The Trade Desk, like so many ad tech players, has used machine learning—which is often considered a synonym for AI—in its ad products for years. In 2018, The Trade Desk released the first version of Koa AI, which is a tool that helps ad buyers sort through billions of ad impressions online every second and decide which ones to buy and how much to bid. The Trade Desk said that Kokai will infuse AI capabilities across more parts of its ad products.
Advertisers have seen an uptick of AI tools in ad tech for years, and there is renewed interest in the technology since OpenAI’s ChatGPT brought generative AI to mainstream consumers earlier this year. Since then, tech platforms have been scrambling to launch new products that tout the benefits of AI.
More on AI: How the Girl Scouts uses the tech tool
Programmatic ads and AI
The Trade Desk is competing with Amazon, Google, Meta and others to offer automated ad products that take over some of the tasks related to buying programmatic ads. Last month, Google made AI a core part of Google Marketing Live, its annual advertising conference.
“Forms of AI have been in place inside of DSPs for a while,” said Joanna O’Connell, an independent research analyst. “AI has infiltrated advertising.”
“Platforms have to evolve their offerings,” O’Connell said, which explains The Trade Desk’s AI updates. It’s important for agencies and brands to understand the new ways that AI is being deployed, however, O’Connell said.
The Trade Desk is trying to explain all the ways AI fits into its programmatic platform. The company designed what it called a “programmatic table of advertising elements,” which is supposed to break down the component parts of an ad campaign, such as the audience, data sets, creative, media channels and measurement.
The Trade Desk released an early concept for the programmatic table, which resembled the periodic table of elements. The design was supposed to be a representation of what advertisers will see in the new-look buying portal. The Trade Desk still had some design work to do on the table before it would be released as the user experience for the programmatic ad buyers on its platform.
In its announcement, The Trade Desk described how AI would factor more into connected TV and retail media ad campaigns, which are another two hot topics in advertising. The Trade Desk announced that Walgreens Advertising Group and Albertsons Media Collective were early launch partners, but the company works closely with a number of other retailers. For instance, Walmart works with The Trade Desk to run its demand-side platform.
AI already plays a significant role in programmatic advertising on connected TVs, according to said Jeff Fagel, chief marketing officer at Madhive, which runs a demand-side platform that uses machine learning. “Programmatic advertising moves fast,” Fagel said, “you have a tenth of a second to make a decision. This requires synthesizing troves of data, gauging available audiences and, ultimately, predicting outcomes. Before AI and machine learning, these analytics weren’t possible.”
Advertisers are looking for transparency around AI, O’Connell said. With the interest in AI, ad agencies and brands are starting to consider how it affects their campaigns, such as when and how these models are applied, O’Connell said. In Kokai, The Trade Desk will disclose when AI was used to enhance audience data.
Meanwhile, the Association of National Advertisers released an update to its guidance for agencies, advising that they account for AI in contracts. “An agency must obtain the advertiser’s prior consent to use any artificial intelligence applications in the delivery of services,” the ANA wrote in its advisory note about ad contracts.