The Year AI Features Dominated the Media

At the end of last year, Fortune predicted that 2017 would be the year of artificial intelligence (AI). Boy, were they right.

Whether it was new AI features in Amazon’s AWS cloud offering, Facebook’s use of AI to fight suicide or Elon Musk’s claim that AI will cause WWIII, there was rarely a day – or an hour – that the term “artificial intelligence” didn’t appear in at least one, heavily cited and widely shared article. AI was everywhere, every day.

At SHIFT, we found that more and more clients wanted to use the term to describe new features, the company roadmap or the corporate vision. This happened whether or not the company was truly involved in artificial intelligence! In those cases, we found ourselves pushing clients to tell us more about their AI capabilities and counseling them away from trying to align with AI in today’s saturated world.

When a client did have a play in artificial intelligence, the interest in the topic was a blessing and a curse. Naturally, the positive was that new features had a sexier news hook and clients could leverage breaking AI news to provide the market with their own thought leadership. The negative was that by about June, it seemed every reporter was burnt out on the term – and the technology’s promises.

See, while there are lots of practical, smart uses of AI today (Netflix, Alexa, Tesla, Amazon), there are also examples of times that CEOs, CTOs and other smart visionaries, sold a lot of promises about AI’s progress, future and functionality. At the same time, we continued to read about robots eating jobs, machines overtaking human understanding, and the role AI could play in terrorism. In other words, for every article about a new, exciting use of AI for B2B or consumer brands, there were countless others talking about the “what ifs.”

When September 1 hit, we began talking with several true AI clients about creating new messaging that slightly distanced themselves from the term. At that time, we knew we reached a tipping point: the words “artificial intelligence” had begun to lose their meaning, a result of excessive use and abuse. It wasn’t just reporters that were exhausted with the term – the “glazed over” look had reached clients’ customers and prospects, and they needed a different way to describe their technology. Because the term “artificial intelligence” had been watered down to mean too much, it was no longer a succinct way to describe the amazing capabilities. It was time to analyze vast amounts of external data – Tweets, media articles, social content, owned channels –  to find the white noise and recommend new angles and storylines to position the company.

It remains to be seen what 2018 holds. Will artificial intelligence continue to dominate the media?

Amanda Munroe
Vice President 





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