rob Norman is cautious about AI

AI, in terms of the generative creation of text and video, will allow the infinite segmentation of ads to match the infinite segmentation of media. AI in both forms will also be used to abuse and confuse, says Rob Norman, former global head of digital at GroupM.

By  Priyanka NairOct 23, 2023 8:34 AM
Why advertising veteran Rob Norman is cautious about AI
Rob Norman has extensively worked in the area of digital marketing and has strong points of view on some of the recent buzzwords, like artificial intelligence (AI).

One of India’s oldest independent media agencies, Madison Media, recently appointed Rob Norman as an advisor to accelerate its digital transformation. He will offer advisory services to Madison’s top clients and introduce the agency to new tools, concepts, and workflows. Norman, the former global head of digital at GroupM, is an independent board member at Piano, MiQ, Simpli.fi, and a few other digital-first companies. He is known for calling a spade a spade. Norman has extensively worked in the area of digital marketing and has strong points of view on some of the recent buzzwords, like artificial intelligence (AI).

In an interview with Storyboard18, Norman talks about India, media agencies, and the current challenges in advertising.

Edited excerpts from the interview:

You recently became an advisor at Madison Media. What made you join one of India’s oldest independent media agencies?

Those of us who spent our careers in holding companies had great respect for the leading independents like Horizon in the USA, The Seven Stars in the UK, and Madison in India. These are entrepreneurial businesses with intimate market knowledge and great client relationships.

We see several experienced marketers and ad folks like you consulting interesting brands and agencies. What are your learnings from being an advisor to new-age and legacy companies?

People like me advice leaders, and in doing so, are fortunate to be able to grow our knowledge and stay relevant. I think most of us would agree that we share strategy and decision-making frameworks that are based on our prior triumphs and disasters. I have learned a lot about entrepreneurs and a lot about trying to fuse marketing talent and tech talent.

What impresses you about Indian advertising and its ecosystem here?

The scale is obviously impressive, but it is the mosaic of media, language, behaviour, culture, and economic conditions that make India unique and fascinating.

How has the role of media agencies evolved over the last couple of years? What is the need of the hour for media agencies in terms of transformation?

Media agencies are a much-criticised category, but somehow they have managed to deal with an explosion of channels, vendor partners, data sets, and technology applications and, through all that, evolve their model of service and stewardship. The need of the hour is to focus on unlocking the imagination of their teams and deploying automation to exploit new channels and minimise operational errors.

You understood digital marketing right from the beginning. What are the major challenges facing the industry globally at the moment?

The same tools that enable the monetisation of digital media allow for its weaponisation, manifested by fraud and the spread of misinformation. This is a crisis, pure and simple. The industry is further challenged by siloed measurement systems and by incentives that act against the pursuit of integration.

Everyone is talking about AI. What’s your take on it? How is AI going to influence the advertising and marketing industry?

As everyone is talking about it, I should probably keep quiet! AI, in the form of machine learning, is already firmly a part of the sell-side and buy-side processes. AI, in terms of the generative creation of text and video, will allow the infinite segmentation of ads to match the infinite segmentation of media. AI in both forms will also be used to abuse and confuse. The industry and consumers need to be alert.

First Published on Oct 23, 2023 8:34 AM

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