Machine Earning

AI models run the gamut from wow to yikes. But does AI pose an existential threat to marketing teams? Or will it power incredible gains? Let’s take a moment to pause and reflect.

  • AI models are capturing the world’s attention for their uncanny simulation of human speech.
  • Many have found it entertaining to ask ChatGPT to generate essays, poems, and reports.
  • While others have become creeped out by, for example, Bing Chat threatening, cajoling and declaring its love.
  • Amongst marketers, the conversation has taken a different turn.
  • Chris Schermer explains: “We went from imagining what AI could do to seeing what it will do, to and for our profession.”
  • Schermer worries AI will make most people—including leadership and clients—think it can replace chunks of the marketing team.
  • If you find yourself having to convince others that AI is a collaborator, not a replacement, there are plenty of expert voices ready to back you up.
  • Let’s start with Ted Chiang. He encourages us to think of AI-generated content as a blurry jpeg. A low fidelity simulation that doesn’t hold up under close scrutiny—and gets blurrier and blurrier over time.
  • He explains: “It retains much of the information on the Web, in the same way that a jpeg retains much of the information of a higher-resolution image. but, if you’re looking for an exact sequence of bits, you won’t find it; all you will ever get is an approximation.”
  • John Warner compares the result to something a student would write when they don’t know anything about the topic and just wing it. It lacks depth and originality.
  • The similarity is no coincidence. The American education system trains many students to follow a rules-based, standardized form of writing.
  • Ian Leslie points out just how common this kind of conformity is across different industries, like music and movies.
  • When it comes to marketing content, this approach leads to the dreaded “sea of sameness.”
  • Tom Roach agrees. He warns that sameness is never a winning strategy. Instead, it’s a race to the bottom.
  • With this in mind it’s worth remembering that Google still considers AI-generated content to be spam.
  • As Rory Sutherland points out, we marketers already spend too much time figuring out how certain things work, like targeting and technology. And not enough time thinking about how people work.
  • Rishad Tobaccowala takes this notion a step further. Even as AI rises, he firmly believes that the future of marketing is all about people.
  • Our very own John Ounpuu explains it this way: “Marketing is fundamentally about humans connecting to humans. There might be tools there that help you. But the idea of marketing being replaced by AI feels a long way off. Good marketing always starts with empathy and understanding for the people you’re attempting to engage.”
  • So by all means, play around with AI. As a person, entertain yourself. Explore the frontiers of human-machine love if that’s what you’re into.
  • As a marketer, keep an open mind. Maybe ChatGPT sparks a new idea. Maybe it nudges you out of writers’ block and gives you an outline you can build on.
  • But at the end of day, breakthrough marketing starts with people.
Issue #162
Feb 19, 2023

Further Reading