Going in Blind – lack of transparency in AI media buying platforms

Published: June 12, 2023

min read

Marketers today are forced to use AI-powered media buying on platforms while being skeptical if AI truly does what is best for the campaign goal. They are constantly faced with the question if digital advertising truly delivers as promised by Google, Meta, etc.

Now with AI in the mix, the question is popping up all over again.

Marketers are concerned that they must trust AI with their most valuable data but they have no control over how their campaign goals must be met.

Today, several platforms and ad tools use AI to handle several aspects and facets of campaign management. Everything from budget allocation to targeting is done by AI. And everyone from Google’s Performance Max, Meta’s Advantage+, and even TikTok’s Smart Performance Campaigns (SPC) use AI.

The marketer only shares the data, the assets and the campaign parameters with the AI, which then takes over the whole process of optimization. They don’t know how it works. But it does – and they don’t know how!

Trust is the main issue. How can you know if the AI is doing the best that it can, for the campaign to achieve its goal?

Google has announced several features that increase transparency. Not as much as marketers and advertisers would like, but it is a step in the right direction. But with the emergence of TikTok’s SPC, marketers are skeptical all over again.

TikTok’s SPC started to prioritize engagement at the expense of conversions. This was picked up by Ignacio Vanzini, founder of TikTok and Facebook specialist agency 598 Los Angeles. He saw that the AI algorithms were not doing a great job of choosing and optimizing the most suitable ad creatives. So he scrapped the SPC campaigns and used the AI tool Mid Journey instead, to develop higher performing creatives. The result was four to five times higher conversion rates.

Normally, in a perfect situation, he might have just had to look at the algorithm closely and figure out why it was doing that and tweak it. But here, he had no idea what was going on because of the lack of transparency surrounding the AI system.

And he is not alone.

Marketers don’t know what is or isn’t working and why! And so they find themselves working around the situation where they want full visibility and control over the workings of these AI tools.

Marketers and Blind Spots

This is truly a tricky situation.

How does a marketer handle this? Trust the AI-powered platform with all the valuable customer data, and the campaign goals along with all the various attributes of a campaign, and then accept it blindly?

How can they blindly accept whatever the AI-powered system sees fit?

But then what choice do they have? Aren’t things only going to head this way and get stronger? More and more AI and less and less visibility?

Various platforms see the stalemate that marketers are stuck in and are trying to offer more visibility – but so far, there hasn’t really been any satisfactory outcome.

Marketers are used to having a lot more control, visibility and accountability. It might appear that AI is making things easier for them on the surface, but in reality it isn’t – not really at all.

This stalemate will ease eventually. But until then, marketers must not stop trusting their wherewithal and their knowhow. While marketers need to adapt to the changing times – the whole advertising process might be automated sooner or later – they need to know what attributes to track and what to monitor and what all the results indicate.

And unless they do that, they will see marketing campaigns that are not effective in achieving what the marketer intended. The messaging might reach the wrong audience or the goal of the messaging might be different. Either way, it is a waste of ad dollars. And when campaigns don’t achieve their goals, it affects the brand and its strength.

Marketers need to keep their wits about them, in this situation, and not trust the system completely. They have to watch and track and monitor and trust their instinct if they feel that things aren’t going the way they had hoped.

And until transparency comes, this is the only way forward.


Bill Walker

Bill is a marketing strategist who believes in the power of storytelling. He's known for his creativity, wit, and ability to connect with audiences across all channels. When he's not crafting marketing campaigns, you can find him hiking in the mountains or reading a good book.


Be the first one to comment.

Follow Us

Related Articles

Recent posts

The subscriber's email address.