In 2017, online gift retailer RedBallon’s marketing team started working with “Albert”, a digital marketing platform powered by artificial intelligence (AI). Working across Facebook, Google, YouTube and other paid and earned media channels, Albert autonomously targets audiences, mixes and matches creative assets, buys media, runs campaigns, measures performance, applies insights from one channel to another, and then makes adjustments based on what “he” learns to optimize the return on marketing investment.

With Albert’s help, the total cost of customer acquisition across channels for RedBalloon was reduced by 25% in less than one month. He also relieved the marketing team of many of the manual and process-driven tasks they’d been doing.

The time they were spending manually executing search campaigns, researching keywords, or altering social media audiences was redirected to more strategic activities, such as devising campaigns that targeted niche, high value, and previously ignored audiences uncovered by Albert. The AI was finding new audiences that the company had never even considered, debunking many of the long-held beliefs RedBalloon had about their audiences and the effectiveness of their campaigns.

When Naomi Simson founded RedBalloon, an online gift retailer that sells personal experiences, she was pioneering the category in Australia. With a $25,000 personal investment and a small office in her home, she began aggregating sales leads and aggressively acquiring customers through very traditional marketing means — like yellow page advertisements.

It was 2001, and  online advertising was at its nascent stage. Internet Explorer was the leading Internet browser and Google AdWords had only just recently launched. Read more from hbr.org…

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