In the last several decades, the field of marketing has witnessed a dramatic transformation due to the development of technology, which transferred many of its functions and channels into the digital format. As the digital acceleration continues, more and more technologies become engrained into the digital marketing eco-system, including the most recent use of artificial intelligence. On the one hand, introduction of AI has brough numerous advantages for the field of marketing, such as personalization of communication, more successful targeting, and optimization of workstreams. On the other hand, various ethical concerns arose around the use of AI, which affects data collection and management processes, notions of privacy, and fair targeting of consumers among others. At the same time, the regulatory landscape on how to manage the technology in Europe is also experiencing change – from the enforcement of GDPR in 2018 to the current development of the AI regulation legislation, marketing professionals must stay informed on the regulatory changes. As a result, digital marketing practitioners today must face dilemmas in their work on how to use the technology, and particularly AI, in a way, which is ethical, yet advantageous for the business – or decide which side to choose. The goal of this research was to examine how the practitioners in the field mitigate this newly arisen tension between approaching business objectives and ethics while using AI, and therefore the research question of this study is: How do digital marketing practitioners in the Netherlands balance business and ethical considerations while using artificial intelligence for marketing purposes? In order to answer the research question, seven expert interviews with digital marketing practitioners of managerial level working in the Netherlands have been conducted. A thematic analysis of the data revealed that digital marketing practitioners in the Netherlands undergo a complex decision-making process while using AI in their work, which features the crossover of opportunities technology brings into their work, but at the same time challenges and contradictory feelings that are triggered by the risks of AI. As a result, digital marketing practitioners balance business and ethical considerations in their work on the contextual basis, depending on the limits which affect ethics in a particular situation, and while activating external tools (law, company policies and company values) and internal tools (reflexivity, personal beliefs, and communication with stakeholders) that help them to make the decisions. The practical findings feature recommendations from digital marketing practitioners on the need of more stringent technological regulations (including improvement of GDPR enforcement) and improvement of digital literacy among users.

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Dr. Matthijs Leendertse
Media & Creative Industries
Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication

Natalia Khozyainova. (2022, June 27). Artificial intelligence in digital marketing: use versus abuse? A qualitative research into the ways digital marketing practitioners in the Netherlands mitigate business and ethical considerations in their work. Media & Creative Industries. Retrieved from