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‘The great unifier’: Marketing execs’ (tentative) generative AI hopes for 2024

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By Sam Anderson | Network Editor

February 2, 2024 | 10 min read

We gathered a cross-disciplinary panel of AI-interested marketers to canvass their gen AI hopes for the year ahead.

A robot's hand, bunched into a fist

Marketers' AI hopes for 2024 / Possessed Photography via Unsplash

Generative AI (gen AI) means a lot of different things to different people: time saver, job threatener, game changer, empty buzzword. Marketers are no different, with opinions ranging from wide-eyed wonder to fear (and loathing). Still, last year saw a rapid ramp-up as agencies began to find real-world use cases for the breakout tech. Different shops have, naturally, met with different degrees of success.

Against this backdrop, we gathered seven smart marketers from across departments – copy, innovation, delivery, social – to ask how they’re hoping the tech develops this year.

Their full responses are below, but first a look back. This time last year, as generative AI entered its annus mirabilis, we were faced with a flurry of predictions: an immediate replacement of some designers with ‘prompt engineers,’ a deluge of AI-executed creative, leveled-up strategy and thinking.

As 2023 turned to 2024, though, our panel’s stance was decidedly ambivalent. The tech’s early strengths are now clear: VML’s director of experience design, Luke Hurd, calls generative AI “the great unifier” thanks to its ability to “chew through standardization tasks very quickly.” Then, AI-empowered iteration has helped marketers to “find the edges of the creative” very quickly, according to Team Lewis’s global head of innovation, Andy Martinus. We also know that it’s good for synthesizing data, delivering early drafts at lightning speed, re-versioning and ruling out route-one campaign ideas – as Oliver’s executive creative director Rae Stones puts it, it can be a “practical tool for not doing really average work.”

But then there’s the other side of that ambivalence. For a start, none of our panel has rushed to fill their creative teams with AI prompt writers – The Fifth’s innovation director Jordan Carroll describes the idea as “almost paradoxical,” saying: “These tools are meant to be democratized so that anyone who can read, write or speak can use them. So why are people bundling up that skill in one role?” Universally, our panel has opted to train existing staff in using AI tools instead.

Then there’s wider continued reticence to hand over too much to AI, especially in the creative realm. Great unifier, sure, but generative AI remains a synthetic tool, reliant on cribbing from others’ work, making it “the antithesis of creativity,” says Hurd (albeit one with massive usefulness). And, as Stones puts it: “Just because it looks like it’s copywriting doesn’t mean it’s actually copywriting. Just because it looks like it’s coming up with a unique idea doesn’t mean it’s actually coming up with a unique idea.”

So, if 2023 was about AI mania, marketers are starting 2024 with a stronger dose of AI skepticism. But there’s still plenty to be excited by.

Matt Kissane, global executive director, Landor: “I’m interested in the ethical and inclusive use of data, linked to the mixing of real and synthetic data, constructed through AI. This will give us more representative views of the communities that we serve because, typically, our information comes from surveys and the people who fill out panels – the people who have the time and the inclination to do it rather than the whole population. I’m also interested in seeing more fusion between work on brand management and on brand performance: does the extent to which your brand is kept ‘on brand’ actually end up leading to upticks in performance metrics? A lot more precision will come from AI, particularly with creative ideas and positioning statements; we’ll be more able to analyze minutiae and nuances. This will force us to really establish points of clear and differentiated positioning for brands.”

Rae Stones, executive creative director, Oliver: “Generative AI is not going to make good creative, but it is going to make good creatives better. It’s an amplifier; it’s a new level of tool for copywriters – we have dictionaries and now we’ve got gen AI. It’s such a huge leap it’s ridiculous. It’s massive. We’re going to see more creativity and the uniqueness of that creativity will be more important than ever before. But first, there’s going to be a glut of really average work, a sea of wallpaper. And then, slowly from that sludge will come the new evolution of how to stand out. I think we’ll see a creative resurgence towards the end of the year.”

Jordan Carroll, innovation director, The Fifth: “With pushes like the Content Authenticity Initiative, supported by Adobe, we’re moving towards an open standard whereby you can look at the metadata of an asset and see if it’s been made using AI. I’m interested in forecasting a future where on, say, Meta, just as an ad is very clearly denoted as an ad, AI assets are clearly denoted as AI. Will that create a second class of assets where people go, ‘Oh, no, that’s AI,’ and scroll past it? AI will have to bridge quite a big gap to make it have the same quality as human creative (and to not fall into that trap). I’m also interested to see how wild and wacky people go with the tech that they’re building around AI.”

Andy Martinus, global head of innovation, Team Lewis: “Something that really excites me about AI is the ability to create accessibility – someone who can’t see, for example, can create visually. Creating ‘an ability’ for people fascinates me – if you can’t speak but you can prompt an AI to say what you want to say, you can even create a voice. The technology can be used for good – we’ve gone through a year now of it being used because it can, not because it should.”

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Luke Hurd, director, experience design, VML: “The thing that excites me the most is computer vision, which works with large models to interpret things, similarly to the large language models and transform models that power gen AI. There’s an emerging blend of those two things that a lot of people aren’t aware of: imagine having glasses that can ‘see’ and ‘understand’ the world and then give you contextual information about it quickly (without that latency of you pulling your phone out to Google something or take a photo of it). That latency reduction is the secret sauce; having that power will reduce a lot of friction and device fumbling – 90% of what you do on your phone is moving the windows around or typing, but AI can take away a lot of those annoyances in how we interact with digital experiences and make them more like our normal physical experiences. AI is not the one solution to anything; nothing is, nothing will be. But those two things, I think, will unlock it – those two pieces of AI working together. Think Meta’s Quest 3, combined with its Ray-Ban glasses. You’d be surprised at the kind of world that would unlock.”

Gemma Oldfield, head of digital delivery, DRPG: “I’m excited to see how our team evolves and how that really changes over the coming months – especially as some of our clients get a bit more confident about AI and want to take more risks. Because we are seeing some resistance.”

Olivia Wedderburn, executive social influence director, TMW Unlimited: “I’m excited about creating and making tools and seeing my own ideas really quickly moving from fantasy into reality, from the ‘I wish’ box into the ‘things that we can actually develop’ box. Ideas are becoming truly scalable; the impossible is becoming possible every single day. There are real opportunities around amping up your creativity and seeing where we can scale things to unlock new value for brands – and also lean in more on brand value messaging; there are all sorts of areas that we can evolve quite quickly using AI because we can get those ideas and turn them into real-life things really quickly.”

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DRPG

DRPG is one of the longest established, trusted and uniquely integrated communication and production specialists, famous for making anything possible as we connect people, build brands and help grow organisations worldwide. We are recognised for creating highly engaging internal, external and experiential communications, producing award winning live events and exhibitions, compelling film and video, intuitive digital solutions and visually striking design-led print. Our facilities in the Midlands include 4.2 acres of creative and production facilities, 8 fully equipped edit suites, 3 state-of-the-art studios, digital innovation labs, a dedicated print facility, 3D projection cinema, construction centre and contemporary design suite. Making it the largest corporate communication facility in the UK. We also have offices in Leeds, Windsor, Covent Garden and this year also opened in Cologne, St. Louis, Dublin and Belfast. We work with a large and diverse range of leading companies and brands from the automotive, retail, public, transport, telecoms and financial sectors to name to just a few. From the very beginning of any project, we make one simple promise to our clients; “anything’s possible”. It’s a promise which ensures that our work engages, inspires and excites the audience no matter their sensibility, size or seniority.

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UNLIMITED

UNLIMITED is the UK’s leading conversion agency. Our mission is to create genuine business advantage for clients, and we do this by uncovering behaviour-led insights from our Human Understanding Lab.

We are a fully integrated agency group with Human Understanding at the heart. Our four, award-winning divisions; marketing, communications, insight & analytics and digital, drive our creativity and define our solutions.

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VML

VML is a leading creative company that combines brand experience, customer experience, and commerce, creating connected brands to drive growth. VML is celebrated for its innovative and award-winning work for blue chip client partners including AstraZeneca, Colgate-Palmolive, Dell, Ford, Intel, Microsoft, Nestlé, The Coca-Cola Company, and Wendy's. The agency is recognized by the Forrester Wave™ Reports, which name WPP as a “Leader” in Commerce Services, Global Digital Experience Services, Global Marketing Services and, most recently, Marketing Measurement & Optimization. In addition, VML’s specialist health network, VML Health, is one of the world’s largest and most awarded health agencies. VML’s global network is powered by 30,000 talented people across 60-plus markets, with principal offices in Kansas City, New York, Detroit, London, São Paulo, Shanghai, Singapore, and Sydney.

VML is a WPP agency (NYSE: WPP). For more

information, please visit www.vml.com, and follow along on Instagram, LinkedIn, and X. #WeAreVML

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TEAM LEWIS

TEAM LEWIS is a global marketing agency, delivering Creative Campaigns for Commercial and Community Causes. The company has 26 offices throughout Asia, EMEA and North America.

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THE FIFTH

We built the agency with one clear mission: to do things differently.

The agency was founded on a mutual understanding of what it means to have real influence and how to wield that power authentically and responsibly. We believe in the talent who are truly influencing culture; the community guardians and the change makers. We set out to build an agency that would help brands connect with these voices and communicate with their audiences.

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Our unique model moves at the speed of modern business to drive change from the inside out; working smarter to make our clients’ money go further, and helping them build better solutions, systems and brands. Client solutions include Unilever’s U-Studio (a platform used by almost three-quarters of Unilever's brands globally), adidas’ off-shore hub and PepsiCo’s global digital team. In 2020 we were ranked #1 in Adweek’s Fastest Growing list (US) and featured in The Drum’s Honours List of the best businesses that helped shape the year. We are part of the Inside Ideas Group (IIG), which combines specialisms from Adjust Your Set (content and culture), Dare (design, experience and engineering) and Aylesworth Fleming (property marketing). IIG joined the world’s first brandtech™ group You & Mr Jones in January 2019 to give their clients access to the latest marketing technology solutions. The group includes tech-driven marketing companies, 55, Mofilm, Collectively, Gravity Road, Blood and Mobkoi, and holds strategic investments in leading technology businesses including Pinterest, Niantic, AI Foundation, VidMob, Jivox, Zappar, EVRYTHNG, Automat, Blacktag and Beeswax.

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Landor

We are Landor. World-leading brand specialists. Consulting. Design. Experience.

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