Altman’s Astonishing Forecast: AI to Overhaul 95% of Marketing Tasks – CMSWire

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The Gist

  • Sam Altman’s bold prediction. Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI, asserts that artificial general intelligence (AGI) will dramatically transform marketing, with 95% of tasks currently performed by marketing agencies, strategists and creative professionals being handled by AI.
  • Marketing and AI integration today. While Altman’s vision seems futuristic, the integration of generative AI into marketing tasks is already underway.
  • Concerns and challenges ahead. Despite the potential of generative AI in revolutionizing marketing, there are significant concerns related to data privacy, cybersecurity, intellectual property protection, authenticity, brand standards adherence and potential job loss.

Goodbye, marketing. Hello, AI. Or AGI.

OK, that’s totally dramatic. But it’s kinda what a top executive in the generative AI space says.

Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI, the creator of ChatGPT, says this in the new book, “Our AI Journey”:

“Oh, for that? It will mean that 95% of what marketers use agencies, strategists, and creative professionals for today will easily, nearly instantly and at almost no cost be handled by the AI — and the AI will likely be able to test the creative against real or synthetic customer focus groups for predicting results and optimizing. Again, all free, instant, and nearly perfect. Images, videos, campaign ideas? No problem.”

“Our AI Journey” by Adam Brotman and Andy SackForum3

Is Marketing Over When AGI Appears?

Say it ain’t so. Pretty much all creative marketing work is handed over to AGI systems in the future? OK, maybe not. Now, we’re being dramatic. After all, Altman did leave a 5% wiggle room for marketing tasks handled by agencies, strategists and creative professionals.

And, keep this in mind. Altman was talking about artificial general intelligence, which he says is about five years away. Phew, if you’re a marketing agency, right?

However, we all know marketing’s at an inflection point because of AI, particularly generative AI, made mainstream with the debut of ChatGPT in November of 2022. And a good chunk of our own marketing tasks have already been delegated to our generative AI friends. (We see those emojis your marketing team uses in those bulleted lists for LinkedIn posts. We know what you’re up to; and so are we, btw). 

But here’s the deal: Marketers have gotten great at implementing AI into their daily workflows, as long as they remember things like maintaining brand standards and brand voice.

We also know this: there’s arguably no technology that’s changed the game for marketers and customer experience professionals this fast. (I was impressed as a newspaper editor in 2002 when we could post PDFs to the internet).

Sure, we haven’t seen many of the generative AI replaces jobs headlines in a while. Or how customer service agents are no longer a thing, but we know generative AI does have the power to shake up customer service teams.

Look at what the Marketing AI Institute points out: “In one example this past week, Klarna, a huge payments company, just revealed its AI assistant now does the jobs of 700 employees. The AI assistant, powered by OpenAI, handles customer services chats. It chats with customers to do things like resolve service requests in different languages and manage refunds and returns. Klarna says that in just 1 month, the assistant is already doing the work of 700 full-time agents. So far, it’s conducted 2.3M conversations — a full two-thirds of all the company’s customer service chats.”

Powerful. But, boy oh boy. Ninety-five percent of marketing creative work? That’s a big number, Mr. Altman.

Even Paul Roetzer, who runs the Marketing AI Institute and is one of the leading marketing and AI thought leaders, is somewhat left for a loss of words when it comes to what Altman says is next for AGI and marketing.

“It’s a hard thing to wrap our minds around,” Roetzer said in his blog on Altman’s gigantic statement on generative AI and marketing.

Related Article: Generative AI in Marketing: Smoothing Creative Operations

Potential Marketing Wins With AGI

We admit: We love these kind of headlines. And they need to be covered because Sam Altman is the Warren Buffett of AI. When he speaks, we listen. When he’s fired and rehired, we grab some popcorn.

Marketers would be smart, however, to dig more into AGI and its future potential. The Google DeepMind report, “Levels of AGI: Operationalizing Progress on the Path to AGI,” is a good place to start.

Here are some takeaways from that report for marketers:

  • AGI’s Near-Term Relevance: The report underscores that aspects of AGI are becoming relevant in the short term, especially as large language models demonstrate capabilities that hint at AGI characteristics that could impact consumer interactions, content creation and data analysis methods.
  • Evolving Definitions of Intelligence: The diverse interpretations of AGI highlighted by Google DeepMind suggest that what we consider “intelligent” behavior in machines is evolving, potentially affecting the tools and platforms marketers use for engaging customers, personalizing content and making data-driven decisions.
  • Risk Assessment and Management: Google DeepMind outlines AGI and associated risks and the potential ethical and societal implications of using advanced AI technologies.
  • Human-AI Interaction Paradigms: Google DeepMind discusses how AGI advancements will unlock new human-AI interaction paradigms, which could disrupt how we deliver customer experiences, from using AI as a tool or consultant to more autonomous AI agents that provide personalized services. 

What’s Happening Now With AI in Markerting

However, this is 2024. What’s the pulse of AI in marketing now? CX and marketing professionals are finding victories with this technology. McKinsey reported the top use cases for generative AI: Marketing and sales dominate with tasks like crafting first drafts, personalized marketing and summarizing documents. Product/service development involves identifying customer trends, drafting technical documents and creating new designs.

OK, but 95% of marketing tasks for agencies, strategists and creative professionals potentially vanished? We don’t know about that one, Mr. Altman. After all, digital customer experience practitioners told us in the CMSWire State of Digital Customer Experience 2024 Report they have plenty of reservations about diving into generative AI.

We asked them: Does your organization have any concerns regarding the risks associated with generative AI?

Here’s what they said:

  • Data privacy: 58%
  • Cybersecurity problems: 49%
  • Protecting intellectual property: 48%
  • Copyright issues (plagiarism): 41%
  • Losing authenticity in content: 32%
  • Adhering to brand standards: 30%
  • Bias due to data bias in underlying models: 19%
  • Lack of transparency: 17%
  • Deepfakes: 16%
  • Losing employee trust/loyalty: 13%
  • Job loss/displacement due to automation: 12%

What’s more, we also asked: How much of your CX/marketing work is being assisted by generative AI?

  • Most of it: 9%
  • Some of it: 30%
  • Very little of it: 33%
  • None of it: 20%
  • I don’t know: 8%

Those numbers hardly support Mr. Altman’s 95% take. Then, again, he’s talking about a down-the-road AGI revolution. Marketing and CX teams told us they are using generative AI primarily for content creation and enhancement (36%), particularly for short-form content including external emails (35%) and social media (35%). Generative AI is also being used for “customer service/chatbots,” reported by 30% of respondents. 

Will AGI replace it all?

Related Article: 5 Findings From the 2024 ‘State of Digital Customer Experience’ Report

Skepticism Amidst the AI Hype: A Measured Approach to AGI’s Promises

So, what say you, agency world?

Michelle Hayes Uhlfelder, CEO and founder of Cherrytop, an AI marketing agency, said she’s skeptical of the actual nearness to achieving artificial general intelligence. That comes after much dialogue time with algorithm creators, immersive cutting-edge AI marketing courses at Cornell and Stanford and witnessing rapid growth within her own AI marketing-focused agency.

“The sheer complexity and subtlety of human cognition, which AGI aims to emulate, are still largely beyond our current technological grasp (think: colony on Mars level in tech world), indicating that we’re farther from this milestone than some may suggest,” said Hayes Uhlfelder, who is also a CMSWire Contributor. “Despite the potential of AI to streamline our processes and provoke a reevaluation of our approaches, the idea that it could truly take down 95% and preserve the nuanced, human touch in marketing is, from my standpoint, overly optimistic.”

Hayes Uhlfelder has seen in two decades in this space that while AI excels in processing data at unparalleled speeds, it falls short in replicating the deep, genuine connections forged by human marketers.

“As we navigate this evolving landscape, we must remember that AI’s purpose is to augment our capabilities, not to replace the irreplaceable,” she said. “But let’s consider thanking Altman for this unfiltered comment! His statements, whether we agree with them or not, can serve as the necessary catalyst to push our industry and government to action, leading us to ensure that AI’s development enhances rather than diminishes the critical human element at the heart of so many industries.”

Navigating the Future With AI in Marketing

Altman’s “broad, sweeping assertion” about AI revolutionizing marketing raises eyebrows in agency land, according to Dustin Engel, co-founder and principal consultant of Elegant Disruption, which provides consulting and advisory for marketing and technology leaders. While 95% might be a stretch, marketers are on the brink of a dramatic shift where that may not feel far off, Engel added.

“Agencies, marketers and marketing technology companies that are already refining their business models by articulately weaving AI into their operations are poised for success,” Engel said. “The effortlessness of testing ideas, copy, creative, creating alternative strategies, or simply breaking through a creative block are game-changers. Inefficiency and workflow waste are everywhere.”

In the immediate future, AI will streamline marketing operations by enhancing client productivity, creativity and how teams interact with data, Engel said. Everything from routine tasks to agency-client interactions will move faster, smarter and more precisely.

“Marketers’ harnessing of martech will become more intuitive, based on technology interfaces that are more conversational and collaborative — which is particularly exciting for the martech industry,” Engel said.

Engel’s embracing the future with AI for agency businesses like his. He encourages marketers to embrace the idea that an agency today will look as different in the future as they do in the Mad Men days of old.

“The talent makeup will change. The volume, variety and velocity of ideas and creative executions will increase exponentially,” Engel said. “Moving from a data-driven to an AI-driven ethos will demand a deeper dive into AI-embracing skillsets and adding emotional intelligence to the AI training, pushing agencies to offer more sophisticated, personalized solutions at scale. There will always be the glass half-empty view, as the path forward can look murky on any given day. However, with so many use cases currently being elevated by AI, forward-thinking marketers will see a renaissance in the evolution. It is the next big unlock for creativity and productivity — or maybe AGI will decide otherwise on our behalf.”

Related Article: AI in Marketing: Balancing Creativity and Algorithms for Marketers

Reimagining Agency Roles Amid AI Evolution

Scott Smigler, division president and founder at marketing services agency Agital, told CMSWire Altman’s comments are directionally correct, although the “95%” figure misses important context that every business leader and entrepreneur needs to understand. And that is there is no silver bullet, but things are indeed changing.

“I agree to the extent that much of what MOST agencies do today, at least at the ad platform level across Google, Facebook, Insta, TikTok and Amazon, will increasingly be replaced by AI and automation,” Smigler says. “Agency value propositions ranging from bid optimization to building, testing and optimizing variants of creative will increasingly be built into the platforms themselves, albeit requiring human oversight.”

Most agencies may find that most of what they do will be replaced by AI. Modern performance-oriented agencies (he touts his own as such) are embracing technological change and refocusing their people on the work of the future.

“That is all to say that if it were true that AI will replace the need for human marketers, which I don’t believe is what Sam is claiming, why would any entrepreneur build a new brand, and why would any business seek growth, when their success or failure is pre-determined by the same closed-source omnipotent AI that each of their competitors are using?” Smigler asked. “The job of marketers, now and always, including agencies and those working in-house, has always been the same: meet the state of the world where it is and find new ways to beat competitors.”

Agencies will continue to need to connect to the data that exists within every ad platform and deliver the expertise (and data plumbing) necessary to connect that data with their client’s financial systems.

“This is the work agencies have been doing for more than a decade, and data-savvy, change-embracing, yet appropriately cynical agencies will indeed find an edge as AI proliferates,” Smigler said. “If the marketing world suddenly ran on AI today, consumers would know the difference, and it would be bad. The world would look increasingly homogenized. Software will become an increasingly powerful tool, but humans will always remain at the center because there is no such thing as a silver bullet. Without humanity, there would be no technology.”

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