The advertising industry is in a love-hate relationship with artificial intelligence.
In the past few months, the technology has made ads easier to generate and track. It is writing marketing emails with subject lines and delivery times tailored to specific subscribers. It gave an optician the means to set a fashion shoot on an alien planet and helped Denmark’s tourism bureau animate famous tourist sites. Heinz turned to it to generate recognizable images of its ketchup bottle, then paired them with the symphonic theme that charts human evolution in the film “2001: A Space Odyssey.”
A.I., however, has also plunged the marketing world into a crisis. Much has been made about the technology’s potential to limit the need for human workers in fields such as law and financial services. Advertising, already racked by inflation and other economic pressures as well as a talent drain due to layoffs and increased automation, is especially at risk of an overhaul-by-A.I., marketing executives said.
The conflicting attitudes suffused a co-working space in downtown San Francisco where more than 200 people gathered last week for an “A.I. for marketers” event. Copywriters expressed worry and skepticism about chatbots capable of writing ad campaigns, while start-up founders pitched A.I. tools for automating the creative process.
“It really doesn’t matter if you are fearful or not: The tools are here, so what do we do?” said Jackson Beaman, whose AI User Group organized the event. “We could stand here and not do anything, or we can learn how to apply them.”
Machine learning, a subset of artificial intelligence that uses data and algorithms to imitate how humans learn, has quietly powered advertising for years. Madison Avenue has used it to target specific audiences, sell and buy ad space, offer user support, create logos and streamline its operations.