Millions of ads are ignored every hour by consumers and evidence is mounting that people crave meaningful experiences, not marketing speak. However, the work required to deliver personalization at scale — sifting through billions of data points (trillions if you count the input from the sensor networks that make up the Internet of Things)— has moved beyond human capacity.


This hard truth is driving a seismic shift in marketing and mindset – and explosive interest in marketing automation. Malcolm Frank, Executive Vice President at IT and consulting company Cognizant and co-author of “What To Do When Machines Do Everything: How to Get Ahead in a World of AI, Algorithms, Bots and Big Data,” believes marketing will never be the same again. As he puts it: “Five years from now marketing without artificial intelligence will be no marketing at all.”

Frank’s observation speaks volumes about how automation will transform marketing in the future.
But it begs the question: What will the future marketer be like – and how can marketers prepare now
for their destiny?

The discussion occurs at what Ekaterina Petrakova, Marketing Lead at Rocket Internet, an incubator and investor in internet and technology companies globally, calls an “historical moment” in her industry. Driven in part by the evolution of mobile apps and the advance of multi-channel marketing, she explains, there‘s an evolution in imagining, designing, and delivering experiences users genuinely appreciate. “Marketing is going far beyond mobile, and there are many more touchpoints with our products before users convert.”


It’s a journey that intersects at many levels with Ekaterina’s career path. While she started out with a strong focus on ASO (App Store Optimization), building these processes within the network to fill the funnel, she quickly realized that other channels, and a deep knowledge of how they function, was needed to drive positive and lasting results for her marketing efforts. Fast forward, and Ekaterina leads operational marketing support at Rocket Internet, a position that gives her deep insights into current demands and future trends.

Consumers see ads online, in apps, across billboards and throughout social network feeds, she explains.
The plethora of creatives and channels pushes marketers to re-think their craft. “We are no longer talking about user acquisition in the future as we have practiced it in the past,“ Ekaterina says. “It‘s not only about adapting ads to contexts like online and offline; it‘s also about building brand and making the customer happy to interact with your product again and again.“ Achieving this intricate mix of acquisition and retention targets will require a “new kind of marketer,“ she says, one who can understand and orchestrate the complete customer journey. “Each marketer will need to be a generalist and a specialist, able to see the part of the journey they manage, but also understand how that relates to the whole.“

Significantly, the future marketer will not only need to open the aperture of how they view the customer throughout the daily journey. They will also need to be more open about data. In practice, this means adopting new methods and models to make sure everyone has access to the same data and reports.

Currently, Ekaterina explains, it may be the norm for departments to want to protect their data, but this will have to change — fast. “We are approaching the point where we as marketers can no longer grow our businesses based solely on our ability to dive into the data,“ she says. The future marketer will still be data-driven, but they will also need to cultivate a much broader, holistic and strategic view.

“Already many marketing tools are rapidly incorporating machine learning and AI, so we can‘t say we won‘t work with them,“ Ekaterina says. Instead, the conversation needs to shift to how and where teams — marketers and machines — can co-create and collaborate. A starting point is “accepting the fact that AI is able to calculate whatever is computable at a much faster rate than we can.“ Marketers, she adds, will excel where the human touch is needed.

Fortunately, for marketers, that‘s everywhere.


In marketing, a human touch is at the core of what builds great brands and campaigns. “So, we shouldn‘t buy into the scenario that machines are going to replace us and our jobs because they won‘t,“ she argues. On the contrary, the advance of automation will empower the future marketer to define their jobs and decide their destiny. The future marketer will not be defined or limited by the siloes that cut across companies today, because the approach of compartmentalizing the customer journey into acquisition or retention will be obsolete. “With the boundaries down the future marketer will be free to define their job and inspired to experiment, and this is where the excitement starts.“


An industry infused with automation means more inspiration and less frustration, according to Etienne de Guébriant, Head of User Acquisition at Gazeus Games, the largest developer of casual and social games in Brazil. “Today, the way we do UA can be a bit too much — and it can even burn you out if you don‘t have the opportunity to think, express and tap into your inner creativity and judgment,“ he says. “However, these are the traits that the future marketer will be encouraged to cultivate because the competition [for audience] will be so fierce.“

In a world where marketing has become a science, the future marketer will stand out in the crowd by mastering the art of marketing, Etienne says. The science of marketing will be the business of automation. “The rest, doing what it takes to determine the creatives and features that will drive users to love and value the app, will be the work of the future marketer.“ But they won‘t do it in a vacuum. It will be up to marketers to be the maestro conducting the orchestra — choosing the music and selecting the players. “It‘s an art that unites monetization, UA, product and BI, and demands vision to do it effectively,“ he explains. “This is where the future marketer will excel, augmented by AI.“

Right now, AI can do much of the heavy lifting of optimizing campaigns and pinpointing promising channels. As more companies harness automation to get a leg up, the competitive advantage is bound to wane, Etienne warns. That‘s when the work of the future marketer will shine. “Automation will take over many of the decisions around how to allocate budget or which partners I want to work with to promote a certain game,“ he explains. “But AI can‘t make a judgment call on the features a product needs to move people.“ That, he adds, requires a “rich understanding of multiple disciplines, including player psychology, and a deep appreciation for what makes us as humans tick.“

Successful games connect with users, and the future marketer will make the connection by combining product and marketing to make a lasting impression, Etienne explains. “Algorithms are good but they‘re not going to be the game-changer here.“ That accolade will go to the marketers who “mix things up.“ As he sees it, human understanding, emotions, psychology and a dose of common sense are all part of the bigger picture. “Algorithms are not going to factor all this in because they can‘t.“ In fact, algorithms may even inhibit creativity, pigeonholing people based on patterns, predictive intelligence and even bias.


That‘s where it‘s up to the marketer to take the helm – with the help of attribution data that has a pivotal role to play as both the source of truth (proving or disproving approaches and outcomes) and the spark that lights a creative fire. It was a case of the latter earlier this year when Etienne and his team were marketing Buraco (a Rummy-type card game particularly popular in Brazil and Italy), and analyzing all the game metrics to identify “the one event that correlates with getting a high-value user,“ he recalls.

The drudge work of sifting through reams of Excel spreadsheets helped the team narrow all the in-app events down to a list of seven. Testing by the team would decide the winner — but in reality, it was the algorithm that made the call. “AI helped us to select the right event, aligned with the specific game, geo and OS,” he recalls. “And then we let our partner algorithm optimize our campaigns towards the specific event.”

The work was streamlined and the results were off the charts. The CPI was expensive (nearly “five times higher than what we normally would pay”), but the algorithm also showed Gazeus would be able to recoup investment in 60 days, half the average payout window of 120 days for that title. “Computations showed that a 60-day earnout window would be crazy good for us because we have games that have long retention
curves,“ Etienne explains. “We‘re still working with that campaign; it‘s one of the best performing campaigns in my career.“ But the real payoff is the positive outcome when marketers assist the algorithm. “The algorithm is the perfect employee – if you train it properly.“

Both the marketer and the algorithm they help train will only ever be as good as the data and insights they gather. “This is why having an MMP that delivers reliable data is, and will continue to be, critical to marketing,“ Etienne explains. Ekaterina is likewise convinced that tracking is at the core of what algorithms need to excel and what the future marketer needs to make perform.

“How can you improve the product? How can you enhance the experience? Without tracking you can‘t answer these questions,“ Ekaterina explains. Tracking data combines with CRM data to give marketers a comprehensive and strategic view of what it takes to orchestrate the campaigns and channels to engage customers. But even the best answer will never be the final one. “People are always changing. They have interest, they lose interest,“ Ekaterina explains. “That‘s where the future marketer will need a human touch – and the courage to find new ways or attempt what hasn‘t even been considered yet.“


The synergy formed by human and machine, art and science, is what will enable community outreach at scale. In fact, they will allow marketers to scale and develop capabilities to direct campaigns at communities — groups of users defined by interests (not demographics or proximity) that are bound together by a shared culture. This is the view of Will Cady, Head Of Brand Strategy at Reddit, Inc., a massive network of 430 million monthly active users and more than 100,000 digital, interest-based communities (called subreddits).

“In this environment the future marketer will need to understand and appreciate what makes us human,“ Will explains. “But they will also need to form a discipline around how those ideas and ideals graduate and form communities and cultures ... if you‘re going to speak to a culture, then you have to speak in their language and adopt their rituals, otherwise you are going to come across as an outsider and lose trust.“

Fortunately, communities on Reddit open up to brands who make an effort to listen, engage, and speak their language. Reddit’s online communities are driven by shared interests and this translates to 74% of users saying Reddit is the place where they learn about the topics they love most. Enter, an opportunity for brands: driving deep customer connection through understanding.

“Marketing that makes a contribution to the culture that validly enhances their collective experience drives connection and builds trust.“ This is why Reddit puts “community first in our tools and our approach to targeting,“ Will explains. An example of this is an activation Reddit ran with Charles Schwab that targeted a specific community, interacted in an authentic way and showcased the power of listening, he recalls.

“Charles Schwab asked the r/personalfinance community on Reddit a simple question, ‘What are you doing today, to set yourself up for success tomorrow?’ Through community answers and questions, Charles Schwab was able to respond and contribute to the community, drive connection and build trust,” he explains. “They even found that many of those who engaged with the ad took the additional step of going to their website. By approaching Reddit with a prompt that delivered value and relevant conversation, Charles Schwab was able to find success.”

Companies that market to cultures, showing in the actions and advertising that they are aligned with what members value most, are seeing impressive results. “A good instance of this was Welch’s video ad campaign on Reddit,” Will explains. “We worked together to help shift their target audience to Gen X men through an engagement campaign utilizing 6-second, 15-second, and 30-second video ads involving prompts. One of these prompts asked users, 'If you could embellish your current job title to sound crazy tough, what would it be?’ This drove awareness by targeting specific interest groups and communities that fit Gen X men. Redditors were able to respond with witty and funny responses that even praised Welch’s brand and were awarded with upvotes and Reddit gold. By the end, Welch’s saw a 35% lift in brand favorability among males and 94% brand positive sentiment by marketing to culture effectively.”

There are so many tools that allow the future marketer to detect how relevant – and vibrant – cultures are. It starts with measuring the size of communities (which are defined by passions and interests) and the speed at which its ideas and value are spreading. “Ideas don‘t move in an even wave, they hit some cultures before others,“ Will explains. Where there‘s action there‘s an opportunity, and marketers who are tuned into the signals can “identify where the future is happening now.“

Marketers who can detect what is hot or what is not are sitting on a goldmine. “You can adjust your creative to address these communities with messaging they will appreciate, and you can also be part of how opinions and ideas are formed in these communities before they surface to the mainstream,“ Will explains. These communities are addressable on Reddit and building trust with small audiences can have a huge impact. “Do it right and you earn their approval and you have a massive advantage when these ideas reach scale.“


Marketers can identify the components of cultures in their early stages and predict how they will evolve. “Language is a great place to start,“ Will says. What are the words and phrases that dominate public discussion in the community? When are these dialogs happening and what do they tell us about the ebb and flow of sentiment in the community? These are the questions, Will says, we can begin to ask and answer with the help of human intuition and marketing tools. “This enables the future marketer to identify patterns across hundreds and thousands of different communities at a time and find a place, a context and a culture where the brand truly belongs.“