The 2020s got off to a roaring start, igniting a series of new technologies and digital behaviors—and as the tech world and brand marketers careen from one trend to the next, it’s a blessing that we’re making it out of 2023 without a serious case of whiplash. While the past year continued this tradition of disruption, the reigning topic on everyone’s minds—artificial intelligence—is shaping up to have serious staying power, along with many questions still to be answered.
Throughout the year that AI came of age, we’ve earned a significant new achievement of our own: in November, we were named Adweek’s first-ever AI Agency of the Year. Having experimented with the technology for years, both internally and in our work with brands, this moment has reaffirmed our approach to helping brands navigate new opportunities (and challenges) using AI with speed and confidence.
“How you manage existing teams and processes and allow them to adopt, rather than compete with, AI will define success,” says Michael Neveu, Sr. Director ML & AI Solutions. “Rather than looking to maintain the status quo and asking if you have to adopt AI, most brands should be asking themselves how it will be of benefit, and for what.” As the year draws to a close, we’re looking back at how we’ve helped our clients and our own team manage navigate these questions. Want to see the latest that we’ve been up to on all things AI? Check out our freshest AI-related content here.
This is our opportunity to deliver on the original promise of digital: advertising and experiences that are personal, assistive, and highly effective.
We were fast and first in the AI race.
Early in the year, we launched our report, The AI Revolution Will Be Generated, which offers a practical vision of how brands can begin their AI transformation. The report confidently explores the early moves that brands can take using the technology that’s available right now, while also identifying key outcomes as they progress on their journey to AI maturation. This report drew on a variety of experiences, perspectives and existing work from people across the Media.Monks team.
Shortly after its release, we made the annual pilgrimage to Cannes, where we opened shop at Les.Monks Café once again—this time with a full program of AI-related talks and demonstrations. After weeks of sparring with chatbots, nothing beat meeting up with clients and colleagues face-to-face. Catch up on everything we covered at Cannes in our recap.
We gave our people superpowers.
Outside of our AI wins, we were thrilled to have made the list of Newsweek’s Global Most Loved Workplaces 2023—an important milestone to helping our people thrive. This goal continued to take shape through a series of initiatives aimed at upskilling our team to excel in a workplace transformed by AI.
This process began by quickly creating an AI-Core steering committee focused on ensuring that we adopted AI responsibly across the organization. Among the AI-Core are representatives from legal, procurement, infosec, engineering and marketing—a multidisciplinary team whose expertise helped us quickly navigate AI tool risks and selection.
Through the work of the AI-Core, we were able to provide our people unfettered access to the latest models from OpenAI in the form of our own internal large language model tool, MonkGPT. In addition to giving our people a sleek interface and the ability to share, upvote and export high-performing prompts to their colleagues, MonkGPT adds a crucial security layer that safeguards against data leaks or the danger of proprietary information being shared to further train the public model.
Michael Balarezo, our Global VP of Enterprise Automation who led the formation of the AI-Core and development of MonkGPT, says, "LLMs unlock a revolutionary gateway, empowering our teams to explore untapped possibilities and unleash unparalleled productivity. Swift and safe integration of this cutting-edge technology is vital to equip our workforce with the essential skills for embracing AI-powered workflows and transforming our operations."
We tinkered away in collaboration with deep partner relationships.
From highlighting emerging tools to brainstorming new efficiencies across the creative process, people throughout our global team gathered in Slack channels and hackathons to play with emerging tools. This inspired a series of innovation sprints focused on technologies from some of our key partners, including Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Google. These sprints allowed for the development of use cases that cater to brands’ emerging needs—notably, ownership and data security—and an enhanced understanding of commercially available tools. Through experimentation and by nurturing our tech partnerships, our team is now better equipped to build custom-made solutions for clients.
Having gained more hands-on AI experience across our team, we were able to envision a wide range of ways that AI is already transforming marketing workflows. This led to the launch of Generation AI, our second AI-focused report, which we published in collaboration with Salesforce. The report guides daring marketers on their path to amplify human creativity and marketing effectiveness across the full funnel, touching on themes like understanding customer behavior with incredible precision and how to effortlessly build content at scale with AI.
We helped brands set a solid data foundation to build AI solutions upon.
Behind every successful, AI-first company is a strong data foundation, because access to large amounts of data from across business units is a prerequisite to delivering value throughout the enterprise. The need to get one’s data in order has compounded this year with the sunsetting of Google Analytics 360, requiring brands to begin their transition to Google Analytics 4 (GA4). The Data.Monks have been helping brands like St. James’s Place make a smooth transition using a proprietary automation tool that ports over thousands of pages and partner properties within a just a few hours.
Tyler Pietz, Global EVP Data, spoke to Forrester about how CMOs can strategically integrate data across functions to overcome familiar challenges like disorganized data and departmental disconnects. The very same strategy sets brands up for success by unifying data to build a comprehensive understanding of the consumer and train AI models.
If data lives in disparate environments, that leads to low quality. And if we have to spend all our time harmonizing that data rather than using it, we’re wasting time and, consequently, money.
Earlier this year, we launched Blue Sky Thinking with Salesforce Data Cloud, a guide for marketers to understand what sort of features they should assess when looking into a customer data platform—and how one can help bridge the gap between the CMO and CIO. By helping provide a holistic view of what’s happening across the business, solutions like customer data platforms are essential for brands who are eager to invest in AI.
We dove into strategies for optimization and effectiveness.
With data at your fingertips, you can harness AI to optimize the performance of your campaigns or individual assets. We’ve covered a handful of strategies throughout the year, including the development of bespoke tools built for specific client needs. This was the goal behind our work for Philips Domestic Appliances, in which we built an automated tool that identifies key creative elements that drive performance at scale, backed by campaign performance data.
Market mix modeling (MMM) is another approach that our Measurement.Monks have used to help brands better understand the market forces that influence sales. MMM employs advanced algorithms to drive insights for both CMOs and CFOs, speaking growth opportunities across the organization. Co-Founder Michael Cross explored this in more detail on our blog.
For marketers with insights at their disposal, but who are still looking to understand how AI and machine learning fit into their digital advertising and data strategies, look no further than Modeled Value-Based Bidding. Our data experts picked the brain of Drew Whitehead, Predictive Modeling Specialist at Google, in a webinar about the tech, covering how to determine if it’s right for your business and how it can help you draw insights in real time while safeguarding consumer privacy.
Elsewhere on our blog, our media experts have kept a keen eye on other emerging tools from Google—like Performance Max—that may change the way marketing teams optimize discoverability in an age of AI.
We set our sights on delivering new, incredible consumer experiences.
By joining deep data insights with content production in an integrated marketing workflow, brands can leverage AI to enable truly personalized experiences like never before—and ultimately live up to the promise of digital.
We put this thinking to the test with the reveal of Fan-Focused AI Highlights at the 2023 International Broadcasting Convention in Amsterdam. Announced in partnership with AWS and NVIDIA, Fan-Focused AI Highlights is an offering within our software-defined production offering. The proprietary system utilizes AI and machine learning to select highlights from live broadcasts and more effectively distribute custom content highlights to tailored, interest-based audiences.
Our goal is to deliver a more personalized experience for consumers and brands as efficiently as possible.
We leveled up our creative potential.
Did you ever wish you could speak one-on-one with history’s greatest? The Labs.Monks have given influential English playwright and poet William Shakespeare a digital double in the form of Asketh Shakespeare, a virtual Twitch streamer waiting to answer your questions either in verse or ye-olde turns of phrase. Asketh Shakespeare brings together a series of AI innovation—OpenAI’s text-to-speech capabilities, Wav2Lip lip-synch applied to real footage, and a voice clone made possible by ElevenLabs—and offers a look into how individuals and groups alike will be able to converse directly with mascots, characters from entertainment or other high-profile personalities. Learn more about it and dive deep into other creative innovations in our Creative Tech Inspiration series, which also launched this year.
At Amazon re:Invent, we demoed a similar experience, only in person: a moving, talking, interactive animatronic alien that converses with people in natural language. The robot relies on audio transcription to understand people, a large language model for response generation and audio synthesization to talk back. In addition to precise lip-synching, the robot uses eight axes of movement to achieve lifelike expressivity.
In addition to these unique experiences, we’ve also been helping brands overcome traditional production constraints and amplify their creative potential. Group Creative Director Chris Hoffman shared how he and his team have embraced AI in the realm of video and film projects. Meanwhile, our work for HP Omen demonstrates how AI, when joined with virtual production techniques, can scale the ambition of a creative idea. You can read more about the work here.
See how we helped HP Omen amplify the ambition of their back-to-school campaign.
There are other, less obvious ways that AI is making its way into the creative process. Our recently launched report, AR Unleashed, explores how AI-enabled workflows are helping brands quickly build 3D content and spatial experiences—often with little to no coding knowledge involved—as usage of mixed reality headsets continues to grow. AI’s role in 3D content development is a great example of how the technology can help teams adapt to new trends even if they historically lacked the expertise required.
We’re guiding brands on the journey to become AI-first.
Brady Brim-DeForest, CEO Tech Services, met with Fox Business to share more about the persisting role of the human within a creative process augmented by AI. This speaks to a larger theme that he’s explored within our technology services practice and other consultative work: that AI can help turn work into a more human experience by automating away mundane tasks and allowing employees to focus on deep, innovative work. Brim-DeForest shared more on that topic in an article for the Miami Herald.
We know that if we give our people the support and power to work autonomously, while providing a human-centric workplace, they will produce amazing things.
For brands hoping to do the same, Brim-DeForest laid out a step-by-step strategy at Forbes. There, readers can learn more about how to set goals, balance scale against cost savings, address risks and liabilities, and more.
Speaking of reducing risk, Brim-DeForest’s team has launched a service that empowers decision-making by allowing professionals to quickly extract insights from corporate documents. DocRobot is a chatbot capable of answering questions based on data from PDFs that the user shares with it. The bot scrubs sensitive information and encrypts communication in real time, meaning all of your information is safe from being shared with third parties. It solves a critical need that many brands grapple with early in their AI transformation: how to use the tech while maintaining control, ownership and security of proprietary information.
Cheers to 2023!
It's been a fast-moving year, and with the accelerating rate of AI’s evolution, 2024 will probably move even faster. Throughout 2023, we have embraced AI as a powerful tool, helping brands navigate the ever-changing landscape with agility and confidence. These efforts have earned us the title of Adweek's AI Agency of the Year, a testament to our unwavering commitment to harnessing the potential of AI.
But more importantly, it’s helped us guide brands toward similar success in their journey to become AI-first. From establishing strong data foundations for brands, to forging strategic partnerships and seamlessly integrating AI into marketing workflows, we’re continuing to push the boundaries of tech—all with the aim to deliver personalized, assistive, and highly effective advertising and experiences. Here’s to more innovation in 2024!
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