The year 2023 began with apprehensions about artificial intelligence (AI)- from AI taking over jobs to privacy concerns - we heard it all. However, as the year unfolded, AI integrated itself into the advertising and marketing (A&M) industry on a more granular level, from content creation to personalised campaigns.
When ChatGPT was making the rounds with its launch in November 2022, it ended up crossing one million users within a week, as highlighted by OpenAI CEO Sam Altman. So much so, that brands started asking the tool to write texts, essays, ad copies, and more with the help of a tiny brief.
Take Mint Mobile for example. Ryan Reynolds took advantage of the content generation tool to write an ad for his mobile network operator company. In the advertisement, he asked ChatGPT to write an ad that would sound like himself, using a joke, curse words, and to highlight the benefits his company offers. The results left him ‘mildly terrified’, resonating with the rest of the ad world who were worried about it taking over their jobs.
This still didn’t deter users and as per the latest available data, ChatGPT currently has around 180.5 million users. In line with this, a study from Influencer Marketing Hub found that 61% of marketers have used AI in marketing activities and 44% have leveraged the technology for content production in 2023.
We deep dive into the biggest trend of the year – AI and developments in advertising that have pushed AI to the stage it has reached today.
Reimagining AI in content creation
Not just writing and generating copy, AI has been utilised by brands to develop scenarios for brand creatives, allowing for innovative storytelling. This marked a departure from the initial fears as AI-powered image editing and graphic design tools led to the production of visually stunning content for Instagram with efficiency.
Britannia has been using reimagination as an effective source for content generation across social media and ad campaigns with image-generation tools. Through a combination of prompts and image manipulation, biscuits resembled the iconic London Eye or a land with Jam rivers flowing and miniature biscuit factories resembling child's play.
In July, the movie Barbie’s release prompted brands to create their versions of ‘Barbies’ in a bid to join in on the organic traction on social media. A moment marketing campaign of its own, brands like AJIO and BookMyShow reimagined what celebrities would like in several scenarios. While several brands kept jumping onto the content creation trend spurred by the Barbiecore fashion that took over in July 2023.
Given the increased chatter around AI v/s humans, in the first half of 2023, Linc Limited, the manufacturer and distributor of writing instruments and stationery products, introduced an AI-powered chatbot called Rogue AI. It was built to respond to user inquiries in a funny and quick-witted manner in an attempt to emphasise the importance of human intuition and creativity over technology as it placed the pen right at the centre of the communication, with the slogan 'Isse Better Khud likh lo' - Better to write it yourself with a Pentonic.
Alleviating the stress experienced by artists if they were to lose their jobs, Coca-Cola offered digital artists an opportunity to make artwork using Coke’s trademark assets with its ‘Create Real Magic’ campaign. Artists could access the Coke bottle, Santa Claus, and Polar Bear from their iconic ad campaigns and more from their archives and they could download and submit their work as winners were to be featured on Coke’s digital billboards. It allowed audiences to make use of AI to play around with their creativity and endorsed engagement with Coke.
Tailoring experiences through personalisation
While the well-known Cadbury Celebrations’ Diwali ad campaign ‘Not Just a Cadbury Ad’ has become a successful example of catering to individuals based on their preferences and behaviours, several brands have taken the lead in 2023 by tailoring content through personalisation.
Lohri, one of the key festivals in the Northern India market provides the people with an opportunity to celebrate auspicious moments of their lives with loved ones, through the lyrical folk-art format of ‘Tappas’. Building on this, Tata Tea Premium launched its Lohri campaign 'Vaddi Khushiyaan De Tappe' with Punjabi actor Shehnaaz Gill. The initiative allowed users to enjoy AI-driven hyper-personalised Tappas sung by Gill as the specially designed microsite platform allowed users to get their personalised music video.
Not just ads, but gadgets are becoming personalised as well. Electronics company, HP, has been working on innovations surrounding AI, as it launched its HP Spectre laptops. HP Spectre comes loaded with AI-powered features, such as Gesture Control, Auto Framing and Glam Cam.
With a straightforward campaign, the brand’s ad campaign highlighted these features.
Talking about how personalisation has changed the landscape for marketers, Prashant Jain, Senior Director, Marketing, HP Inc divulges, “One thing which has changed with personalisation being used in more campaigns is the segmentation of customers has become a lot more deterministic than being probabilistic. We used to do segmentation on demographics, or psychographics of the customer but if you want to use personalisation, you have to have a truth which you know about the person.”
Jain points out that personalisation today at scale needs dynamic content generation and therefore, organisations are not only investing but are thinking of dynamic content generation before they start working on the campaign.
Apoorv Sood, Vice President Of Global Business Development and Partnerships, WebEngage, adds, “Customer behaviour and therefore customer journeys today have become increasingly complex. In light of this, AI has become an indispensable tool at the hands of marketers to be able to process and analyse the constant inflow of data into actionable insights.”
The 2023 consumer behaviour trends and insights by Think with Google has observed that there is a growing consciousness among consumers about what they buy, how, and from where, resulting in a more thoughtful decision-making process wherein 32% of consumers have been found doing more research on purchases while shopping.
Keeping this in mind, Sood points out that Hyperpersonalization using AI uncovers new ways to deliver tailored experiences, from product recommendations to timing communications. He also highlighted the other ways in which brands have been using AI to drive personalisation in 2023.
Omnichannel Approach: Brands integrate multiple channels, offering consistent, personalised experiences at scale and speed.
Managing Online and Offline: Seamlessly transitioning from online research to offline purchases, providing personalised brick-and-mortar experiences.
Conversational AI: Sophisticated chatbots enhance customer service, reduce cart abandonment, and guide users through sales funnels in real-time.
Integrating AI with Augmented Reality (AR) to bring immersive and tailor-made content to life in users’ environments during the festive season, AliveNow created a personalised AI recipe generator for the Mondelez biscuit, Oreo as users were encouraged to share a few details on their dessert preferences and who they would like to share it with to ultimately create a festive dessert recipe with Oreo as an ingredient.
Coca-Cola once again joined in the Diwali celebrations and infused technology and creativity into its campaign by allowing consumers to wish love and light to friends and family with magical Diwali greetings.
Personalisation has also been used to tell stories as Britannia came up with its ‘1947% More History’ campaign uncovering the stories of five nonagenarians from across the country, Shrimati Leela tai, Lt. Asha Sahay, Lt. R Madhavan, Lakshmi Krishnan Agvl. and Shri Gour Hari Das, told by themselves. Gen AI has been used to show people the stories using the Britannia packs.
Evolving designations, budgets and rise in AI agencies
This year has marked a significant rise in martech spending, a trend that is expected to surge. Technology-driven retention strategies are proving crucial amid today's macroeconomic climate.
While consumers are known for looking for instant solutions, brands are also looking for cost-effective quicker solutions. Unmisha Bhatt, Co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer, Tonic Worldwide mentions that the digital agency set up specialised AI teams with expertise in training AI more effectively and getting a qualitative output to keep up.
“Most performance campaigns end at generating leads, whereas our Humanised AI approach was most effective post lead generation by identifying how warm the lead is and pushing relevant messages, retaining the attention of every lead, engaging and converting,” comments Bhatt on the effectiveness of AI in tech-centred marketing.
Many agencies have also positioned themselves as AI-first agencies and launched tools of their own. The latest one is Adobe’s acquisition of the Bengaluru-based AI video creation platform Rephrase.ai. The acquisition is expected to strengthen Adobe's offerings and enhance AI-powered video content tools for clients. On the other hand, Langoor Digital and Quilt AI announced a strategic partnership to transform the marketing landscape. And Sociowash launched an AI arm called SW AI Studios.
Prasad Kothari, Head of Data Science and AI, Hansa Cequity states that CXOs are asking the question of how to start optimising media budgets using AI. Considering marketing mix modelling, optimisation, media buying, and segmentation using AI is involved, the question is how does the budget for AI tools impact marketing?
Kothari says, “That's where a lot of upskilling and retraining of the current workforce comes in. Customers also shy away from ChatGPT due to data privacy.
This is when AI experts come into the picture and start building their LLMs. There is some budget going into that part of the industry. They are not just leveraging the currently available technologies, but are building their own language models. based on customer data due to privacy issues.”
Research has suggested that most organizations are cutting their marketing and customer experience budgets - 42% have already done so, and 37% will in the next 12 months. In return, brands are seeking to drive efficiencies by deploying technology solutions that improve workflows (70%) and generative AI (59%).
On an industry level, advertising giants like WPP have also made AI a priority this year by joining hands with Sprinklr to create AI solutions to help clients offer experiences to customers through Sprinklr’s customer experience management platform (Unified-CXM). It also partnered with NVIDIA to develop a content engine that harnesses NVIDIA Omniverse and AI, enabling creative teams to produce commercial content faster.
Amid this, the roles like Chief Digital Officer (CDO) and Chief Technology Officer (CTO) have observed a growth from 2012 and 2023, wherein companies appointing a CDO grew from just 12.0% to 82.6%. The expansion of this role includes the Chief AI Officer (CAIO) as companies like WPP, Coca-Cola, and TVS Motor have appointed Daniel Hulme, Pratik Thakar, and Mahesh Calavai at the helm, respectively.
While there are many introductions of new roles, Kunal Aman, Head of Marketing and Communications, SAS India believes that upskilling is only a short-term solution. This also comes from a Harvard Business Review report stating that the average half-life of skills today is coming down to five years in the tech industry, in some cases, it's even less than down to 2.5 years.
“There's going to be a complete reskilling that is possibly required across departments, but definitely across marketing in the long term. There's going to be a huge amount of investment that organisations need to make to get that competitive advantage in the near future,” says Aman.
Aman thinks that marketers should not be just mere spectators, rather they should invest in themselves.
“The bare minimum is to start reading, staying abreast of trends and technologies, and exploring AI tools that are already available in public. And then defining use cases and bringing it back to the marketing department and their everyday roles, in terms of how they impact the business and what sort of business value AI can create,” he continues.
AI's role in sustainable development
AI's impact, this year, extended beyond marketing campaigns, contributing to sustainable development initiatives. The average person encounters between 4000 to 10,000 ads daily, contributing to a significant carbon footprint. A single ad campaign can generate 70 tons of CO2 equivalent emissions, equivalent to the yearly emissions of seven people.
On the other hand, amid growing consumer demand for sustainable practices, brands are incorporating AI to enhance efficiency and minimise environmental impact. AI is being utilised by various companies, including Patagonia, Coca-Cola, Budweiser, Google, Diageo, Ford, L'Oréal, and IBM, to drive sustainability initiatives.
For instance, Patagonia uses AI to personalise digital advertising and reduce environmental impact, while Coca-Cola employs AI to shrink its environmental footprint. These brands leverage AI for purposes such as promoting responsible drinking, recycling, energy efficiency, and trend analysis to minimise waste. IBM encourages AI solutions through its Call For Good initiative to address climate change and other humanitarian challenges.
The year might have begun with apprehensions about AI. However, as the year unfolded, personalisation, reimagination in content generation, newer designations, the rise of AI agencies and an attempt to work towards sustainability proved that AI is not just a buzzword but an effective tool that is here to stay.