If the last few months have taught us anything, it’s that predictions, more often than not, are incorrect. With that simple statement, I turn my attention to 2017 and what may or may not happen.
Looking into next year is like looking into a foggy crystal ball—everything’s a little murky, but you have an idea of where things are headed.
The biggest topic of 2017 is artificial intelligence (AI). Everyone from Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk to Tom Cruise and Kanye West are talking about AI—and the large enterprise-software companies are launching products to automate various processes with machine learning.
AI is the logical next step as we evolve from a pure, “big data” conversation into one of data mined for specific use cases. It’s not about simply uncovering the signal from the noise, but about tapping that signal to transform it from an observation into an action in real time, with minimal to no human intervention.
The good thing is the creation of these tools generates jobs and the processes they improve are ones that open up time in a real person’s role to enable more strategic work.
This step in AI development, as it relates to our industry, is about optimization and matching people to offers or people to messages, which are likely to resonate. It’s not about replacing a role as much as it is about improving it—a necessary and welcome evolution in the digital media landscape.
As programmatic continues to grow, AI becomes increasingly important. Estimates have the programmatic space between $15B to $30B in spending over the next couple of years. More intelligent programmatic will be driven as a result of AI and its impact will start to bleed into other areas of the digital media landscape.
It won’t happen in 2017, but 2018 and beyond will absolutely be affected. TV media will see the impact of AI, and so will creative messaging.
With the shift to AI-driven automation comes the opportunity for even more consolidation. My prediction is we won’t see any new “unicorns” emerge in ad tech or marketing tech in 2017, except for those created through consolidation. I don’t think start-ups are going to have the weight to battle in an environment with the big companies and the fear of instability. They will rarely have enough runways to invest in this area and see results in time.
That being said, it won’t simply be the big companies gobbling up the little ones. I expect to see more strategic mergers that strengthen two parties vs. a one-sided acquisition mentality. This creates more competition and therefore innovation. New conglomerates of offerings could emerge with unlikely sources of that consolidation happening. We already see that from China and telco was huge in 2016. Where then is the next big money source and the strategy coming from?
So, with all that said, I cross my fingers and hope for a great 2017 for you, your business, your friends and your family. Work hard to achieve success and wish for a little luck along the way.
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