Since ChatGPT hit the scene in November 2022, your LinkedIn feed has likely been swamped with posts about how incredible its abilities are and how this generative AI, which suddenly appeared as if from nowhere, is going to revolutionise the marketing industry.
It’s not like marketing hasn’t had its fair share of new trends and fads. Remember Clubhouse, the social app, which exploded in 2021 only to disappear so fast it’s become an app of distant memory. But here’s where ChatGPT and other generative AI software that will follow in its footsteps, differ. Firstly, it has practical use-cases; it’s already being utilised by many marketing and advertising execs to support with low-level tasks such as content marketing and coding. Secondly, its intelligence is growing all the time and as it gets smarter it’ll allow the marketing and advertising industries to automate more complex tasks, which would never be possible to do with human hands. As such, the AI marketing campaigns produced will soon be superior to anything we know now, both in terms of how they identify and target consumers and the creatives they use to engage them.
Alongside ChatGPT, OpenAI (the company behind it) also released DALL-E, an AI engine that can create images based on description. And other tools such as Bing Image Creator (which is powered by DALL-E) and Midjourney are also popping up in the market.
Yet the creative side of marketing has been a little slower to inject AI into its visuals, although major brands like Coca-Cola are in a ‘test and learn’ phase and it’s not long before we expect entirely machine generated custom creatives to hit advertising screens.
Perhaps one of the reasons for the slower uptake of AI in creatives is that brands already using it have faced criticism. Levi’s for instance came under fire for using AI to create more ‘diverse’ models. With those against arguing that Levi’s should work with more diverse models not ‘create’ them. But Michael Musandu, the founder of LaLaLand, which created the campaign for Levi’s said it’s not feasible for brands to find and shoot such a wide range of models for every product. The argument being that using AI in marketing creatives can save brands both time and money, and potentially allow them to engage with wider audiences.
But as AI takes over marketing, it’s opened up a lot of questions as well as criticisms. So let’s look at the arguments surrounding AI in marketing and how it might impact the industry.
Aside from the criticism levelled at Levi’s, there’s a wider debate popping up around how ethical the use of AI in advertising creatives is. The idea that a campaign could be created without the use of cameras, models and with very little human involvement raises the issue of whether jobs will be displaced. There will certainly be changes in the structure of advertising agencies as AI takes hold, but this generative technology cannot operate without human guidance, so we’re more likely to see jobs evolve to work with AI rather than be displaced.
In one of my favourite dystopian movies, Prometheus (2012), there is a conversation between one of the main protagonist (Elizabeth Shaw) and the deuteragonist (David, a human like Android) that goes like this:
Dr. Holloway: Can you make music?
David: I can play any piece of music.
Dr. Holloway: But can you make music? You know, create it?
David: Yes, I have a rudimentary knowledge of music composition.
Dr. Holloway: But that's not what I'm asking. I'm asking if you can make something new.
David: Can you?
(ps - ironically enough, i didn’t remember the sentence, and ended up using ChatGPT to find it….)
People who are terrified about AI are usually those who do not understand that AI cannot replace creativity, innovation.
My own opinion is that a designer’s job may eventually evolve to be the master, while AI is the apprentice, allowing the designer to dictate the concept, the line of thought, the technique, while the machine conceives and automates the creation of the design itself.
In addition to concern over job losses, another issue that’s been raised is that of deepfakes, where AI is used to create a malicious campaign pretending to be a particular brand. Of course deepfakes are a risk for all brands, but they remain a risk whether advertisers use AI in their creatives or not.
From my perspective, what criticisms are missing is the massive potential AI holds for the marketing industry. Soon it will be possible to create millions of iterations of an ad in seconds to make it relevant to every individual consumer, which is something we would never be able to achieve as humans without AI technology.
If AI creates the art, who is the artist, the machine or the human instructing it? This has been a topic of debate across the art world more generally and not specific to marketing although it will affect marketing as more ads are created using AI. Brands creating visuals using AI will want to copyright those images to prevent third parties from using them. But there’s a question mark over whether AI art can be copyrighted.
In an article in The Drum, Sophie Goossens, partner at law firm Reed Smith’s entertainment and media industry group, said: “The general consensus in the legal world seems to be that where AI is a mere tool in the hands of a human, the output may be protectable. Where the AI creates without or with very limited human guidance or intervention, however, the output is unlikely to be protectable. There is no standard yet on ‘how much’ human intervention is needed for the output to be deemed protectable and, indeed, this will likely be a matter for the courts to assess.”
Currently, the issue of AI copyright is still opaque but we expect to see greater clarity around this soon, as the uptake of AI surges. For now, it’s best brands play a significant role in instructing the technology and don’t let the machines become the masters.
If an ad is generated using AI, we assume, it would take less time and money to create, so can the industry expect to see advertising costs go down as a result? If media and advertising agencies are saving money on making ads, it makes sense then that brands would expect to pay less. That said, the efficiencies of AI will also mean brands will be getting a greater service in terms of personalisation, targeting, measurement and speed, and ad campaigns will be sent out on a wider scale, so there’s a whole host of factors to consider in the pricing of AI-generated campaigns that stretch much further than the creatives.
For now, with the majority of the marketing industry still very much in the AI testing phase, there’s unlikely to be any major changes to the costs of campaigns but watch this space.
The finer details of AI’s use in marketing are still being ironed out but there’s no question that it will transform marketing to make it more effective and efficient than ever. Of course there will be bumps in the road, as there is with all nascent technology, and the speed with which AI is developing means the marketing industry could be unrecognisable as little as 3 years from now. But that doesn’t make it a bad thing. All industries need to embrace change and we are in a period of rapid digital transformation with which we need to keep pace.