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Should Marketers Be Afraid of AI?

Dean LePoidevin – President and Strategic Director

The short answer is no, and here’s why.

Looking to the Past

Artificial intelligence (AI) is the latest in a long line of new technologies that have “threatened” the jobs of people who work in marketing. The invention of computers is a prime example. Wary marketers panicked at the thought of this new machine and how it slashed the time needed to pull together copy and design components of a file or edit existing pieces. For agencies that billed by the hour and would now be asked to provide the same value in half the time and cost, computers seemed to spell doom.

Today, we know that is far from the truth of the situation, and this trend of unfulfilled fears has continued. The internet didn’t eliminate the need for good researchers. Digital design platforms didn’t wipe out jobs for graphic designers, much less creative thinkers.

What AI Can’t Do

All these technologies caused widespread panic in their initial inception, a trend we are now seeing repeated with AI. However, each advancement has possessed the same limitation that has allowed marketing as an industry to continue to thrive: the need for quality input.

When an AI platform responds to a prompt, it is pulling from existing data and its machine learning from interactions and reactions with its previously created content. Today, AI could pull together a piece of music that resembles a Beethoven symphony and creates a similar effect, but if AI in its present capacity had existed before Beethoven, it would not be able to create such innovative work.

What AI Can Do

Instead of expecting AI to perform like Beethoven the composer, a more accurate representation would be Beethoven the dog from the 1992 movie bearing the same name. There may be some initial hesitation to such a big change coming into the industry, but with the right training, AI can be a tireless and loyal member of the marketing team that helps everyone deliver their best work.

New technologies have consistently proven to be helpful, not hurtful, in the marketing field. Marketers who were able to get over their initial fear of the computer quickly found it to be hugely beneficial. Editing a single word in an ad used to require literally cutting and pasting physical files together. Now, a word can be highlighted and replaced in a matter of seconds. This frees up hours of a marketer’s time for intelligent work that provides more value to the client. AI expands those capabilities even further. It can find and analyze data, provide ideas, proof copy and automate repetitive work, among many other traditionally time-sucking tasks.

The true value of a marketing agency does not lie in the tactical execution of these small tasks but the strategic direction behind it. If anything, the improved efficiency provided by AI makes marketing agency professionals even more valuable to clients, as it removes some of the time barriers in the way of higher-level thinking and plan development.

Coming Changes

While AI and other technologies can’t replace the strategic and creative abilities of people, they should still have an impact on the job. Asking a client to pay by the hour for the old-fashioned way of editing a file is completely outdated today given the technology available, and soon AI will have a similar effect on how clients expect work to be done and agencies compensated.

Instead of waiting for the time when neglecting AI’s benefits is a dealbreaker, agencies should be proactively working to build their understanding of this technology to effectively and ethically adopt it into their team. Marketing jobs that have been lost due to new innovations are rarely forfeited because technology has overtaken human abilities. Rather, it is because the professionals refused to adapt to the changing times and were left behind. We don’t know the future, and we can’t be completely certain that AI will not surpass human capabilities. However, we can take comfort in the history of past technological revolutions that have done much more to change how we work in marketing than whether we work in marketing.

So really, the question should not be whether we should fear AI. It should be whether we should fear our own abilities to adapt, grow and embrace this new technology as the helpful tool it is.


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