What's our take on AI?


All of a sudden, every other news article is about the introduction, usefulness, capabilities, and (either the exciting or foreboding) ramifications of AI -- including its potentially transformative impact on communications sectors like advertising.

Cowley has, of course, been following these developments and dialogue in the public, tech, ethics, and government spheres. Needless to say, we've also been considering its potential impact on our own business and that of our clients. And, last but not least, we've been experimenting with some of the AI tools and platforms made available in recent months (most notably generative products like OpenAI's ChatGPT, MidJourney, and as of this writing Google Bard) -- in order to give us hands-on experience and better inform our position, vis-à-vis: Will AI be a useful tool that makes Cowley and our clients faster, smarter, and more nimble communicators -- or does it pose an existential threat to the marketing communications business, as many have suggested?

Noting that all of this is decidedly a work in progress, here are some of our observations thus far.

Firstly, let's all take a modicum of comfort in knowing AI and its precursors have already been among us.

As we choose between panic and calm contemplation about recent advances in AI, it's worth remembering we've already experienced it in miniature for quite some time. Be it online language translators (e.g., Google Translate), visual identification (e.g. Leafsnap), speech transcription apps, voice recognition software, deep faking, personal preference monitoring and prediction, the autocomplete option in word processors and browsers, facial recognition, and many other applications. Sure, neural networks and other emerging AI structures are taking such functionalities to whole new levels, but we're more familiar with AI than recent news suggests.

While AI will (heck, already is) boosting productivity in the communications sector, we believe it won't replace the creativity, human intuition, empathy, and psychological insights brought to the table by ad agencies.

Professionals such as account strategists, copywriters, graphic designers, media planners, PR pros, and web developers bring a unique perspective and a level of creativity that AI simply cannot replicate. Advertising requires not only technical skills but also emotional intelligence and the ability to connect with people on a deeper level, something that only humans can do. Additionally, advertising involves storytelling and creating emotional connections, which requires an understanding and anticipation of human emotions and motivations. While AI can certainly assist in tasks such as data analysis and optimization, it's just no substitute for the human touch and epiphanies essential to winning advertising.

Here are some ways AI is proving to be a useful tool at Cowley -- resulting in efficiencies and better results for our clients:

  • Targeting ads more precisely to the right people at the right time, by speedily analyzing data about users' interests, demographics, and online behavior in ways that'd take humans countless hours to complete.
  • Tracking and analyzing the competition, including where they spend their ad dollars, what changes they've made to their website, and how they're being covered or promoted in the press.
  • Creating draft or rough content, giving clients a sense of the agency's thinking and final product in a fraction of the time it once took.
  • Segmenting customers into groups based on their interests, demographics, and digital behavior -- which, in turn, helps us and our clients deliver more personalized experiences and relevant messaging.
  • Automating customer service tasks (e.g. chatbots), by anticipating and answering questions, resolving common issues, and propelling them through the sales process (and customer experience) with minimal human interaction. This, of course, can free up human customer service representatives to focus on more complex tasks or customers issues that have been escalated.

However you feel about these fast-emerging and fast-evolving technologies, we think it's imperative to keep an eye on -- and open mind about -- them! 

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