A signal of who will survive the marketing world's AI transformation? Those already jumping in
Welcome to an end-of-week update from Unmade. Today: What we’ve learned in the five months since generative AI took off; join us on the Twitter killer; and a dip on the Unmade Index.
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Not if, not when. AI has already changed marketing practice
Cat McGinn, curator of humAIn - human creativity X AI writes:
When we began to discuss an event focusing on AI for the media and marketing community, ChatGPT had just launched, and the internet was flooded with AI-generated selfies and fleshly imagery from Midjourney that could have been straight out of a Cronenberg film.
Five months on, we are navigating an AI arms race between the tech giants; legislators are scrambling to respond to issues of control, privacy and safety; the Turing test of whether computers can think like humans is entirely obsolete, and the future envisioned in Spike Jonze’s Her, in which the protagonist develops a deep, interdependent relationship with an AI, is already here (although it may not be evenly distributed… yet).
Perhaps naively, back in November we wondered how much interest there would be in the event, and whether we should run it as a more casual pub chat rather than a conference.
At time of writing, we’ve yet to make a formal program announcement, but more than 25% of the available tickets have already gone.
Equally naively, as curator I imagined I had a reasonable grasp on what might be useful and relevant to the industry, and I have revised that notion on a weekly basis ever since.
The conversations I’ve been privileged to have had in developing the program have been extraordinary. Some have been avowedly Luddite in nature. Some fearful. Some wildly optimistic. We have discussed the nature of creativity, art, shifting definitions of intelligence, and what it means to be human. Not, I think you’ll agree, the standard tone of discussions in our industry. It’s liberating; exhilarating.
My own research and thinking over this period have been typified by turmoil. Several millennia ago I studied cyber-utopianism as part of my bachelor's in media, and it has been genuinely confusing to find that an aspect of my degree program was finally relevant to my job.
It’s not a matter of “if” or “when.” AI has already changed the game, from production to planning. Blue chip clients are using AI to replace six-figure production budgets, and smart production companies are using AI to create outcomes that are richer and more inventive, at a fraction of the cost.
There is a democratising impact too: complex conceptual ideas can be realised even on tiny budgets, and that means that smaller brands now have access to the same tools that established companies with greater resources have. We’ll see a disruption of the consumer landscape as a result.
The benefits of AI-powered media modelling for reducing wastage and honing effectiveness are clear. AI for insight generation; brand bibles as large language models, automation, deep personalisation, content marketing, SEO and SEM: it’s hard to think of a facet of this industry that doesn’t have a function that could be improved upon, sped up or scaled up with AI. The speed with which a campaign can now go to market and be optimised is revolutionary.
Some industry leaders are bullish: AI will take the boring and repetitive tasks and free us up to do more interesting and effective creative work. Agencies that have relied upon templating and volume to drive revenue won’t survive, and agencies that embrace the new tools and become leaner and more agile will thrive. There’s something a little… inhuman about this perspective, given that the impact will be most keenly felt by staff who have little control over the process, but this is the nature of changing commercial models. The dimension that will also cease to have relevance in terms of remuneration is time: billable hours in the context of AI will have little meaning, and a move to charging for outcomes seems logical.
There is something innately experiential about AI tools. The possibilities and limitations are not easy to explain; trying and playing and experimenting is crucial to get a handle on what is possible now, and to glimpse what could become available next.
There is a certain irony to the fact that AI image and video-generating tools have improved so rapidly we now see them as a credible threat to creative jobs - as a direct result of the sheer volume and frequency of creatives using them.
It’s the amount of human usage that has trained and improved the tools at an exponential rate; because millions of creative people have taught the AIs to create better and more accurate outcomes. And of course because sharing and discussing these outputs is highly visible - it may be that accountants and supply chain managers are also exploring AI tools with similar alacrity, but those stories aren’t quite so media friendly.
It’s a cliche already to say that AI won’t take your job, but someone using AI might. I believe this is less about your skill in prompt generation and more about your mindset, your willingness to learn, play and explore what’s possible, and potentially the freeing up of time from repetitive tasks that can be automated. Some job functions will, without question, cease to exist, but other roles will arise.
The artist Matisse talked about his abiding frustration that he couldn’t ever make the visions he saw in his mind’s eye come to life due to his technical limitations; the restriction of his skills wielding a paintbrush. He would have loved AI.
The immediate problem we face with AI as an industry is less one of killer robots enslaving humans, but rather a problem of alignment. Those responsible for developing AI are not aligned with those commercialising it, who are not aligned with those who may regulate it… let alone the vast majority of those who will be affected by it.
Historically, marketers have had an uneasy relationship with our responsibilities to the customer, but my contention is that if we don’t develop our thinking as an industry about the evolving ramifications of AI -and fast - we will be subject to the reactive hammer-fall of future regulation, just as we’re experiencing with data and customer privacy.
These are important conversations to have, needing the contribution of thinkers and leaders from across the media and marketing industry.
If you wanted a solid way to predict who would survive this transformation, I’d put my money on the companies and agencies that are already adopting and trialling AI capabilities.
humAIn takes place in Sydney on July 12. Discounted earlybird tickets are on sale for the next fortnight
See you on Substack Notes
Tim Burrowes writes:
While we’re talking about ourselves, which we seem to be doing today, I’d urge you to try a new feature on Substack (the platform which we used to publish Unmade).
I’ve just published my first note on Substack Notes, and would love for you to give it a try too.
Notes is a new space on Substack for us to share links, short posts, quotes, photos, and more. Substack denies it’s intended as a Twitter replacement, but Elon Musk fears it is. For once, he might be right.
I plan to use Notes for things that don’t fit in the newsletter, like announcements, breaking news, work-in-progress or quick questions.
How to join Notes
Head to substack.com/notes or find the “Notes” tab in the Substack app. As a subscriber to Unmade, you’ll automatically see our notes. Feel free to like, reply, or share them around!
You can also share notes of your own. I hope this becomes a space where every reader of Unmade can share their thinking.
If you get stuck, you can refer to the Notes FAQ for assistance. See you there.
Unmade Index dips into the red
Seja Al Zaidi writes:
The Unmade Index slipped by 0.2% yesterday, following the downwards drift of the wider ASX All Ordinaries.
The biggest drop on our Index, which tracks the daily performance of ASX-listed media and marketing stocks, came from Enero Group, parent company of agencies including BMF and Hotwire, which fell by 2.36%
The largest stock on the Unmade Index, Nine, saw a 1.46% fall in its share price.
Outdoor advertising company Ooh Media continued to rise, with its 3.3% lift the largest increase on the Index yesterday.
It was followed by audio companies HT&E and Southern Cross Austereo, which rose by 2.19% and 1.22% respectively. The uplift took SCA’s languishing market capitalisation back above $200m.
Time to leave you to it.
We’ll be back with a bumper edition of Best of the Week tomorrow - for a short week, it’s been a busy one.
If you’re a paying subscriber, you’ll find your voucher code for reduced price humAIn tickets at the bottom of any recent edition of Tuesdata. We’ll be repeating it again this coming Tuesday, or you can message email@example.com in the meantime.
Have a great Friday.
Publisher - Unmade
From the time cookies were introduced to when GDPR went into effect, it was 23 years.
If we’re 23 years away from serious regulation around AI, we’re in a lot of trouble.