Does ChatGPT pose an existential threat to marketers?

Welcome to my first column for MarTech, where I will immediately and publicly admit I’m suffering through an existential crisis that began on November 30, 2022…

A full-blown, real-life, mind-bending, core-gripping conundrum, the kind that causes a person to immediately reposition or curl up in the fetal position. I call my quandary existent-AI-lism

I imagine that most marketers have been feeling the same since that fateful day when OpenAI released ChatGPT and we went from imagining what AI could do to seeing what it will do, to and for our profession.

Or as I like to call it, the day Skynet sent the Terminator. 

Dig deeper: AI in marketing: 7 areas where it shines and struggles

AI is okay — and it’s just getting started

Over the past year, we’ve seen glimpses of how AI could impact our creative profession and marketing world. Frankly, it’s been fun – like a visit to Jurassic Park before the dinos figured out the fences aren’t electrified. 

Admit it, you’ve created handsomer and more heroic versions of yourself with Lensa, which uses AI to generate photo-realistic images like my headshot. 

Or used the more intelligent and interesting Midjourney, which in just a few minutes created the AI-inspired custom artwork for this column’s hero image.

But while AI-generated selfies are certainly intriguing and fun, they quickly became quaint compared to the new AI-driven, internet-searching, info-generating answer engine that is ChatGPT, the most impressive and heralded of this first generation of AI-generated, conversation-driven, language-based technology.

I admit, I feel threatened by its unprecedented capability to respond to user-generated, natural language queries with nearly instantaneous content creation. But I feel interested when considering it as a research and content curation tool.

I don’t think it will replace us marketers, strategists, planners or creatives in the immediate future. That will be Terminator 2. No, my crisis comes from thinking it will cause most people, executives, clients and managers to think it can replace us. Here’s why.

I asked ChatGPT the following question: 

“Give me a 500-word article about the ethical and practical implications ChatGPT and AI-driven content creation will have on marketing, marketers and advertising agencies. Style is casual but smart with a little bit of wit.” 

Here’s what it “contemplated” and “created.”

ChatGPT and other AI-driven content creation tools have the potential to revolutionize the marketing and advertising industry. On one hand, they offer a level of efficiency and personalization that was previously impossible. But on the other hand, they raise a number of ethical and practical concerns that must be considered.

From an ethical standpoint, one of the biggest concerns with AI-generated content is that it could be used to spread misinformation or propaganda. Because the algorithms behind these tools are not always transparent, it may be difficult to trace the source of false information and hold those responsible accountable. Additionally, there is a risk that AI-generated content could perpetuate biases that are built into the data sets it is trained on, leading to further marginalization of certain groups.

Another ethical concern is the potential for AI-generated content to displace human workers. As these tools become more advanced and widely adopted, there is a risk that they could replace jobs that have traditionally been done by copywriters, marketers and other creative professionals.

From a practical perspective, there are also a number of concerns that need to be addressed. One of the biggest challenges with AI-generated content is ensuring that it is high quality and that it aligns with a brand’s overall messaging and tone. There is also the question of how to measure the effectiveness of AI-generated content, as it may be difficult to distinguish between what has been generated by a machine and what has been written by a human.

Despite these concerns, there is no denying the potential that AI-driven content creation tools like ChatGPT have for the marketing and advertising industry. For one thing, they can be used to generate highly personalized content that is tailored to individual consumers. This can be particularly effective when it comes to email marketing, social media advertising and other forms of digital marketing.

Additionally, ChatGPT and other AI-generated content tools could help to improve the efficiency of the content creation process. By automating certain tasks, such as writing product descriptions or creating social media posts, marketers can spend more time on higher-level tasks like strategy and analysis.

In conclusion, while ChatGPT and other AI-driven content creation tools have the potential to revolutionize the marketing and advertising industry, they also raise a number of ethical and practical concerns that must be addressed. These concerns include the potential spread of misinformation, displacement of human workers and the need to ensure that the AI-generated content is of high quality and aligned with the brand’s messaging. Despite this, the potential benefits are undeniable, such as the ability to generate personalized and efficient content, it would be up to the industry and society to find ways to mitigate the issues and make use of the benefits.

Dig deeper: When I asked ChatGPT to write an article about ChatGPT

Impressive results, just not insightful answers

So, what do you think about ChatGPT’s response and copy above? Here’s a hint — it’s fine.

Now I’ll be the first to admit, it’s pretty impressive when you consider it was machine-driven in mere seconds. I mean, like click, tick, boom. 

Mind-blowing? Yes. 

Time-saving? Definitely. 

But job-ending? Not yet. 

That’s because after picking my jaw up off the floor and rereading it, it feels like it was written by a high school student who spent 10 hours googling the subject, copied and pasted content from their top search pages into a Word document, wrote an identical intro and conclusion, then congratulated themselves on their obviousness. 

At worst, you might say these AI-driven texts don’t yield useful insights or relevant outputs because they’re contextually void of my intent and emotionally inconsiderate of the audience’s needs. And I’ll concur that’s true. 

At best you might say, but isn’t that just fine? Well, fine isn’t good enough when we know that our audiences, buyers and customers want brands to make them feel understood, heard, considered and valued. 

Without humans actively sculpting and shaping AI, it can only generate “good enough.” And as we all know, “good enough” results in creative content that barely causes people to react — and very often to reject. Just ask Marvel. 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m in awe of a tool that out-googles Google in its ability to scour the internet to contextually find organize and generate relevant and applicable content in seconds versus what might take me, my strategists or copywriters’ hours or days to find and assemble. 

Maybe that’s why Microsoft invested $10B in OpenAI for Bing. It’s not just an innovative alternative to search — it is the future of search, a more effective starting point for querying and a shortcut to synopsis. 

So can AI-driven tools like ChatGPT generate valuable insights and work on their own without us helping to assemble information, answer questions and generate outputs like the modern-day blacksmiths of brands that we need to become? 

Anything that condenses time to information, time to production and time to market is a marketing advantage. But more important than the output for these AI engines is the input, which at this time still relies on a person who can think critically and creatively about the problem to be solved and the people to be affected. 

Answers aren’t the only answer to marketing. Great marketing always starts with asking better questions. That’s where the critical thinking and crucial work gets done.

Great marketing takes intelligence that AI does not yet have and still makes us humans a necessary part of the formula for breakthrough work. Because without us, without our inquisitiveness, without our desire to connect to others, without our innate need to push further, we just get lazy inputs and obvious outputs from AI. 

And keep this in mind, our buyers aren’t lazy. They’re doing their diligence, their research, their comparisons, their consumption — and now they’re doing it with AI condensing their search, consideration and comparison process. If you don’t want AI to make the decisions about how you show up to them, you will still need to invest in creativity. In insights. In ideas. 

AI tools will enhance — not replace — (most of) us 

One of my copywriters today shared that she used ChatGPT to basically write a six-page position paper in 15 minutes. She shook her head and said, “That would have taken me three days to find all that information and organize it.” 

I told her, well now you have three days to think of what to do with it and what’s next for the client. And to me, that is the value. 

Time is the value. No more legwork, no more waiting, no more wondering what and where the information we want exists. With AI, we become bionic, enhanced and accelerated. For the most important things, AI enhances us, not replaces us. We become the Terminator.

Fortunately, ChatGPT and other AI-driven search/research/content creation tools won’t yet cause our profession’s extinction in the way that the asteroid wiped out the dinosaurs.

But even more fortunate for us, it will set forth a chain reaction that will change our profession, accelerating profound progress in the way that steam engines, automobiles, electricity and the internet have done before — except faster than any of those. 

We may lose some jobs and menial tasks to AI, but I don’t think anyone misses elevator operators or stagecoach drivers anymore and they won’t miss writing 30-word social posts either. 

So, welcome the Terminator into your work and company workflow or prepare to “hasta la vista, baby.”

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