Do you know the true value of Generative AI for content?

You’ve probably used AI for digital advertising given how it helps Google’s search ad composition.

But are you using generative AI to develop content for advertising?

Reuters recently reported on some of the biggest advertisers using generative AI to cut costs and increase productivity. But what’s really going on?

Robert Rose, CMI’s Chief Strategy Advisor, discusses how Generative AI contributes to digital advertising – and what it doesn’t. Watch it below or read on for the highlights:

Automated forms of AI or algorithmic creation of advertising have been around for a long time. Nearly 10 years ago, Julie Fleischer, one of Robert’s marketing heroes, used content marketing at Kraft Foods to track over 22,000 attributes from more than 100 million annual visitors to her websites. They used this data to automatically create millions of dynamically curated ads for target groups.

In 2023, the conversation is about generative AI and how big brands are using it to save money and time on their advertising programs. But is it all just a gimmick? Or, to paraphrase the Reuters headline, is it “Mad Men and Women to Machines”?

Big brands use generative #AI to save costs and time on their advertising programs. Moving from Mad Men and Women to Machines, @Robert_Rose asks via @CMIContent. #GenAI Click to tweet

Despite concerns about security and copyright risks, many of the world’s largest advertisers use generative AI to create content that delivers more successful ad campaigns.

Robert says that while the use cases outlined in the article are a bit dated, they highlight the true value of AI and what it doesn’t mean in this approach to creative advertising.

The first campaign came from Mondelez International for its Cadbury brand in India. It used AI-generated voice and facial technology with Bollywood superstar Shah Ruh Khan. Small businesses selling Cadbury used a microsite to create a version of the ad in which the star credited their business. Around 2,000 stores created 130,000 ads for digital channels.

Cadbury used #AI technology to let a Bollywood superstar “speak” 130,000 custom ads for 2,000 stores via @Robert_Rose @CMIContent. Click to tweet

“It’s similar to what Julie did at Kraft ten years ago. They iterate thousands of versions of the ad at scale and on demand. That saves a lot of money in the production of the advertising materials,” says Robert, pointing out that Coca-Cola did this not too long ago.

Side note: The Cadbury campaign is a cause for concern. Robert says, “Having a big movie star testify for a local business filling the void? What could go wrong with that?”

Reuters included a second example of AI-generated advertising – the newsjacking campaign for Nestlé’s Laitiere (Milkmaid) yogurt and milk brand. There was a nod to the use of X-rays at Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum to reveal objects hidden behind Vermeer’s painting The Milkmaid.

Nestle’s agency, WPP, used OpenAI’s DALL-E2 to generate “imaginary” scenes outside the confines of Vermeer’s painting. Almost 1,000 iterations were developed and managed to create a media value of around 700,000 euros. But the real story was how much they saved in cost and time because they didn’t have all those images created by humans.

HubSpot recently used AI to design ads for its The Hustle newsletter. The campaign reduced subscriber acquisition costs by 300% by eliminating the cost of creating ad images.

“These campaigns are interesting experiments. To paraphrase one of my favorite shows, Friday Night Lights, we should have clear eyes and full hearts about what is being done and where the real value is being generated,” says Robert.

CMI’s latest career-focused study (registration required) reveals that content practitioners have major concerns about how generative AI will devalue their skills. The two most frequently cited concerns were ‘less respect for qualified writers’ and ‘writing/editing being viewed as a commodity’.

But the generative AI creative campaigns for Cadbury, Nestle, and HubSpot didn’t really do that. “Everyone needed a human to come up with the content idea. They needed someone else to shape it. And they needed someone else to focus on the creative production of what it would look like,” says Robert. “Technology was only used to scale the expression of this content.”

All of the big brands’ AI ad campaigns needed people. Technology has only scaled #content, says @Robert_Rose via @CMIContent. Click to tweet

This is how the technology worked in the days before AI. Think of photo editing enhanced by Adobe Photoshop, the evolution from film cameras to digital cameras, paste-up layout processes to desktop publishing software, etc.

“It always takes great marketers at the table,” says Robert.

As content creators, marketers, and creative artists, you have the ideas and context for the multiple iterations created by AI to make them work in the moment. It’s something only you can do now.

Howard Gossage, a character on the hit TV series Mad Men, put it succinctly: “No one reads commercials. People read what interests them, and sometimes it’s an ad.”

It’s your job to use the generative AI tools, become good at them, and evolve so you can properly use them to better express your interesting things – and sometimes that’s an advertisement.

What do you think? Is your AI a better idea generator than you – or your team? Or just use AI to increase the expression of those great ideas? Let us know in the comments.

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Cover photo by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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