Embracing AI as more than a buzzword
It’s been barely a year since generative AI has taken a cultural foothold and transformed how organizations and individuals interact with the data around us. In the intervening months, we’ve seen not only a surge of interest, but also wide adoption of AI tools of all varieties across many facets of our personal and professional lives. The age of accessible, customizable and scalable AI-driven marketing campaigns may finally be upon us. But are we ready for it?
I had the fortunate opportunity to moderate a panel at the CMA’s 2023 CMAadtech event with three of the most knowledgeable minds in the industry: Megan Nameth, Patrick Waller and Ben Wise. If you had a chance to watch either the live or recorded session, thank you. If not, here’s a recap of our conversation, along with some of my personal thoughts on the state of AI.
AI is no longer a buzzword
Irrespective of your personal thoughts or philosophies on the state of AI or its developmental trajectory, AI is here to stay. Not only have the largest adtech companies like Google, Meta, Amazon and Microsoft embraced and integrated their versions of the technology into their tools, but there is also a massive race to democratize AI so small and medium-sized businesses can realize its potential. As we’ve all seen over the past several months, AI has transitioned rapidly from a trendy conversation topic into a key tool supporting many of the digital tools that we use.
AI is a tactic and a tool, not a strategy
In much the same vein, AI has also shifted away from being thought of as a pillar of marketing or business strategy, and towards a more sensible role of an embedded tool enabling tactful execution. The issue with approaching AI as a strategy is that instead of finding a solution for a specific problem, you’re now looking for a problem that your pre-determined solution can fix. A rollout of AI without understanding your root business problems is akin to giving every employee a smartphone and magically hoping that productivity and creativity will improve overnight. At the root of it, AI is a tool that unlocks efficiencies, but only if we can identify where and how AI can be applied beneficially.
Don’t fear AI, understand it
Given the rapid pace of development in the AI field, it’s not surprising that keeping up with the latest information is difficult. This may cause undue fear of the technology’s potential risks or alienate marketers who want to understand AI’s promise. For better or for worse, the best way to overcome these concerns is to start testing and dabbling with the technology in safe ways. You could ask a tech-savvy friend or family member to give you a walkthrough of ChatGPT or Midjourney. Or ask an AI tool to provide information on a topic you already know about to understand its limitations. However you approach it, keep an open mind and stay curious, and you’ll quickly see what these tools can do and where they ultimately falter. After all, without a firm understanding of what AI is able to offer, you may find yourself unable to guide your team or your business to tailor the technology to your needs, while your competition continues to test, adopt and grow.
Do you believe in magic?
As Arthur C. Clarke once astutely said, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”, and while the inner workings of AI may seem somewhat magical (and has the potential to up-end the 20th century notion of work), we need to look no further than another author to see how AI might fit into our reality. In the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, we see magic being used to augment day-to-day tasks. Wizards and witches were still gainfully employed in a functioning economy, children were educated to use magic as a tool, and research was continually being done to push the boundaries of their craft. AI could very much follow the same path, taking a role as a powerful and personal tool to improve personal and societal well-being, but only if we let it.