Q&A: Sapna Chadha – ‘We See AI Designed to Supercharge Agencies and Advertisers’ Capabilities’

Sapna is Vice President, Southeast Asia and South Asia Frontier, Google Asia Pacific.

It’s no breaking news flash to say that AI is all the rage as organizations large and small look to board the AI train before it leaves the station. Or, as is often the case, before it leaves the next station or the next generative station beyond that.

While much of what AI can fully offer and what its final destination will be is still within the realm of speculation, the data is starting to offer some insight into how marketers are benefiting from integrating AI into their strategies.

According to a recent Think With Google visual story, 70% of companies have seen a revenue increase, and 28% have enjoyed cost reductions. The analysis goes on to forecast that by 2030 80% of marketing will be Al augmented.


 

To get more insight into where we’re at and where we are going, we recently caught up with Sapna Chadha, Vice President, Southeast Asia and South Asia Frontier, Google Asia Pacific.

Over the course of our conversation, she talks about how AI and traditional advertising methods are evolving, the ways that Google AI is growing customer connections and engagement for brands, how AI will affect the world’s workforce, advice for young marketers or creatives preparing to enter the job market, and more.


Can you talk about some of the ways that Google Al is currently growing customer connections and engagement for brands?

We know that people’s purchase decisions and motivations are becoming more complex, dynamic and nuanced. The best way to improve customer connections – and in turn conversions – is by maximizing the value of your existing customer base. With Google AI, businesses can analyze complex customer journeys, predict new demand, as well as generate and deliver tailored ads in real-time.

Performance Max (PMax) as one of our examples of AI applied to our advertising tools to help advertisers and businesses create high-quality ads that deliver the right message to the right customer at the right time. For example, an advertiser can tell us their business objectives, share their first party data signals and creative assets.


 

Google AI will then run the most effective campaign across all of Google’s properties and Display. We had Scoot, a low-cost carrier based in Singapore, share at our recent event that PMax has helped improve their conversions by up to 60% while maintaining the same CPA as their search campaigns.

“We see AI designed to supercharge agencies and advertisers’ capabilities and give them the ability to ideate much quicker and reach their audience at scale – something that traditional advertising, devoid of the help of AI, may be lacking.”

Additionally, with the upcoming addition of generative AI in Performance Max, all an advertiser has to do is provide their website and our AI will start learning about the brand, pulling details like product descriptions and logo. Now advertisers will be able more easily generate professional grade creatives across YouTube, Display, and Search just by entering their website.

With the rise of AI, how do you see traditional advertising methods evolving? What role will AI play in shaping the future of advertising agencies?

With the boost of AI, advertisers can achieve a multitude of goals, such as optimizing the way that ads show up to audiences and increasing discoverability online.

We see AI designed to supercharge agencies and advertisers’ capabilities and give them the ability to ideate much quicker and reach their audience at scale – something that traditional advertising, devoid of the help of AI, may be lacking. Ultimately, I believe it’s a tool to help drive creativity and efficiency on top of existing strategies.

Strategists, Creatives, Copywriters…etc, will take on higher level, strategic roles and let AI be part of the creative process where they generate the ‘first thought ideas’. This includes programmatic advertising and media buying too. Where there is opportunity to leverage AI-driven content, as a marketer or an advertiser you must be able to strategise or think about how best to leverage the AI tool for optimal output.

A recent Google visual story said that AI “may be the engine driving growth and profits, but it is you who is in the driver’s seat.” There is concern that AI will phase out jobs, and people are worried that this will lead to fewer “driver’s seats.” Can you talk about these concerns?

Technology has a huge impact on people’s lives, and there’s no doubt that jobs will shift and evolve – as they always have. Even in marketing, platforms such as social media were considered a new frontier just over a decade ago, giving way to a new sub-section in the digital marketing industry.

“There are a lot of conversations around AI upskilling because the reality is that AI will not just affect marketers and creatives, soon enough, AI skills will be required across all industries.”

The future of AI that I imagine is a thoughtful one that integrates the capabilities of AI into the workplace and enhances people’s skills, rather than replacing them. More and more, this type of human-AI collaboration will become the norm. That said, I would still encourage everyone to at least learn the basics of AI to stay relevant and know how best to implement AI solutions to their advantage.

Tell us more about Google AI and its use for creative assets and how brands can maximize effectiveness.

At our recent Google Marketing Live 2023, we announced new generative AI innovations for our ads and commerce solutions including new capabilities in Performance Max.

Just by providing their website in Performance Max, AI can learn about the brand through pulling details like product descriptions and logo and automatically create studio grade creatives across YouTube, Display, and Search.

The more details that a brand provides through uploading high-quality variations of text and visual assets, the more information that AI can use to mix and match a variety of assets to find the best-performing combination for each customer. Ad strength and asset performance ratings are also available for brands to evaluate the quality of the assets, and identify new opportunities to improve. This all results in personalized and meaningful ads that are more likely to convert audiences into customers.

“The more details that a brand provides through uploading high-quality variations of text and visual assets, the more information that AI can use to mix and match a variety of assets to find the best-performing combination for each customer.”

Can you share some of your favorite visual work from campaigns created with Google AI?

I’m personally glad to see how companies are experimenting and being open in tapping on AI to help achieve business goals. Two examples from Thailand come to mind in creating effective and innovative creatives:

We recently have been working with Lazada who was keen to launch its new beauty sub-brand in Thailand and wanted to increase brand consideration among the younger female demographics. Using tools like Google’s Ads Creative Studio, Lazada provided a diverse and unique selection of creative assets. This then allowed Google AI to mix and match, creating quality combinations optimizing for the best results. The result of these targeted creatives, powered by Google AI led to a 3X Higher Clickthrough rate (CTR) and 15% Higher View Through Rate (VTR).



Another example is with Agoda – an online travel marketplace. We’re currently partnering with them to explore a new AI-powered web application, Travel Planner, with the aim to make trip planning such a fun and effortless experience for its users. This includes a chatbot-based web application that generates personalized travel itineraries through conversational exchanges with travelers about their travel interests and preferences.

In terms of education and skills, how are academia and the industry reacting to the growth in AI-related careers and what advice do you have for young marketers or creatives preparing to enter the job market?

There are a lot of conversations around AI upskilling because the reality is that AI will not just affect marketers and creatives, soon enough, AI skills will be required across all industries. Technology moves fast and we don’t have all the answers yet, but we should work hard to make sure that every step we take is a responsible move in the right direction. I’ll share two points, which I think applies to all of us, including young marketers and creatives.

“Technology moves fast and we don’t have all the answers yet, but we should work hard to make sure that every step we take is a responsible move in the right direction.”

First, build the right foundation. Keep yourself updated and that involves a lot of reading — the news, articles by tech leaders, content that provides you with knowledge and information that helps you do better at your job. I personally found Google Cloud’s free introductory courses a good resource to help individuals learn the fundamentals of Gen AI and how it differs from traditional ML methods. Content is bite-sized and easy to follow, lowering the barrier for people to learn. On a personal level, I’m also learning new and diverse perspectives on AI through resources which are readily available online.

I’ve been reading stories from The NeuronHarvard Business Review, and Benedict Evans (an independent tech analyst) that provide perspectives on AI trends and tools.

I also found the podcast episode on AI by Scott Galloway, a professor at NYU, quite insightful.

Second, being bold, creative and curious. It’s what our teams strive towards in our approach to AI and just about any project, and I would encourage young marketers to consider too, as you enter a new space that is constantly evolving. A good starting point would be to think about three questions:

  • Are you bold enough to think expansively about how AI can help not just your marketing but your entire business?
  • Are you creative enough to see beyond precision in your marketing and uncover possibilities to emotionally connect with customers?
  • Are you curious enough to be the student today so you can lead your organization to an AI transformation as a teacher tomorrow?

What are some best practices for organizations to use AI responsibly while meeting their marketing objectives?

Our AI-driven marketing solutions have been built with AI Principles at their core, which is our ethical charter which informs our policies. Developed with over a decade of AI research under our belt, here are three guiding principles that advertisers might find helpful in their own approach towards AI –

  1. Be socially beneficial – Make sure that your use of AI benefits people, society and importantly your customers, substantially exceeding the foreseeable risks and downsides.
  2. Avoid creating or reinforcing unfair bias – Ensure that your marketing campaign is inclusive, so as to avoid unjust impacts on people, particularly those related to sensitive characteristics.
  3. Incorporate privacy design principles – As user privacy becomes increasingly important, ensure that privacy safeguards are embedded in architectures, providing appropriate transparency and control over the use of data.

 

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