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What is the role of marketers and agencies in the future of AI?
That’s a meaty topic, and we couldn’t address that in full when tech leader and serial founder Jeremiah Owyang visited Serial Marketers for our virtual event this week.
But we got close.
You can see a ton of what we discussed in the companion recap doc which gives you the video, the slides, all the AI tools shared, summaries, and more. This includes a ton of material contributed by the 60+ tech CEOs, brand marketers, agency execs, analysts, and other amazing people on the call.
You will want to check that one out.
One of the many reasons I like Jeremiah is that he’s candid about when he has answers and when he has questions. He closed his talk with five questions that relate to this theme about the role of marketers and agencies going forward.
At first, I thought, hey, I’d like to answer these. I might not be perfectly positioned to, but I wanted to try.
But then, I thought we should get another perspective. Let’s get AI to chime in. After I wrote all my answers, I asked Inflection AI’s personal AI app Pi to give its perspective.
You decide which of us is on the mark, if either. Or maybe both humans and AI don’t have a clue.
At the end, I even had ChatGPT judge a winner, with the full thread of my exchange with OpenAI’s bot available here.
Let’s go to the showdown using Jeremiah’s questions. Pi, you’re on!
What role do marketers & agencies play when the cost of producing average or even good content falls nearly to zero?
We’ve seen this for a while for anyone who lived through the dawn of the social era. We had UGC (user-generated content), CGM (consumer-generated media), and all kinds of other acronyms for it. Instead of brands spending 7 figures on shooting a TV spot, we had brands spend 5 figures, or 4 figures sometimes, or maybe nothing at all, on the creative itself.
We didn’t see the death of creative agencies then, and we won’t now. We’ll see a lot of individuals’ jobs get displaced, but we’ll also see a lot of people needed to feed the beast, hone the creative, ensure things are up to brands’ standards, and stand out in a crowded market.
One of the biggest problems coming up is that there will be SO much more content. I add visuals all the time to things that I just didn’t bother with before. It’s easy, and it’s fun, and it costs $10 a month for Midjourney or a few bucks more for Adobe’s suite.
I think you can get great, impactful content from AI. You can get even more that has a job to do and does it well. But it will be so hard to generate the best creative for you that stands out and is relevant to your audience without a lot of human guidance. And maybe we’ll need even more humans to manage this glut of content.
That’s a great question! Even if the cost of creating content falls, marketers and agencies still have a very important role to play. They can use AI to generate ideas, but they still need to add a human touch and make sure that the content is aligned with the brand’s voice and values.
They can also use AI to generate data-driven insights and optimize campaigns. So even if the cost of creating content falls, marketers and agencies still need to have a deep understanding of their target audience and be able to craft a compelling message.
What role do marketers & agencies play when customers can readily create multimodal, on-demand, detailed content to meet their needs (without marketers)?
Well, first I’d wonder why customers are creating all this multimodal, on-demand, detailed content to meet needs without marketers.
It’s still work.
Were you one of those people who geeked out on being able to customize video game levels as far back as NES days?
I was. Remember Excitebike? And then after your levels sucked, what did you do? You went back and played the game’s default levels.
I don’t want to be TOO skeptical here. So much change is happening so quickly, and defensiveness and dismissiveness sound foolish.
What matters is this: great marketers and agencies know what’s right and best for the brand.
Again, this is an excellent question! Even if customers can create their own content, marketers and agencies still have a role to play. They can create content that is more comprehensive and informative than what the average customer can create.
They can also offer personalized content and experiences that go beyond what a customer can do on their own. In short, marketers and agencies can provide value by offering content that is deeper, more nuanced, and more engaging than what a customer can create on their own.
What role do marketers & agencies play when web content is indexed and served up by AI, without following traditional SEO/SEM?
AI is influenced by other sources. You need to make sure you’re positioned to be such a source.
SEO is influenced by other sources too, such as the news and Wikipedia. If Wikipedia says you’re the largest company that does X, Google search results will say that, and you’ll be listed that way in all kinds of AI tools. If news headlines keep saying you’re putting out product recalls, AI will too.
Back when I was at iCrossing and 360i in their search-focused eras, I used to say that the best way to influence search results was to get on TV. If Oprah talked about you, you were all over Google. Get on Good Morning America, and you’ll say, “Good morning backlinks!”
Real-world events influence search results, and search results are filled with data. It’s all connected.
Once again, a fascinating question! If AI is able to index and serve up web content without the need for traditional SEO/SEM techniques, marketers and agencies will need to shift their focus to creating content that stands out from the crowd. They’ll need to create content that is engaging, compelling, and relevant to the user’s needs.
In other words, they’ll need to focus on creating content that is truly valuable and useful to the user. Traditional SEO/SEM techniques will no longer be enough to get their content noticed.
What role do marketers & agencies play when content consumption lacks copyright transparency or when brands and consumers generate ‘hallucinations’?
Let’s continue the last thread of how different forms of media influence each other.
When you’re looking for the best litter box for your cat, if a conversational AI tool says it’s the Scoopomatic 9000, AI could totally be making that up. That will keep happening. But it’s probably getting that info from somewhere. Unless the temperature of AI (read: originality) is cranked up to a limit-breaking level, there should be some ‘based on a true story’ disclaimer for responses.
As for where marketers and agencies fit in, the question alone makes the case for strong human oversight, backed by defensible policies. Banning agencies or contractors from using AI isn’t realistic; AI has been built into off-the-shelf tools for years – possibly even the tool that helped a given marketer discover their agency.
But humans should be tasked with ensuring the highest standards for ethically sourcing and deploying work, ensuring materials don’t violate copyright protections, verifying the accuracy of any copy, and confirming there’s no plagiarism.
That’s a really interesting question. Without clear copyright transparency, it will be difficult for marketers and agencies to know if the content they’re using is legally and ethically sourced. In a world where content is generated by AI or hallucinations, it will be even harder to tell what is real and what is fake.
Marketers and agencies will need to focus on building trust with their audiences by being transparent about the sources of their content. They’ll also need to be careful not to mislead their audiences with content that is not based in reality.
What role do marketers & agencies play when AI provides buying recommendations to consumers (B2C or B2B) and incorporates commerce directly into the AI app?
Again, the question is less about AI and more about how you’re influencing the buying journey. If it’s a low-consideration, point-of-sale purchase, the endcap in a grocery store is going to be way more influential than a search engine or AI.
If it’s high consideration, AI might help me narrow the consideration set – “Show me the five minivans which have had the best safety records, best Consumer Reports scores, lowest theft likelihood, and hottest design ratings so I still look awesome shuffling my kids to soccer games.” But you still need to take the test drive and perhaps get some friends’ opinions. TV, social, and other ads are also likely to influence which of the recommended brands you like, and that’s true for practically any product category.
Rationally, we should be buying way more private label or store brands than we do, as the quality is often similar but the prices for name brands are so much higher. Rationally, we should do a ton that’s different – how many Wirecutter articles do we need to read about toothbrushes when we could have saved ourselves so much time just by buying a popular, well-rated one that’s good enough?
If the fear is that AI turns us into predictable, rational, robotic agents, it’s safe to bet against that. That means there will always be ways for marketers to influence unpredictable, irrational behavior.
This is another important question! If AI is able to provide buying recommendations and incorporate commerce directly into the AI app, marketers and agencies will need to adapt their strategies accordingly. They may need to create content that is optimized for AI recommendation systems, and they may need to shift their focus to creating content that helps to drive conversions.
They’ll also need to be aware of the ethical implications of AI-driven commerce, and they’ll need to make sure that their strategies are compliant with any relevant regulations.
Bonus question, just for Pi: Any other advice for marketers & agencies based on all this?
Yes, I would say that marketers and agencies should start thinking about how they can adapt their strategies to a world where AI is playing a bigger role. They should focus on creating high-quality, unique content that is optimized for AI recommendation systems. They should also work on building trust with their audiences by being transparent about their content sources.
And they should stay up to date on the latest developments in AI so that they can adapt their strategies accordingly. Oh, and they should keep a close eye on the ethical implications of AI-driven commerce! 😉
So, how did we do?
As mentioned, I took this one step further and brought in a neutral judge for five questions where I went head-to-head with HeyPi: ChatGPT, and you can see the whole exchange in this shared doc.
ChatGPT wouldn’t declare a winner at first, but then it gave criteria for how to determine a winner, and then it humored me by giving scores (“as objectively as possible,” I requested) on a scale of 1-10.
- Depth of Analysis: 8
- Practicality: 8
- Conciseness: 6
- Focus on Ethics and Trust: 7
- Depth of Analysis: 6
- Practicality: 7
- Conciseness: 9
- Focus on Ethics and Trust: 8
What do you think?
Is that fair, or was I robbed?
I’ve already accepted ChatGPT’s judgment, so I’ll be able to handle yours.
PS: If you want to meet Jeremiah, me, and dozens of folks at the forefront of tech and marketing, come to our Llama Lounge 6/21 in NYC. See that and other upcoming events at lu.ma/db.