Now in its 13th year, the WARC’s “Marketer’s Toolkit 2024” offers insights to help turn disruptive areas into opportunities for growth. The Toolkit is also a trend-spotter. For example, the report reveals that nearly three-quarters (70%) of respondents in the survey plan to unlock the potential of artificial intelligence in their marketing.
Before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s ask what exactly is Generative AI, and how do companies plan to use it? IBM says, “Generative AI refers to deep-learning models that can generate high-quality text, images, and other content based on the data they were trained on.”
Noam Chomsky and other academic luminaries have a contrary (and convincing) opinion. They call it plagiarism software. “ChatGPT exhibits something like the banality of evil: plagiarism and apathy and obviation,” the professors argue.
Shall We Let the Machines Do the Work?
Here’s a handy-dandy chart of the technology’s possible uses in a marketing communications environment:
According to WARC’s latest report, 48 percent of clients plan to use AI for copywriting, while 29 percent plan to use it for strategy or concept development.
This last bit makes me shake my head. The machines can spit out data in all sorts of forms, but the machines can’t think or feel, and you have to think, feel, and listen to develop strategy or creative ideas. In other words, there are no shortcuts to real insights about people or their predicted behavior.
James McCabe, The Story Doctor, had this to say (when I posted the above to LinkedIn):
…Predictive data is a misnomer because you cannot predict the future, you can only hedge and hunch it. History is full of surprises. So for me the most troubling thing about Artificial Intelligence (which it’s not – it is knowledge which is quite other) apart from the myriad ethical quagmires, from copyright to plagiarism to hallucination, is the absolute absence of innovation – of actual new ideas.
McCabe’s poetic summary of the problem leads me to ask aloud, a rhetorical question I’ve asked a hundred times before…Do clients truly want solutions to their marketing problems, or do they just want to check a box?
Like most things, it depends on which clients we are talking about and which boxes too. Putting checks in the right boxes—the listen-to-the-customer box, for instance—is always a good plan. Not hearing and learning from the customer, and going through the motions while stuffing the funnel with search-optimized content—to offer one example—is not. The content that a brand publishes has to serve somebody. It doesn’t matter if the content ranks well on Google if it fails to move people to think more highly of themselves and the brand.
The problem of marketers relying on AI exists in part because new ideas don’t come cheap, and the humans who do the hard work of developing new ideas that attract more customers are not always the easiest people to work with. When idea generators and communications makers believe in an idea, they might fight for it. There might be conflict and people on all sides may feel unheard, misunderstood, and so on. Meanwhile, the machines just spit the shit out. There’s no tension in the line and zero resistance. You merely need to prompt, and plenty of regurgitated and remixed material that checks a host of boxes, you shall receive.