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Artificial Intelligence AI ChatGPT

How ChatGPT is prompting advertising strategists to think different


By Amy Houston, Senior Reporter

March 27, 2023 | 11 min read

For The Drum’s latest Deep Dive, AI to Web3: the Tech Takeover, we catch up with planners from Jellyfish, R/GA and more to hear about how they’ve been experimenting with the AI chatbot ChatGPT.


ChatGPT / Unsplash

Tom Roach, the vice-president of brand strategy at Jellyfish, has been putting ChatGPT through its paces recently, asking the machine learning tool to create a list of potential brand positioning ideas. Mostly, he has been met with some rather bland and uninspiring suggestions – but these have been pretty useful in helping to eliminate clichéd routes.

“I thought it was a really obvious way to use it,” he tells us. “But I was surprised that people thought it was non-obvious, that they hadn’t thought of it that way. It was a really simple flip for me – don’t expect it to be giving you all the answers yet.”

Roach took a real project that his team was working on for an educational institution and used ChatGPT to come up with positioning ideas in the knowledge they would be ”bog-standard”. As predicted, he was met with platitudes such as “unlock your potential,” which wouldn’t look out of place on a poster ad on a train, for example. He pushed it further, prompting the bot to give him “surprising” and “unique” concepts, but the system would merely end up quite literally adding in those words. “It doesn’t have a brain and is just using historical information.”

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Its idea generation is mediocre

Presenting to clients is another practical situation where Roach feels the server could become advantageous. “If the client pushes us back toward things that are more expected, then we’ll have some good evidence that it’s a bit pointless and isn’t going to be different.”

This is a sentiment that R/GA senior brand strategist Mario Ramirez Reyes echoes, explaining to The Drum: “You want to steer it closer to synthesis rather than analysis or idea generation. Analysis should be a planner’s job and ChatGPT’s idea generation is mediocre.”

There are four strong uses he has found for the bot. The first is for feedback summaries, which are particularly useful if you need to sift through multiple texts, he says. Next is training it on a framework – he advises people to begin by coaching it, explaining the objective, giving it examples, inputting texts and asking it to fill the framework. “It won’t be perfect, but along the way you’ll tweak and get to a good place faster than doing it alone.”

Thirdly (and this is his most valuable suggestion, he says) is to use it to reframe your position. “It makes the analysis less analytic – and boring. The first draft generally tends to be more rigid, more prone to rely on jargon, clichés and even a passive voice. And many times, we don’t have time to go beyond first drafts – much to the dismay of bored creatives.

“Asking it to rewrite your text – analysis, slide, brief, etc – in the style/voice of someone else can usually help shake off the uninspiring stiffness and unlock different ways in, but you should then bring it home yourself. Have it ELI5 [explain like I’m five] or write it in the style of Ernest Hemingway or like a song by Dolly Parton. Maybe have it turn into a debate by Cristopher Hitchens and Moe from the Simpsons.

“It’ll always be an imitation of the style, but you’ll likely pick up a metaphor or a phrasing or possibly a perspective that gives your writing a better way to hook the reader/audience. Plus, bonus points for having a deep well of pop culture and art history to draw from.”

The strategist confesses his fourth and last move is a bit hit-and-miss, but that it can sometimes be useful. If strategists input ’how would X solve this problem?’ into the server, he says, it can generate some interesting (though not top quality) results.

Get it to ‘Ronseal’ your strategy work

“It’s your new bullshit detector,” laughs Adrian McCusker-Delicado, whose agency Ah Um counts the NHS and Zoopla amongst its client roster. “Let’s face it, ChatGPT isn’t going to help you write Byronic verse. But use this to your advantage and get it to ‘Ronseal’ your strategy work.“

He admits that strategists can be prone to cramming decks with jargon and buzzwords, and that it can therefore be helpful to “stick your latest strat deck through the ChatGPT ringer and ask it to refine and bring clarity to your narrative“. He says to provide details of the intended audience and their level of technical understanding and tell it which style guides to reference.

His team has been planning a campaign for one of the UK’s leading telcos that wants to engage with SMEs in multiple markets. “We simply asked ChatGPT to create a 12-month content calendar for our target audience in each market, asking it to align to upcoming relevant events, the topics we should cover and the content formats we should use. In an instant, we have a draft campaign framework bespoke to business goals and audience that we can talk the client through and iterate on.”

Even though it can feel “refreshing”, he questions if never having to start with a blank page is good for creativity in the long run – which is something that Digitas UK’s chief strategy officer Matt Holt agrees with.

Holt tells us: “Like any emerging technology, ChatGPT comes with a health warning and that warning relates to using it to create the ‘difficult first draft’ of your strategy. It may be tempting to do this – the first draft is difficult for a reason. Your brain is synthesizing information and connecting the dots. The act of writing the first draft gets you to unexpected places, be that diagnosing the problem or reframing the brief. What’s more, the blank sheet of paper can be hugely motivating if harnessed correctly.“

He argues that the best use cases are those that automate the more mundane elements of the role and leave strategists to do what they do best – “connecting the dots to write strategies that create a positive impact“. He says: “The machine can do the logic and us humans can bring the magic.“

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You’re still going to need somebody to spot the gems

No matter where you stand on ChatGPT, “you can’t avoid it at the minute,” as Roach puts it. “Genuinely, all the strategists at Jellyfish seem to be using it in different ways.” These range from pitch research to finding papers on specific topics and streamlining wording, and he says some have even looked to it for audience insights – human truths about going to the cinema, for example, or to develop questionnaires.

“You can see a lot of it is initial research – trying to quickly establish the ground that you’re on, this territory that you’re on with a project, and getting up to speed quickly. We’re doing a media pitch and we gave ChatGPT the brand platform and explored what media activation ideas it might be able to come up with. The output wasn’t super original, but it could be useful in a brainstorming session to then push beyond.”

It’s the building blocks, so to speak, but Roach says you’re always going to need human creative minds to spot what’s good and interesting. “If you were to apply it to the world of generating creative ideas, you’re still going to need somebody with taste and experience to spot the gems. It can’t do that yet, but it’s moving all the time.”

Just a week ago, developer OpenAI (which also lists AI artist Dall-E in its portfolio) unveiled GPT-4, its most powerful AI tool yet, which can write code and even understand inputted images. Someone has already used it to build a website that allows users to code any arcade game and let them play it instantly. The shortcuts it provides are startling.

“Historically, I’ve not been breathlessly enthusiastic about the latest tech,” confesses the Jellyfish strategist. I’ve often been a bit more septical and will wait and see because there have been too many instances where people have got excited and it has not quite had the same practical usage.

“This, however, could genuinely provide practical utility, which I think is unheard of. We’re all inundated with stuff in our social feeds about it and, of course, we still need to work out what’s snake oil and what isn’t.”

As a business, Jellyfish is looking at ChatGPT broadly and how it might help across the media, creative and tech sectors it works in, says Roach. “It will have huge implications when it comes to our production. We have big capability around creating assets, adapting them for platforms, translating them. That’s going to be a huge area in the world of the creative industries where this becomes embedded very quickly.

For more on the latest happenings in AI, web3 and other cutting-edge technologies, check out The Drum’s latest Deep Dive – AI to Web3: the Tech Takeover. And don’t forget to sign up for The Emerging Tech Briefing newsletter.

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