water balloon burst in a boy's face
The AI bubble could burst because it is becoming severely overhyped. PHOTO: Matthias Zomer

The history of artificial intelligence AI wouldn’t be complete without talking about the time in the late 1970’s when funding and research for AI stalled significantly in what came to be known as the “AI Winter."

This is certainly not a story that’s often discussed or even known by many in our industry today, considering our current “AI Everything” obsession.

2017 will probably come to be known as the “AI Summer.”

Dispelling AI Myths

The problem when you affix everything you do with an AI label, due to a sudden obsession with AI Everything, is that you diminish the inherent advancements that have been made with AI — and still need to be made.

Let me explain in the analogous context of cleantech — products or services that improve operational performance, productivity, or efficiency while reducing waste.

There was a time when the smartest folks on Sand Hill Road — the place in Menlo Park, Calif. notable for its concentration of venture capital companies — thought cleantech was sure to be the next big thing.

Venture dollars into the sector were growing by leaps and bounds year over year. Today, of course, cleantech is almost a forbidden word on Sand Hill.

Cleantech found itself on the way out among VCs because it got badly overhyped.

AI is heading for this very same trajectory if we’re not careful.

AI Innovations

There are countless innovations being made via pure AI, such as autonomous vehicles, self-healing circuits, better-than-human game-playing, generative design, to name a few.

Thankfully, none of them overtly tout that they’re AI-powered. They don’t need to.

With regard to the AdTech industry specifically, statistical machine learning applied to big data and analytics is creating huge efficiencies. Yet in nearly every instance this is being mislabeled as AI as marketing departments look for ways to create buzz for their organizations.

We’re at a critical juncture in AdTech where we need to separate the signal from the noise around AI, lest we stifle true innovation and investment in our field which often gets lost in the noise.

The harsh truth is that there is no real AI application in AdTech at the moment. Maybe in a few years, but right now there’s no good example of pure AI at play.

No AI-Powered Ad Tools

Facebook, Google, Amazon and Microsoft all have amazing AI teams, but none of them have released any AI-powered advertising tools.

Certainly, it will only be a matter of time before they do. AI can revolutionize creative and media planning to understand what creative messaging works best, find the optimal strategy and channels to reach the right audience; voice-driven search that understands user intent, among a myriad of other advertising-centric applications.

As with autonomous vehicles, if the underlying application of AI is innovative enough, solves a big enough problem and delivers on its promise, you won’t need a “powered by AI” qualifier. It will be able to stand on its own merits.

The next decade will be the one where the real value is created in AdTech through the use and application of AI technologies. I, for one, plan to be diligent and focused on delivering substance over sizzle, and I hope you will too.