July 23, 2021 by Jason Pittock | 12 min reading time

Ever since the beginning of (modern) time, people have been fascinated with the thought of robots that could perform human activities. So, when “Artificial Intelligence” was first coined as a term in 1956 by John McCarthy at the first-ever AI conference at Dartmouth College, people were both fascinated and quite skeptical about the possibility that a machine could actually imitate human thinking and actions. 

We are all still are quite skeptical, to be frank. In between the astonishing advances made in the field of robotics and AI and labeling every fancy tool with “AI” and “ML”, it looks like the market has plenty of room to grow still. 

We’re not even the ones saying this. Gartner is, and they have data to prove it. 

How, more exactly, is Gartner looking at Artificial Intelligence in Ad Tech, in specific? 

We’re here to lift the veil of mystery -- so read on to find out more.

How Did Artificial Intelligence Find Its Way to Marketing and Ad Tech?


AI Marketing uses Artificial Intelligence tools to make decisions based on data collection and analysis. Furthermore, AI can potentially enable marketers to create a highly personalized user experience based on observations of audience or economic trends that may impact
marketing attempts

As AI grew more and more commonly used, it also found its way to marketing. Soon enough, it became an important segment of today’s marketing processes and the way the brands handle their everyday activities and procedures. 

The reason AI grew to be such a big part of marketing? Well, with large sets of data to be processed come great responsibilities -- and a great need for tools that allow marketers to process all that data efficiently. 

In essence, that’s what AI tools and technologies do: they use data, customer profiles, and history behaviors, process it, and then provide essential decisions on how to best communicate with customers and provide them a personalized message at the right time with minimal from the marketing team.

AI technologies

The Gartner Hype Cycle 

The Gartner Hype Cycle uses the graphical characterization of an established pattern that every new technology or innovation will go through in its maturity lifecycle.

Each of the five phases in the Gartner Hype Cycle has its own opportunities, expectations, and risks that every technology or application will face once they reach the global marketplace and worldwide audience. In a nutshell, the Hype Cycle it’s an assemblage of different steps and decisions that will lead any technology to the top of the on-demand list, or they will fall under the pressure of unfounded expectations.

Gartner creates hype cycle adoption curves for different types of technologies. However, the main topic we’ll cover in this article is Artificial Intelligence in marketing and how it is currently going through the third phase of the Gartner Hype Cycle - the trough of disillusionment. 

AI Marketing in the Gartner Hype Cycle

Right now, Artificial Intelligence for marketing is entering the “trough of disillusionment” phase, and judging by our research,  AI in Marketing is still not adopted by marketers and companies all around the world

The reason behind the low adoption of Artificial Intelligence in digital marketing could be a repercussion of the poor enthusiasm shown by marketers.ven though many different companies haven’t reached the high-level maturity in their marketing environment, only a small fraction of companies have needed skills and expertise to embrace AI as an innovative, improved process of reaching a considerable level of digital marketing. 

Some of the more common AI marketing use cases include:

marketing AI use cases
  • Data analysis
  • Natural language processing
  • Media buying
  • Automated decision making
  • Content generation
  • Real-time personalization

Multiple marketing systems are already finding their way into the “new area of Artificial Intelligence in marketing” but that path can take a very long time, and demands a high level of skills and knowledge. 

To understand more about how AI found its way to marketing and what are the phases it had to go through to gain people’s trust, we will go back to the past for a moment, since it all started in the 2000s.

AI in Marketing - The Early Days

The idea of machines or systems to analyze customer’s past behaviors and with those results predict future ways of acting began at Columbia University, by Jussi Karlgren, a Swedish computational linguist. However, it wasn’t until 2003, that Amazon implemented “collaborative filtering” which enabled product recommendations for millions of users. [9] 

Nowadays, you can find AI technologies directed at each individual user (including you) - Facebook suggests “friends you may know”; Spotify or YouTube recommends the music you may like; you don’t know which movie to watch today? - Netflix will recommend ones you will probably find enjoyable. How do they do that? Using Machine Learning, of course. 

Even though AI technologies had been a significant part of our daily lives for a long time before they arrived in marketing, it took them years to become trustworthy systems and with that assure great investments and implementations in many different fields. 

As time went by, the global media “took over the world”, companies started facing a large amount of data, and AI came in as a perfect solution to connect with an enormous number of new customers that were increasing every day.

With the massive amount of new challenges for global companies that seemed to only grow with every year, Artificial Intelligence made marketing processes simpler, smarter, and most importantly, more efficient.

That particular year was the breakthrough of AI as it represented the intelligence-based ad buying and with that the manual labor was decreased; researching target markets, audience, budgets and many other analytics processes became the prior job of AI tools.

AI Marketing: A HistoryThrough Gartner’s Hype Cycle 

In 2018, Gartner released their annual Hype Cycle for digital marketing and at that moment Artificial Intelligence in Marketing was in the first phase - Innovation Trigger.
Three years ago, as stories about AI being used in marketing flooded the landscape, the idea became tempting for many marketers. As such, the expectations on what AI can offer to marketers increased and the whole topic gained a significant level of interest. 

In 2019, in the Gartner Hype Cycle, Marketing Artificial Intelligence happened to be at the top of Gartner’s diagram - The Peak of Inflated Expectations phase. 

Yet, the hype was short-lived. High expectations, combined with chaos led to a critical moment in the evolution of marketing AI. That was the moment AI developers had to face the reality of high demands, and they had to provide validated and worthy tools and technologies that would justify the whole “chaos” that they induced.  

In 2020, AI Marketing entered the “Trough of Disillusionment” phase. However, that does not mean that Artificial Intelligence in Marketing is slowly “dying”, quite the opposite. 

The world’s economy has been enormously shaken by the pandemic of COVID-19, but it seems that AI technologies haven’t been much affected.  According to a Gartner poll, since the start of the pandemic, 47% of Artificial Intelligence investments have remained unchanged and 30% of companies are actually planning to increase investments in AI. AI investments were temporarily suspended in only 16% of cases, and just 7% of companies decided to decrease them. 

These statistics showcase that, despite the fact that AI in marketing is entering the “risky” phase, AI systems are starting to empower their capabilities and present their potential in full capacity.  

One of the reasons that kept AI at the top of its game is that Artificial Intelligence systems came to the rescue in these challenging and hard times. For exampleChatbots helped answer the enormous numbers of questions related to the world's pandemic. Moreover, computer vision came in handy in maintaining social distancing. Last, but definitely not least, Machine Learning (ML) models were crucial for modeling the effects of reopening economies. 

“If AI as a general concept was positioned on this year’s Gartner Hype Cycle, it would be rolling off the Peak of Inflated Expectations. By that we mean that AI is starting to deliver on its potential and its benefits for businesses are becoming a reality,” says Svetlana Sicular, VP Analyst, Gartner. 

AI technologies offer a wide set of tools that can change the way marketing works nowadays. Every specific system/tool that was developed with Artificial Intelligence has a great impact on marketing and the way marketers do their daily activities. At the same time, all of these applications play different roles in improving the customer experience - some tools are great for re-engaging past customers and some of them are used to attract new users.

The wide range and ever-growing of AI capabilities can construct AI as the “future of modern marketing”.

There’s a good reason why Artificial Intelligence in marketing is faced with democratization- which means that AI is no longer the exclusive subject matter of experts and that might be a reason that currently places it in the Trough of Disillusionment. 

Organizations that adopted AI technologies in their early years (Amazon, Google, Apple, Facebook, etc.) want to reach the next step by representing the AI power to more people - business partners and executives, salespeople, assembly line workers, application developers, IT operations professionals and many others. 

AI experts came to the point where they need new implementations and tools that will be represented to a wider audience, not only the world’s famous companies. However, on the one hand, many organizations are not even close to reaching a high-maturity level in marketing conditions, as they don’t have the skills and expertise to adopt and implement AI systems as their “everyday team member”. 

Artificial Intelligence has the potential to become a “future of everyday marketing activities” if it succeeds in overcoming the collapse of previously established high expectations.

What are their odds? Here is what experts say.

Predictions and Trends for AI Marketing

Even though Artificial Intelligence is still predominantly new to marketing fields, experts expect AI only to grow in popularity and usage in the years ahead of us. 

What is kept consistent from 2018 to 2020 is the fact that Gartner experts predict that AI in marketing is going to reach the final, fifth phase “Plateau of Productivity” in 5 to 10 years - by 2022. Gartner believes that AI will replace 33% of data analysts in marketing. 

The potential and benefits of using in marketing will be even more acknowledged and validated than before - in 2016. approximately $30 billion were invested in AI.
On top of that, according to Gartner, more than 40% of data analytics tasks will be handled by Artificial Intelligence. 

What is considered the elephant in the room” is the fact that as AI grows, it constantly affects the reduction of needed human labor in marketing team rows.
As the new clever machines are becoming a new normal of marketing processes, there is an unpleasant question - What will happen to the marketing workforce if daily tasks and duties take over the Artificial Intelligence systems? 

One thing is for sure - Marketing experts will be put under pressure to demonstrate and leverage solutions that AI delivered and guide funds towards successful campaigns. 

A great number of companies are planning to leverage AI systems and tools in the next few years, which means that the ones who do not plan on adopting a “new marketing system” will no longer be as competitive in the dynamic and brutal marketing global marketplace. 

Is AI in Marketing the Right Decision for Your Company?

If you are involved in a company's marketing strategies, and you are constantly faced with countless reviewing and deciding which technology is the most applicable to your organization, then you must have come across a debate with your colleagues whether Artificial Intelligence is the right choice for your team or not.

Despite the fact that AI is still growing in popularity, its potential may still be quite a mystery in the eyes of mankind, there is one thing we can count on: the ability of Artificial Intelligence to change the way businesses work around the world.

AI tools give marketers a whole set of opportunities and possible operations with less manual work and intellectual efforts. Machines can help us process Big Data, find meaningful insights and even better solutions, they can spot and predict trends, they can personalize customer experience and help us get better at understanding customers, they can curate our content, process language, automate decision making and, ahem, cough, cough, they can *almost* communicate in a very human-like way.

We're still pretty far off from a world of robot maids and AI teachers in schools, but the future's pretty bright in many AI ways.

So, to close this piece with a very important question: are all Marketing AI tools worthy of your attention? 

Well, we’d like to give everyone a chance. But the truth is that, at least in some areas of marketing, Artificial Intelligence-based tools are either mere marketing buzzwords (i.e. they are not actual AIs) or insufficient. PPC optimization is one of those areas, and we have discussed this here. 

Other than this specific use case, though, AI might be a great way to maximize your marketing potential. It might not be perfect (yet!), but it might very well be on its way to becoming an integral part of everyday marketing activities in businesses large and small. 

Truth be told, only the future can tell where AI is going (and if it will continue to be used in Ad Tech and marketing)

We’re grabbing our popcorn to watch it all unveil!

Want to learn more about Ad Tech in Gartner's Hype Cycle? Check out the other two articles in this series, on Conversational Marketing and Shoppable Media! 😉

Jason is the CMO @ ClickGUARD. He is passionate about all things PPC, SEO and has extensive customer acquisition experience. When not writing about SEM he can be found surfing the wildest ocean waves of the South American coast.