Future with AI is a matter of trust – Interview with Jean-Paul Edwards

Brands today are facing growing pressure on finding ways to better serve customers with their increasing and more personalised demands. Many brands have woken up to this reality and are offering first-stage solutions to overcome these challenges. However, exploiting the new technology will require a leap of faith from the consumer, as many of them are still doubtful about whether or not it is safe to leave our personal information in the hands of an intelligent system.

We interviewed Jean-Paul Edwards, Director of Strategy and Product Development at OMD EMEA, about OMD’s recent research Retail Revolution. The research surveyed over 15,000 consumers across 12 countries to understand their perceptions of and behaviors with Artificial Intelligence in detail.

Edwards is very keen on talking about Artificial Intelligence (AI). The topic first piqued his interest back during his university days, when he wrote his dissertation about AI and understanding languages. Along the years, he has found a number of places where AI could come in handy.

There are three areas of application for AI:

Marketing With AI

Programmatic, CS, Influencer engagement

  • Used to help optimize marketing campaigns
  • Quickly developing
  • Driving great improvement in performance
Marketing Of AI Service Experiences, Campaigns, Voice campaigns
  • Today’s emerging challenge
  • Consumer-facing AI services
  • Key to success in the long term
Marketing To AI SEO, Voice search, VRM
  • The long-term vision
  • Outsourced customer decision making


When regular folks think about AI, robotic refrigerators and streamlined & technology-assisted factory processes are likely to come to their mind. Edwards sees wider opportunities. He would be happy to outsource controlling his son’s blood sugar levels and other tasks to AI to streamline his daily life. After the first hiccups, the amount of options provided for brands by AI is only limited to the marketers’ imagination and capabilities. We have now reached the point where AI-ruled solutions can be scaled to answer every-day consumer challenges like this, which means that marketers should be led by consumer thinking instead of technology.

Retail Revolution acts as the conversation starter. Some brands are already on the edge of Artificial Intelligence and other brands have still not recognized its significance. Today’s shoppers’ demands of ‘VIP Treatment’ can realistically only be served through AI. What we as advertisers can do is to provide them, not only personalized services, but also with information from the study to help them understand the threats and opportunities in their sector. One can outsource media or marketing with AI – which would be naïve – but it should never be done at the cost of the consumer.

OMD’s research, shows that a remarkably big part of Finns still do not have trust towards Artificial Intelligence. Finnish researcher of cognition science Michael Laakasuo has raised discussion about the downsides and threats of AI. According to him, AI does not only perform the functions it has been programmed to. The so-called Artificial Super Intelligence would be able to reprogram and improve itself – the consequence of which can potentially be disastrous.

Jean-Paul Edwards from OMD is aware of this phenomenon and agrees we should not walk into these scenarios naively. “We as the community are a bigger influence than we think and by far the biggest commercial investors in this space are the platforms Google and Facebook who reach 99% of the people with their advertising.” He regards the trust issue important but reminds that we do want AI to serve us as a system that can benefit the economy. Something that can allow us to maximize the efficiency in supply chains and logistics. We should naturally be worried about it but it should not stop us from thinking about AI or get blown away about it.

A number of tools exist that use machine learning technologies to predict needs relevant to the consumer but according to Edwards, the phenomenon evolves less about the personal data itself but more on how the algorithm can be optimized to benefit shared goals and values, such as optimizing your daily dinner plans based on your energy level. In this case, AI can be trusted to give you its best estimate based on your needs.

With AI you could update your suppliers, such as that of electricity, on a regular basis, saving time and money. In the future it might even be possible to deposit all your money on your AI account and let it optimize your whole life, from car leasing to food shopping to children’s pocket money. Naturally, doing this requires a great deal of trust towards the supplier.

A lot of time and effort are invested to the design and building of new projects but there are still many steps to take before the next Alexa can be created. Artificial Intelligence is not magic yet but there are many elements that are like magic. 

To find out more about the actual research, Retail Revolution 2017, you can contact us.