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Insights How much can we rely on Artificial Intelligence in marketing?

Andre Wilkinson
Andre Wilkinson
Performance Strategist

05 Apr 2023

5 minute read

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We’ve all seen Artificial Intelligence (AI) hitting the headlines recently, with a raft of tech giants, co-signing an open letter in an attempt to halt giant AI experiments for the next 6 months. From Elon Musk to the world’s top professors and CEOs, there is a deep uncertainty and concern around the  ‘profound risks to society and humanity’.

In this piece here though, I’m going to look at how AI has infiltrated the marketing industry, the pros and cons, and how much we really trust in it.

AI is becoming an increasingly important tool for marketers. With the ability to analyse large amounts of data, AI is helping businesses to better understand their customers. As a result, this empowers marketers to be more focused on their marketing strategies.

One of the main uses of AI/machine learning in marketing is in the various ad-serving platforms that optimise ads and audiences based on the analysis and predictions of massive data sets. Ad units, like Performance Max or the various optimisation strategies within Google Ads, are invaluable to ensuring budgets are spent as effectively as possible.

There are many engines that customise content on pages and chatbots which take a lot of time-intensive tasks and automate them - using machine learning to analyse large datasets is nothing new. These are used extensively in the gaming and insurance industries to do a bunch of predictive analytics.

Why is it an issue now?

With the advances in both machine learning algorithms and hardware, forms of AI have become increasingly accessible to the everyman.

With so many people accessing AI, it’s not surprising that some alarm bells are being sounded. We have seen some impressive images and articulate copy generated by various AI. One of the most significant impacts is in the area of content generation. AI algorithms can be used to automatically generate written content, such as news articles, social media posts, and product descriptions, which can save businesses a significant amount of time and resources, as they no longer need to rely on human writers to create content.

However, it's important to note that AI-generated content, while efficient and cost-effective, lacks the creativity, nuance and personal touch that human writers provide. Additionally, there is the risk of bias and errors that can occur with AI-generated content, as it’s not fact-checked and can often supply incorrect information.

At this point, AI is not a silver bullet. We still need a clear strategy and goals in place for it to be effective in any way as a marketing tool. Copy cannot be trusted, especially when there could be legal ramifications based on the output, and imagery is far from perfect.

Much like how automation replaced the menial tasks in manufacturing, AI is only going to be effective at replacing the tedious tasks in marketing. This may have an impact on some workers who are employed specifically for these tasks, but it will not replace creatives, artists and strategists. Creativity is still not fully understood within humans, and the nature of AI excludes this characteristic.

Not only is AI being used for copywriting, but we're seeing images are also being generated through machine learning (yes that handsome chap in the lead image is yours truly!). At the moment, these are far from perfect - just look at the hands of people in generated images. Ouch!

The industry is also very much aware of the ethical issue with the use of AI-generated content and the potential infringement of copyrighted materials. All AI-generated imagery is derivative of the images the AI was trained on, and there are undoubtedly copyrighted images within this dataset. There are currently court cases in play with rites holders and AI content generators, the outcome of which will be very important for the future of AI’s use.

As an aside, where AI will undoubtedly have a bigger impact is in industries that rely on very specific rules and not creativity; lawyers and bankers might see the most disruption in their industry, as opposed to us marketers. We are already seeing how investment firms use AIs to make rapid transactions based on massive datasets based on simple rules. Something most investment managers already do, but at a slower pace and lower frequency.

Back to marketing

As it stands, using AI in marketing activities serves to only speed up certain tasks and automate redundant activities. A full campaign, from brand values through audience definitions to tonality, would not be capable without human creativity and intervention.

We can still use AI as a very valuable tool in our arsenal though, and we would be foolish to not look at it this way. We just need to keep an eye on what it spits out to make sure it is in line with our objectives and of course the law.

The nature of work IS changing, and AI is part of that. To ignore it would be career suicide, and I don't think any of us are silly enough to not utilise it to some extent. We need to make sure we are evolving our approaches as the world around us does, lest we end up like the line workers in the automotive industry with the introduction of automation through robots. Nobody wants that, do they?

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