The Marketing Association’s second Marketing Meetup of 2024 has successfully concluded! Organised by the MA’s Digital Marketing SIG (Special Interest Group), the meetup on March 27th was a clamorous, engaging event, bringing together marketers from around New Zealand to explore a topic on everyone’s minds, “What to do if AI is coming for your job?”

The event kicked off with words from the MA’s CEO, John Miles, welcoming the vibrant community and celebrating the association’s new partnership with YouTube for the New Zealand Marketing Awards. John highlighted exciting new categories in the upcoming awards, including the ‘Brand of the Year’. He also touched on the association’s 50th birthday later this year.

Steering the night’s discussion, Adnan Khan (Co-Founder & Managing Partner at Stitch) invited panellists Heath Waugh, Libby Lavrova, and Rollan Schott to explore how AI is reshaping the marketing landscape.

Can AI augment the creative process without stifling human creativity?

“I don’t think it stifles the creative process at all.” shared Heath Waugh, Founder and Producer of Through Heath’s experience, AI is a creativity accelerator rather than a stifler. AI tools like Midjourney and Stable Diffusion can act as a springboard for those less creatively inclined and a time-saving tool for seasoned creatives. 

In fact, uses such tools to enhance conceptualisation and execution while reducing production costs and drastically shortening time-to-market.

Rollan Schott (Director of Content Marketing at Pure SEO) brought forward another interesting perspective. He advised caution, emphasising that while AI can augment the creative process, over-reliance can diminish human creativity. For example, he highlighted Pure SEO’s practice of utilising AI tools such as ChatGPT for drafting while ensuring all content is refined by human insight and expertise. “We’ve got multiple eyes on everything we run through.” Rollan elaborates that this final refinement by human editors is an essential step that injects authenticity and depth into the content (something you can’t attain from AI alone), ensuring it resonates more profoundly with its audience.

How will the role of marketers change as AI becomes more sophisticated?

The panellists theorised that AI will likely take on the traditional “grunt work” associated with entry-level jobs. This will change the starting point and expectations for new marketers; however, only time will tell for better or for worse - or maybe something in between.

A positive outlook proposed by the panel was that AI could accelerate junior marketers’ progress, enabling them to offer more meaningful contributions sooner in their careers.

The panel agreed that while the entry-level tasks will likely change, the marketer’s role will likely stay the same (or at least not change significantly), with human creativity and strategic oversight remaining irreplaceable.

Privacy, Ethics, and Bias in AI-Driven Marketing

Privacy and ethics were considered significant concerns with AI becoming more integrated into marketing practices. Panellist Libby Lavrova (Data/AI Partner Technical Specialist at IBM NZ) highlighted the risk of using open-source AI tools that might leverage data without explicit consent. She advised that businesses using open-source AI tools do so cautiously, especially when dealing with sensitive business or client data. “You have to really understand where are the sources of that data you’re using. If you’re not able to know that or discuss that with your customers that may be affected by it... you have to look at using or creating your own tools.” 

She also emphasised the importance of building AI tools that are free from bias—both cognitive and geographical—to ensure fair and ethical use in marketing practices.

What are the most future-proof skill sets marketers should invest in?

1. Learning How to Learn:

Libby Lavrova emphasised the foundational importance of learning how to learn. Tools always come and go; the ability to assimilate new information and adapt to new technology and strategies remains. 

2. Bias Awareness and Ethical Considerations:

With AI’s potential to perpetuate existing biases or introduce new ones, marketers need to be aware of these issues and understand the ethical considerations surrounding AI. Regular bias training is essential if you’re using AI tools; you should learn how to mitigate bias in AI-generated content. This involves not only recognising bias in AI outputs but also actively working to create AI models that are diverse and representative of the broader society.

2. Strategic Thinking and Creativity:

The panellists unanimously asserted the undiminished value of strategic thinking and creativity. Heath shared insights on how the ability to conceptualise innovative ideas and strategies remains a core competency in marketing. As AI takes over more routine tasks, the human capacity for creative thought, strategic insight, and emotional intelligence will be even more essential. Marketers should invest in honing these skills to ensure they can add value in ways AI cannot replicate.

4. Understanding AI and its Applications:

A solid understanding of AI and its practical applications in marketing was also highlighted. This doesn’t necessarily mean becoming an AI expert but rather gaining a sufficient understanding of AI capabilities, limitations, and potential use cases in marketing. 

5. Prompt Engineering and AI Interaction:

A specific skill set mentioned was prompt engineering and the ability to effectively communicate with AI systems to generate desired outcomes. As AI becomes more integrated into creative and analytical marketing processes, guiding and refining AI outputs through precise prompts becomes a valuable skill. This involves understanding how to frame questions and tasks in a way that leverages AI’s capabilities while minimising its limitations.

Human creativity and strategic insights are invaluable

My final thoughts on the night’s discussion are that human creativity and strategic insight in marketing are invaluable and will continue to be so, even as AI transforms the toolkit available to us.

The panellists’ insights provided a thought-provoking overview of the challenges and opportunities posed by AI, and I am very curious to see how things progress in this space. 

As AI tools continue to evolve, we need to stay adaptable and receptive to learning new ways of marketing. From this discussion, the recipe appears to be a blend of creativity, strategic thinking, and ethical consideration to leverage AI’s potential responsibly and effectively.

Thank you to the Marketing Association for hosting this insightful event, I look forward to next month’s topic!

Source: Amanda Middeldorp, Marketing Manager, Pure SEO, 4 April 2024.