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Warwick Cairns, Strategist, The Effectiveness Partnership
Welcome to a future hand-built by robots.
Tech giants are pouring huge sums into Artificial Intelligence technologies that are increasingly capable of both writing and evaluating advertising. Should we be worried or excited? Warwick Cairns asked a computer to tell us the answers…
Tech billionaires. They like to leave a legacy. Actually, not just tech billionaires but billionaires generally. It’s the Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs thing. Once you’ve made more money than you can possibly ever spend, you look for ways to make a mark on the world. That is, if you don’t end up bankrupt like Sam Bankman-Fried or in prison like Elizabeth Holmes.
But go back a hundred-odd years and you had Scottish-American industrialist Andrew Carnegie, spending hundreds of millions of dollars on universities and libraries across Britain and the US. The library I went to as a child was funded by his money. Fast forward to today and you have the Gates Foundation, for which Bill Gates has devoted two decades of his life and pledged a billion dollars on a mission to eradicate malaria from the world. Or Altos Labs, gifted multiple billions by Jeff Bezos in the hope of finding a way to reverse human cellular ageing and allow us all to live to 150. Then you have Elon Musk’s SpaceX, with $9 billion to make humanity multiplanetary.
Which brings us to an Artificial Intelligence research foundation called OpenAI. Elon Musk was one of the original founders of the lab which is developing something called ChatGPT. GPT stands for Generative Pre-trained Transformer. No, me neither. But what it is, this ChatGPT, is an Artificial Intelligence-powered chatbot that talks a bit like a human.
I’m aware that this might not sound as inspiring, at first glance, as an end to ageing or a future on other planets, but the Microsoft Corporation clearly think there’s something in it. They’ve just invested a further $10bn, on top of the $1bn they’d already put in.
The beta version is already open for anyone to use. It will tell you things. You can ask it, for example, to tell you about the things tech billionaires do when they want to leave a legacy. I asked that. This is what it told me:
There are many ways tech billionaires can leave a legacy. Some choose to use their wealth to make a positive impact on the world through philanthropy. Others invest in new technologies or businesses. Still others leave a legacy by inspiring and mentoring future leaders in the tech industry. Ultimately, it will depend on their individual values, passions, and goals.
So it all depends, really, is the gist of it. Which I duly noted.
I then asked it something different. I asked it to tell me exactly the same thing all over again, but this time in the style of hard-boiled crime writer Raymond Chandler. This is what it said:
Tech billionaires got a lotta ways to leave their mark on the world, see? Some of ’em go the charitable route, and use their dough to make an impact on society. Others get all visionary, backing new tech that could change the future. And then you got the ones that wanna inspire the next generation of tech leaders, like some kinda mentor. All depends on what they want their legacy to be.
That’s pretty passable, for a robot. A lot of actual humans would struggle to do that.
I had less impressive results with a couple of other styles. And ChatGPT definitely needs to brush up its Shakespeare. All I got from that was a couple of doths and a there be. But the fact I could have this kind of interplay with a machine says something. And it’s only going to get better.
All of this has major implications for the advertising industry. It is becoming ever more likely that Artificial Intelligence will increasingly be involved in the planning, creation and evaluation of campaigns. Its proponents say that it will be relied on across the lifecycle to ‘build in’ effectiveness, to heighten creativity and to accelerate and optimise feedback and response.
As the chatbot puts it:
This technology has the potential to revolutionize the way we create and evaluate ads. With its ability to analyze data and identify patterns, AI can help create more targeted and personalized campaigns that speak directly to the consumer.
AI technologies are already being used for live monitoring of ad response rates, identifying the effectiveness of specific communication elements in real time and opening up the ability to make automated adjustments to messaging, minimising or even cutting out the need for human intervention from a strategist or media planner.
Then there’s the impact on creative departments. If you can take the same basic message and restyle it an infinite number of times to suit the specific needs, interests and tastes of individual recipients, that allows for infinite hyper-personalisation of content. By harvesting social media data and using algorithms and AI, a million or more individual consumers could each receive a unique selling message targeted at them and them alone. It would read like actual language rather than computerspeak. And there wouldn’t be a single copywriter involved, except for maybe the one who crafted the ‘master’ version.
AI content creation will also have an impact on consumers. In a rapidly fragmenting world, what remains of the mass media is probably one of the few things left that binds people together in a shared society. More individualised messaging, more of the time, means more people having their own preferences and prejudices confirmed to them. It also means people becoming less accustomed to the concept of listening to and tolerating opposing views. We could be talking Culture Wars on steroids.
Or we could be looking at a better, more personalised world where one size doesn’t fit all, and a better advertising industry where real skill is valued and mundane tasks are automated. Or some way between the two. Either way, the future is coming and our industry can’t afford to ignore it.
I’ll leave the last word to the computer:
With its capacity for automation, Artificial Intelligence frees up human workers to focus on the more creative and strategic aspects of the job. But there’s always that nagging doubt. As AI continues to advance, will it eventually render human workers obsolete? Will we see a future where the creativity and nuance of the human mind is replaced by algorithms? Only time will tell.
First published by Warc.com on 24 January 2023