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Artificial Intelligence AI Generative AI

Experts discuss the future of AI-powered marketing at The Drum Live in New York


By Webb Wright, NY Reporter

May 9, 2024 | 6 min read

The event’s opening panel yesterday morning highlighted the central role that AI-generated content is increasingly playing within the marketing sector.

Laila Mignoni, Mrinalini Nair and Emily Golden

From left to right: Bacardi’s Laila Mignoni. Uber Advertising’s Mrinalini Nair and Runway’s Emily Golden. / The Drum

There are few subjects that are more salient in the minds of marketers today than generative AI. It was fitting, therefore, for The Drum Live US to kick off yesterday morning with a panel discussion about the technology and its growing impact throughout the ad industry.

The three panelists – Bacardi’s Laila Mignoni, Uber Advertising’s Mrinalini Nair and Runway’s Emily Golden – brought a wide and illuminating range of perspectives to answer the central questions discussed throughout the conversation: How is generative AI currently transforming marketing, and how is it poised to do so in the future?

While the tenor of much mainstream conversation about this technology in recent months has had a foreboding edge, given its potential to sow confusion and misinformation during a critical election year in the US and elsewhere, yesterday’s panelists were optimistic about its potential for the marketing industry.

Golden, who works as head of growth marketing at Runway – a company that builds AI models for generating images and video – highlighted what she views as the technology’s democratizing effect within creative fields. “What we're really aiming to do at Runway is bring more people to the table to be able to tell stories,” she said. “Now anybody with an idea can create something.”

But AI models themselves, she added, are not enough to ensure the generation of high-quality content; like any other creative tool, they’re only useful in the hands of a competent artist. “Just because you hold a paintbrush, [that] doesn’t make you Picasso,” she said.

Technically skillful use of generative AI is one thing (many of us have been honing our prompt engineering skills over the past year and a half or so), but ethical use is quite another. As the fame and sophistication of this technology has continued to rise, so too has public awareness of its more unsavory qualities, including the fact that models are, in some cases, trained using copyrighted materials, or content that’s been non-consensually scraped from artists.

The issue was brought to the fore during the latest Hollywood writers’ strike, and again in a recent open letter signed by a throng of well-known musicians which called for an end to "the predatory use of AI” within their industry.

Brands can assume a leading role in this respect, according to Mignoni, global head of brand marketing communications at Bacardi. In the latest iteration of its Music Liberates Music campaign, the rum brand recently partnered with superstar hip-hop producer Boi-1da to build an AI model that could then be used to empower up-and-coming artists. The model was trained exclusively on Boi-1da’s catalog of beats, plus some of his unreleased tracks, ensuring that the output would not include any material that was gathered without consent.

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In the absence of federal regulation, Mignoni added, marketers should first and foremost turn to their own moral compasses when trying to navigate the sometimes hazy ethical waters of generative AI. “We don't have to wait for the exact [regulatory] guidelines to come in,” she said. “We already know what's right, [and] what's not.”

If there was a single, unifying theme that emerged throughout the 35-minute panel yesterday, it was this: Generative AI is a powerful creative tool, but it’s also very much still in its infancy, and marketers – like anyone else – should approach it with a mindset of experimentation and playfulness, tempered with a touch of healthy caution.

As Nair, head of global partner solutions at Uber Advertising, succinctly put it: “We are all learning at the same time.”

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