Q&A: Deepika Nikhilender – Senior Vice President at Xaxis Asia Pacific

Deepika Nikhilender

We recently caught up with Deepika Nikhilender, Senior Vice President for the APAC region at Xaxis, GroupM’s programmatic media arm, to dive into the role of AI in advertising.

As ad-tech has advanced the role of AI has become substantially more important as it’s been utilized in predicting bidding strategies for specific outcomes, identifying the right creative for specific demographics, and helping advertisers reach the right people, at the right times, with the right messages.

Over the course of our conversation, Nikhilender dives into a changing future, the balance that must exist between big data and creativity, and AI’s reliance on a human element. She also shares her thoughts on the increasingly important issue of user privacy.

 
 

What does the future look like for AI in the advertising industry?

AI has and will continue to impact the world of advertising in such powerful ways that it will be difficult to imagine our jobs without it. It will transform experiences, simplify tasks, influence decisions and choices and expand the capabilities and limits of humans.

“There are various solutions to address a future without third-party tracking, which is everything from IDs, alternative identities, cohorts, publisher identities, and first-party data strategies.”

Amongst the several beneficial outcomes of AI in the advertising industry would be the ability to personalize for all consumers. AI picks up consumer insights and ongoing trends to deliver a customized ad or content that will speak to that particular consumer at the right time, therefore maximizing the effectiveness of advertising campaigns.

 
 

Big data has become increasingly important in targeting consumers. How do advertisers balance creativity with a reliance on metrics?

One of the greatest misconceptions about big data is that it hampers creative usage. On the contrary, advertisers can channel their time and efforts into developing a compelling creative that resonates with their target audience with concrete facts and figures.

Many opportunities are created because of the sheer amount of data generated by platforms and technologies through emails, social, search, campaigns, IOT, and transactions.

“AI gains insights from data, makes thousands of data-driven decisions behind the scenes, and turns these decisions into outcomes that matter to advertisers.”

Creativity with a focus on achieving impact, influence, and effectiveness will continue to be critical. It is an essential factor in achieving business outcomes.

The balance between creativity and measurement is essential to ensure we build messages connecting with our audience, while metrics should measure what matters.

In a similar vein, how is AI balanced with a human element? Do we need it to be or do you see a future where the machines take over completely?

AI may attempt to close in on human intelligence, but it is important to note that AI, without humans can make ineffective decisions. It is the human who brings the understanding of nuances that facilitates AI to achieve an optimal outcome. Humans have a superior ability to focus on the strategy while the AI on delivery.

Therefore, not all tasks can be taken over by the machines completely.

When human interventions happen in parallel, AI can work even more intelligently. Humans can adopt the strategies that allow the machine to learn.

AI is dependent on gathering vast amounts of data, yet in doing so that seems to raise the issue of intrusion of privacy. What do you think about the issue and what, if anything, will be done to protect user’s privacy moving forward?

While AI is dependent on large volumes of data to learn from, it does not have to be from data that is intrusive or disregards privacy or governance in any way. There are so many ways in which signals can be gathered to learn from and derive learnings from.

For example, first-party data or zero-party data. The former only monitors information about user behaviors and activities on a site itself, while the latter is made up of data voluntarily contributed by consumers, such as a site’s online form, where visitors fill up their details and their purchasing goals.

These data are sufficient to churn out information to understand customers better.

Much has been said about the end of cookies. It’s been said that marketers who fill the role of cookies with predictive customer behavior data and AI will succeed. What’s your opinion on that?

Digital advertising isn’t just about cookies. It’s about decisioning, about having the right data points that are gathered, understood, and optimized for by the right people using the best available technologies — and inventing new ones.

That being said, there are two big questions on every marketer’s mind regarding a cookieless future. Where are we going to get the data to fill the sudden vacuum? And how are we going to work with that data responsibly?

There are various solutions to address a future without third-party tracking, which is everything from IDs, alternative identities, cohorts, publisher identities, and first-party data strategies.

Right from the start, our AI technology, Copilot, has never been reliant on cookies and it’s actually going to be extremely sustainable for the cookieless future. The adoption of AI is the biggest commercial opportunity and the underlying force powering all our change, innovation, and talent for the next decade and beyond.

AI gains insights from data, makes thousands of data-driven decisions behind the scenes, and turns these decisions into outcomes that matter to advertisers. It is a means to achieving outcomes and maximizing the effectiveness and efficiency of digital investments. It relies on the client’s data, the platform data and we’d be doing this with responsibility. It’s privacy by design.

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