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Google Hardee's AI

Here’s how AI is permanently changing the ad game in the era of autonomous marketing

By Aaron Shapiro, Founder and Chairman

February 20, 2023 | 7 min read

We are officially entering a new era of marketing, according to Product founder and chairman Aaron Shapiro. Here’s a glimpse into the AI-powered future of advertising.


AI-powered tools like ChatGPT offer huge potential for marketers – if they’re wielded correctly. / Adobe Stock

Hardly a day goes by that we don’t hear about some exciting piece of AI news. ChatGPT is everywhere, and it only seems to be growing; back in January, Microsoft invested $10bn into OpenAI (the company behind ChatGPT), and Mint Mobile released an ad that was scripted by the AI-powered chatbot.

While ChatGPT, Character.AI, MidJourney and all the other new AI models are extremely fun to play with, today’s real-world uses haven’t gone very far beyond making it easier for students to cheat on their essays. And in recent weeks, the pitfalls of AI (think racist chatbots and Google’s recent Bard debacle) have largely been dominating headlines.

But under the radar, AI-powered innovation is transforming marketing as we know it.

We’re entering the era of autonomous marketing. Here’s a look at some of the ways AI is currently changing the ad game:

Algorithms are outperforming humans at finding target audiences

Facebook and Google’s algorithms are already far better than humans at identifying target audiences. The human media buyer has been relegated to merely deploying these algorithms and letting them do their work. The rare companies that can outperform Facebook and Google have unique datasets that they apply to their own machine-learning algorithms.

Other digital marketing platforms like Taboola and TikTok have their own algorithms, and analog media is racing to build data-driven optimization solutions. In any of these cases, AI is beating out its human competitors.

Machine learning is progressing toward automated content creation

Content is also increasingly starting to fall into the purview of AI. Today, the leading search advertisers let Google automatically create and test text ads from the company’s landing pages – based on Google’s autonomously selected keywords and audience parameters. Such ads are almost impossible for humans to beat.

Ads that are auto-generated with images and text are also now in-market. Technology is still young, but it’s advancing every day. Hardee’s recently created 10,000 burger images using the generative AI model DALL-E. (Part of that gimmick, it should be mentioned, was to demonstrate the limitations of such technology in its current stage.) And B2B management and tech firm ZS also used Midjourney – another generative AI platform – to create images for its “Data connects us” campaign, which launched last month.

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It’s only a matter of time before the vast majority of content production is handled by AI. Today’s image generators could eventually become sophisticated enough to produce full-scale commercials.

Don’t worry. When (and if) that day arrives, strategists and creatives will still have vital roles to play: they’ll need to think up the original ideas upon which the content will be based, and also tweak the AI’s prompts to optimize the content that’s produced. AI will simply be another content production tool, like Figma is today.

AI-powered personalization keeps getting better

The largest tech companies have been using machine learning to customize digital experiences for the better part of a decade. Case in point: Your TikTok feed is unique from all others, customized by an algorithm to appeal to your interests. The next wave will be providing personalized digital experiences for every company, and every individual, at scale. As AI evolves, brands will be able to create more sophisticated digital experiences with less code. It will also make it easier to automate customer interactions – think CRM on steroids.

What automation means for the future of marketing

In the dawning era of automation, human marketers will increasingly become responsible primarily for developing strategies and fine-tuning AI systems. Don’t panic if this sounds like some kind of dystopian future. It’s not.

While autonomous marketing will reduce redundancies and streamline the creative process – cutting some costs and jobs that will have become superfluous – it’s likely to dramatically sharpen the precision of marketing. As early applications have already demonstrated, autonomous marketing offers the potential to eliminate (or at least significantly reduce) the uncertainty and risk that’s historically been inherent to so many marketing expenditures. And by backing up human intuition with data and optimizing every interaction, we can arrive at an era of marketing that’s far more effective than anything we could’ve ever imagined just a few years ago.

Aaron Shapiro is the founder and chairman of Product. For more on the latest happening in AI, web3 and other cutting-edge technologies, sign up for The Emerging Tech Briefing newsletter here.

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