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ChatGPT is a noisy neighbor – creative automation is the real revolution

By Gareth Davies, CEO

March 28, 2023 | 6 min read

The advertising industry will be turned on its head by AI tools, but ChatGPT won’t be among them, argues Leagas Delaney boss Gareth Davies.

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Leagas Delaney’s Gareth Davies argues marketers should focus on creative asset automation rather than tools such as ChatGPT / Leagas Delaney

The explosion of interest around ChatGPT in recent weeks has prompted many within the advertising industry to take a position on the OpenAI technology –perhaps unsurprising given the intrigue that it has sparked among consumers and clients alike.

However, ChatGPT isn’t the only platform signaling a seismic change in the creative industries. There is another technology revolution taking place and – while quieter – it is likely to have an even more profound effect on the industry and how we all work. The revolution is ‘creative asset automation’, the use of technology to adapt, approve and supply marketing assets.

Creative asset automation isn’t itself new (here at Leagas Delaney, we developed our own platform over a decade ago). However, in recent years, the category has been getting noisier. The acceleration of interest is partly born out of a frustration that while the world in which advertising content is consumed has fundamentally changed, many of the production processes responsible for the creation of that content, have not.

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The headline benefit of the technology is that automation is designed to respond to this change – enabling the creation of marketing assets in a fraction of the time of conventional production, building like-for-like content in minutes, instead of hours or even days. It is a radical and transformational promise and one that looks set to rip up the long-established rules of production, particularly the often-cited primary project pillars of cost, time and quality. Creative asset automation challenges this model by offering the benefits of a consistently high-quality product at a fraction of the time and cost of traditional production.

For many marketers, it is a timely and welcome promise. The proliferation of channels seen over the last decade – and more – demands a broader, and ever-evolving, universe of content to be produced to support brand activity. For brands operating in a single market environment, the challenge can be daunting enough, however for those operating at speed, scale or across multiple markets, there is mind-bending complexity for the modern marketer to manage.

Not only that, but it all takes time. Time which could, arguably, be better spent elsewhere. Automation recognizes that allowing technology to carry the responsibility gives marketers the space to focus on the bigger strategic challenges.

Implicit within that ‘responsibility’ is the additional benefit of control. For the modern-day global brand marketer, control is a big deal. Brands can easily show up very differently in one market to the next and while local nuance and insight should always inform local content, a digitally inter-connected world demands singularity of purpose, experienced through consistent comms.

Progressive automation platforms not only deliver the benefit of control across large volumes of assets but also allow marketers access to the data generated by those same assets in the market. Live insights provided courtesy of real-time data provide marketers with the tools to optimize campaigns and spend at pace without waiting months for the obligatory – but inevitably out of date – post-campaign wash-up deck.

While, therefore, there is an understandable focus on automation’s headline benefit of game-changing efficiency, the more dramatic truth is that many of these platforms go well beyond this primary benefit. By marrying together ground-breaking efficiency and real-time effectiveness analysis, many automation platforms look likely to play a role in rewriting not only the rules of production but moreover, the shape of the industry itself. And therein lies the revolution – end-to-end technology platforms that not only create, amend and supply assets but also evaluate the performance of those same assets in market.

It will be a tectonic shift for an industry whose commercial models are built around, and bolstered by, the sight of regular production income and an army of people to deliver it. And while it seems inevitable that the change that automation will drive will be significant, it will also present progressive clients and agencies alike with opportunities.

The breadth of functions covered by automation will ask important questions of agencies, and clients, forcing both to build talent strategies around competencies that can offer the most value. Agencies that acknowledge the scale of the change ahead will most likely win out. As one client said to me recently, “Ideas remain the core currency of the advertising industry but the rest of the model is changing in front of our very eyes”. There will also be an inevitable shift in the balance between how much money clients commit to ‘non-working media’ (the part of the advertising budget spent developing advertising content) towards ‘working media’ (the part of the budget spent across media channels).

While this quiet revolution has a noisy neighbor in ChatGPT, together they signal perhaps the most significant change to our industry in recent memory. Whether noisy or loud, few can doubt that these generational technologies are about to reshape much of our industry.

Gareth Davies is CEO of Leagas Delaney.

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