By Nicholas Upton


Markus Spiske

Just about every marketer knows the joy of tweaking and testing online ads. It’s a matter of changing one word here, moving a button there and moving on to the next test. At a small scale, it’s manageable, but when a company is running dozens or campaigns and hundreds or thousands of ads, it can become an incredible slog through digital minutia. 

But a digital marketing company in the franchise space is now testing artificial intelligence (AI) to plow through that arduous task without human interaction. 

Vectra Digital Chief Digital Officer Harrison Ambs said he, like everyone, has seen AI and machine learning grow rapidly, but not for everyone. 

“The Dells and Microsoft’s and Fords, they can afford this kind of thing,” said Ambs. “But what we’re finding is that these tools they don’t really fit the franchise model.” 

That’s because even if a large franchisor can rationalize the cost of AI, it doesn’t mesh with franchisees, who require different tactics. The franchisor typically does brand advertising whereas the franchisee wants sales and traffic. That means campaigns for branding at the franchisor level, awareness campaigns for new locations at the market level and conversion campaigns for individual locations at the ZIP code level. That can quickly become thousands and thousands of ads each with different objectives. 

But Ambs said an AI tool created by Vectra dubbed ADA can help at the franchisee side at least, where ads are directly correlated to revenue. 

“It analyzes spend, analyzes copy, it develops its own copy. We put in new keywords phrases and headlines and it will put out individual ads and analyze what is and isn’t performing and looks across locations,” said Ambs. 

And it can find those location-by-location differences and hone in on what works. 

“ADA can look at budget allocation, during the day you have lunch and dinner locations but every location will be different not just time zones but areas,” said Ambs. “If you’re near a bunch of lawyers they might not eat until 10 p.m., so she looks at time of day too.” 

He said that’s all stuff Ambs does for franchised brands already, but those location-specific differences ad even more work to that poor junior marketer staring at keywords and analytics all day. 

“It’s using the same techniques that we were already doing. I can’t look at it and see a 200 percent increase in ROI, but it just does these things faster,” said Ambs. 

As the promise of automation is anywhere, passing it off to the AI means marketers can actually do things only humans can do. 

“For example, we have a test brand that we’re managing for corporate marketing and a dozen franchisees. One of the franchisees had a store in Chicago that was near a large Hispanic population. So we tested a Hispanic campaign, same budget and the Spanish version outperformed by 100 percent,” said Ambs. 

That idea also spawned a Spanish-language toggle on the company website, further engraining the location in the surrounding community.

“The great thing about AI is it takes all the micro details out and frees you to think,” said Ambs. 

He said the project is still in early testing, but if the AI continues performing, expect to see more AI-drive marketing automation in the very near future. 

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