OPINION, NZ Herald, 4 April 2023.
A quote often associated with Bill Gates is that “we always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten.” He also noted that “we tend to overestimate the short-term impact of new technologies and underestimate their long-term eﬀects.” Artificial Intelligence (AI) is probably a great example of this. Essay buddy today, possibly Skynet tomorrow. It’s taken ChatGPT to wake the world up to AI’s potential even though many organisations have already been harnessing AI in various aspects of their work; we already work with two firms operating in the AI space. It’s exciting! The ChatGPT buzz has been people discovering it writes great essays, notes to your boss about why you can’t come to work, and letters explaining why you should be let oﬀ a parking ticket. It’s the ultimate tool for people who don’t like to write and can’t be bothered doing their own homework.
I have been wondering how AI changes marketing in the short term. For starters, I can imagine that those that don’t value the power of well-written words are hoping it can do all their copywriting now. And it’s visual version scraping the internet to collage photos for the perfect image of a penguin leaping oﬀ a diving board while polishing a dining table to help sell furniture polish. I’m more interested in where it might make complex marketing areas easier, like marketing automation. I thought I’d ask ChatGPT about this (automation is the buzz in marketing right now, where depending what you do, you get tailored emails, social ads, text messages and other digital activity based on your behaviour. It’s quite complex, hence a sitter for AI support).
ChatGPT and I sat down over a glass of wine (well, one of us did), and once we’d got the pleasantries out of the way, I asked it whether it thought AI could do a better job than a human for the content and journey planning of a marketing automation platform. “AI can potentially … in certain situations.” it hedged. I raised my eyebrows and encouraged it to continue. “This is because AI can process and analyse large amounts of data more quickly and eﬀiciently than a human can, which can help identify patterns and trends in customer behaviour that may not be immediately apparent to a human marketer” it very rationally continued. To be fair, I had to agree. The rapid analysis of data and delivering options is a real strength of AI. I decided to move on. “But what about the creative?” I demanded, almost spilling my wine as I banged the table. “It’s important to note that AI is not a replacement for human marketers. While AI can provide valuable insights and automate certain tasks, it still requires human oversight and input to ensure that the marketing messages and campaigns align with the brand’s voice and values, and that they resonate with the target audience.” the computer admitted, with a note of resigned acceptance I felt. So, I decided to end the interview there, potentially with the upper hand, or at least until the robots come for me.
If we’ve learned anything since tinkering with AI and discussing it with our clever clients working in the space, it’s all about creating the right data sets – rubbish in, rubbish out after all – and a clearly defined set of parameters. And obviously, super clever people to set all that up. Me, I’m just happy to work in an industry that can look for opportunities to leverage the speed of analysis to deliver smart solutions. Just so long as we don’t lose the soul of communication; humans bring inspiration, leaps of faith and innovation, whereas for the time being, the robots will just serve up what they have access to, neatly packaged. Which is still pretty neat – as Mr Gates said, in a few years’ time we’ll be looking back at now and wondering why it took us so long to get smart with AI.
– Ben Goodale is CEO of strategic marketing agency Quantum Jump.