You can’t go anywhere as a marketer these days without running into AI or discussions about it. It seems like everyone is suddenly sharing expert prompt tips and uses for ChatGPT. It’s not the only generative AI tool out there, but it certainly is the one getting the most press and chatter lately.
It’s important to think about what AI means for marketers because, whether you’re ready to embrace working with not-yet-sentient computers or are considering chucking it all and going feral in the woods, the fact is it’s here. We think it’s worth exploring how it may be a useful aid in our tasks.
Full disclosure: CID has been playing around with some AI tools internally, but it is our official policy that they will not be used to produce work for our clients. We think you’ll understand how we got to that decision by the end of this post.
AI helps marketers get projects moving
Let’s look at AI’s potential to help us out first. AI tools (and there are dozens of them for different needs) like ChatGPT or DALL-E2 can be great when you need something done fast. If you’re pressed for time and need to write a simple email message, blog post, or a few email subject lines, feeding a prompt into ChatGPT can get it done for you while you’re busy in a meeting or working on something else.
Maybe you’re suffering from a bout of writer’s or designer’s block and need a little inspiration to get started. An AI tool could give you the first draft or an image that sparks an idea you can build on.
For marketers who don’t have an agency to lean on or a large in-house team, it could be useful for getting basic projects started.
Now. Are the outputs from the AI tool any good? Here’s where things get a little cloudier.
Want interesting content? AI isn’t there yet.
For purposes of this post, we asked ChatGPT to write three paragraphs about things to do in Milwaukee in the summer. Here’s a sample of what it gave back:
Milwaukee, known as the "Cream City," offers a vibrant array of summer activities for locals and visitors alike. One of the most popular attractions is the Milwaukee Summerfest, which takes place annually in late June and early July.
Milwaukee also boasts the Milwaukee County Zoo, a fantastic destination for families to explore during the summer months. The zoo houses a diverse range of animals from around the world and offers educational exhibits, interactive experiences, and captivating wildlife shows.
Another exciting summer activity in Milwaukee is attending a Milwaukee Brewers baseball game at the iconic American Family Field. The Brewers are a beloved Major League Baseball team in the city, and their games create an electrifying atmosphere. From the crack of the bat to the cheers of passionate fans, the experience of watching a live baseball game is a quintessential summer pastime.
In conclusion, Milwaukee embraces the summer season with a range of engaging activities.
It’s…serviceable, mostly. Locals know that Summerfest is not called “the Milwaukee Summerfest,” and it does rely a lot on fluff, like describing the basic features of what could be literally any zoo on the planet.
It’s also pretty easy to see that between the generic descriptions, anything Milwaukee-specific is scraped together from other web copy that has the right keywords in mostly the right order. If you need a first draft for a blog post on this topic though, it's got you covered.
If you need a post that’s engaging, surprising, or insightful, you’ll still need a person for that. And that’s where AI falls short as a creative tool for marketers.
In our view, successful marketing requires something that gets the audience to tilt their heads and pay attention. Something intriguing. Right now, AI just can’t deliver that. It can put related terms together in ways that mostly make sense, but it can’t yet play with ideas and language in the same ways that humans can. Algorithms don’t have lived experiences.
This is one of the biggest reasons we wouldn’t use AI for our client work. It simply can’t meet our quality standards or our clients’ expectations. Another huge reason: It’s just not ethical in its current state.
Ethical considerations for marketers and generative AI
Outputs generated by AI have to come from somewhere, and since AI can’t have an original thought the way people can, it gets inputs from work people have already done. It’s not exactly always plagiarism, but it’s a little too close for our comfort.
There is a case to be made that all creative work is a riff on previous work by other people. But the difference is that the people doing the riffing are making informed decisions about what to pull from where, what to respond to, and why. AI doesn’t have the emotional intelligence to pull that off in a meaningful way. Not to mention the cultural and social considerations. AI art in particular has been criticized for reinforcing gender and racial stereotypes. Plus, that’s not even getting into its very murky relationship with copyrighted imagery.
It also has a tendency to make things up. When we asked ChatGPT to write some copy for an event, it got the dates right but also included details like "free lunch provided" and other perks that weren’t actually true.
As marketing strategists, we need to be sure that the information we gather in our research phase is legitimate. A lawyer is currently in the thick of it for using cases pulled by an AI assistant as background research. Except the “cases” it pulled weren’t actually real. If, for example, we’re recommending using statistics in a piece of content, we, our clients, and their customers have to be able to trust that the information isn’t wrong or fake.
Being transparent about how and when AI is used, and using it responsibly, is clearly important. Wired’s editorial policy is a good example of what one could look like in your organization.
Use AI wisely
The odds of generative AI going away anytime soon are pretty slim, so figuring out a way to incorporate it in a way that actually helps us be better marketers will be essential. Right now, it seems like the best use case so far for marketers is as a tool to help us get over a hump, whether it’s getting a first draft of copy down, sparking an idea or two, or serving as visual inspiration.
In all of those cases, getting the most out of the tool is still very much dependent on someone who can fact-check, polish, reshape, and elevate what the machines spit out and make it human.
CID has humans just like that. Send us a message to find out how we can help keep your marketing efforts from being too robotic.