ESOMAR’s AI Forum turned the legendary Heineken brewery in the heart of Amsterdam into an open floor for digging into the present and future of artificial intelligence (AI), understanding its potential without forgetting its limitations and assessing the undeniable impact it will have on the Insights Industry without forgetting the risks associated with its implementation.
The truth is that this location allowed attendees to brew their own thoughts and learn from concrete AI applications from the agency side to the client side and from the work the associations are carrying out globally to the latest legislation countries are implementing. As one speaker said, this area is developing so fast that it is not only hard to keep track of; a one-month-old presentation may well be obsolete by the time it reaches the stage.
The event was divided into two distinct parts: the learning and the discussion.
Insights from industry leaders: AI predictions, cross-cultural strategies, data quality, and regulation
The first included a variety of presentations from industry leaders and expert professionals. How well can synthetic data currently predict opinion? What is the importance of cross-cultural differences when implementing a marketing strategy across borders? What are the consequences of disregarding data quality when training AI models? What do the world’s legislators and policymakers see as the priority to regulate AI? Each of these questions could have justified an event in their own right. In this case, they served as triggers for thought, queries and mindfulness.
The discussion part included round tables where all delegates were invited to share their views on a large variety of AI-related topics. This part of the programme elevated the common wisdom by bringing all views and experiences to the forefront. My table, focused on the pros and cons of AI, yielded such a broad and insightful assessment of the current and future impact of AI that it was hard for me to keep up with taking notes.
The different speakers brought insight and quality and managed to inspire the audience. Ipsos' own development of its proprietary AI-based tool, Ipsos Facto, was a relevant exposition of where the industry ought to go. Tools like ChatGPT are intriguing, but their generalist nature makes them unsuitable for dedicated market research projects. But an AI built with the purpose of generating insights, now that’s a different game. Of course, all presentations will be made available to ESOMAR members through the online repository ANA.
Global AI Regulations: A View from ESOMAR's Claudio Gennaro
ESOMAR’s Claudio Gennaro, from Professional Standards, provided an excellent global overview of the state of regulations, showing how countries from all over the world have started to pay attention to AI and its implications. Last year alone, more than 130 AI-related laws were passed worldwide, with the US, Spain and the Philippines at the top of the list. While not all of these laws necessarily affect the Insights Industry, ESOMAR and other local associations should ensure that when they do, they are implemented within reason to avoid harming the profession.
Safeguarding the Insights Industry
Melanie Courtright from the US Insights Association presented the basic elements any AI system should include to protect the Insights Industry, as well as the individuals. Annelies Verhage from agency Human8 brought a practical case to show the current limitations of synthetic data, just as Heineken presented their own AI exercise applied to a marketing campaign with promising results, as well as valuable lessons. And Kantar brought a sense of sobriety, warning of the dangers of utilising poor data (rubbish in) that would inevitably turn into the extrusion of rubbish as a result.
So, where do we stand today? The current landscape is changing at a speed that is hard to believe and comprehend. The different players in the industry should take positions to ensure that they are not caught off guard when today’s rudimentary tools become tomorrow’s defining edge. And we will see many companies vanishing as their business models simply become obsolete.
Insights will become accessible for a much wider array of companies, which would appreciate having “some” insights rather than “no” insights, even if rudimentary. This will be a fundamental shift in the dynamics of the industry. But while many may fear that the industry will become hopelessly internalised by clients, proprietary AI tools may ensure a firm grip on insights generation from the suppliers.
Naturally, the day ended with a taste of Heineken’s golden product, which brought closure and further networking to a full day of lessons and inspiration. A wonderful day that is now begging for a second part!