Generative artificial intelligence is set to transform the marketing world with its research and creative abilities, and 3M’s Garima Mamgain looks at how marketers will be part of it and where to find the talent to tap it.

In August 2022, I joined the waitlist to experiment with OpenAI's Dall-E Mini text-to-image generative AI (GAI) tool. I spent a few hours playing around with it until I ran out of my quota of free daily prompts.

Back then, GAI tools felt like a cool party trick. Of course, now, in the AI-fuelled world, a year feels like a lifetime ago. The discussions about GAI and its applications in marketing are now inescapable. 

Besides OpenAI's ChatGPT and Dall-E, many other models and tools are entering the market at a rapid pace. Some popular ones include Stability AI's Stable Diffusion, Midjourney, Anthropic, Google's Bard and Meta's Llama.

Like most marketers, I am playing around with AI tools and contemplating how the new wave of AI tools will change marketing.

GAI tools will impact content creation, creativity and market research, significantly impacting talent, budget and strategy. Yet the timing of this AI wave is tricky for marketers.

Is it the dotcom 2.0 era all over again?

With a recession in sight, most companies are tightening their belts. Marketing budgets and teams have shrunk and marketers are taking fewer risks. With existing marketing budgets and resources spread thin, a Gartner survey of 410 CMOs and marketing leaders found that 71% said they lack the funding to execute their strategy in 2023. 

On one hand, brands’ risk appetites are decreasing. On the other hand, sophisticated AI tools are being launched nearly daily, stirring up the fear of missing out.

The situation is similar to how digital marketing felt in the 2000s – everyone knew digital would fundamentally change how we do marketing. Still, marketers needed help to predict the extent of change.

Hindsight is 20/20. Digital marketing now dominates media spending. But the mass adoption of digital media took time. Globally, digital accounted for more than 50% of total advertising revenue for the first time in 2019, almost two decades after Google launched Adwords (aka Google Ads).

A few brands have started incorporating AI tools to create content in Asia. Their experiences can help define potential do's and don'ts for the rest of us waiting to get aboard the AI train.

Don't cut the human out yet

GAI-generated content needs human oversight. The models are prone to misinformation, hallucinations and errors. In January 2023,  technology media site CNET used an AI writing tool. Controversy followed as more than half the articles written using it had mistakes, primarily in articles around personal finance. CNET apologised, with two big lessons.

  • AI engines make mistakes.
  • Disclosures around the usage of AI should be displayed as visibly as possible.

Clothing brand Giordano used AI-generated images for its Singapore National Day campaign. The tell-tale signs were that some models had more than five fingers!

AI has made significant progress in generating realistic images but it still needs to work on accurately recreating human hands in images. Human hands are complex, with different shapes, sizes and combinations due to multiple joints. The two-dimensional training data isn't enough to capture the intricacies of the human hand.

source: Twitter

Talent to maximise GAI returns may lie outside existing teams

Creating complex prompts for large language models that deliver excellent outputs is becoming a fascinating, emerging field. Talented prompt engineers will likely come from outside existing marketing teams, given the nascent field.

Tapan Aslot, an AI artist who makes surreal art using Midjourney, created a series called "Food with a golden touch" on Instagram. Baskin Robbins India contacted the artist to create mouth-watering AI imagery of ice cream. The result: Baskin Robbins' #ReimaginedinAi campaign on its social handles.

source: @baskinrobbinsin

Collaborations such as Tapan Aslot x Baskin Robbins can help brands tap the skills needed to maximise results.

Imagination is the limit with GAI

We often assume that AI imagery will replace the photos shot by a photographer but what if we could use the tech to do something completely different?

The 131-year-old Indian biscuit brand, Britannia, experimented with AI for a significant advantage of using the tech – the ability to be creative at a fraction of the cost.

Britannia and its creative agency Schbang used Midjourney and Adobe Firefly for sits latest campaign to create a magical world of biscuits.

source: Instagram

The path to mass adoption of GAI tools in marketing

Will the use of GAI remain limited to brands with surplus budgets? Probably not.

The past three months saw significant announcements across the marketing ecosystem. Meta's advertising sandbox can create text variations, background options and crop product imagery. Google has announced a similar solution for creatives. Meta and Google's GAI tools to create infinite ad options are all set for a broader roll-out later this year.

Amazon is also rumoured to be working on an AI-enabled tool to create product images and videos for advertisers, while TikTok has added a script generator for ads in its creative studio.

Agency partnerships

It's not just the big publishers that are working towards enterprise-ready use cases for AI. WPP and NVIDIA announced a partnership to develop a content engine that enables creative teams to produce high-quality content faster and at scale, while staying fully aligned with a client's brand.

Omnicom is also doubling down on AI in its partnerships with Adobe and Google.

Advertising on Google, Amazon, Meta, TikTok or close partnerships with agencies is a familiar domain for marketers. As these new features roll out in the coming days, GAI technology adoption will get a shot in the arm and move outside the experimental stage.

Are marketers ready to surf the AI wave?

GAI comes with the promise of improved speed and efficiency but it also poses risks such as misinformation, bias and copyright issues. Balancing the risks and advantages of the GAI boom will require work and thoughtful mini steps.

The good news is that not only have brands in Asia begun to experiment with AI-creative creation but the entire marketing ecosystem, including publishers and agencies, is working overtime to make AI-based solutions accessible.

Timing is everything. A marketer that embraces GAI-enabled innovation today is bound to create leverage like never before. The tide is rising – will you ride it?