Why AI won’t replace the digital marketing agency

Why AI won’t replace the digital marketing agency
Mar 23

David Jenkin

The generative AI Pandora’s box has been opened. It was inevitable, but the technology has progressed much quicker than most expected, and ready or not, here it is. The hype around ChatGPT is not unfounded, but there is a danger in putting too much faith in the technology and embracing the assumption that AI has already become a more efficient and cost-effective alternative to human beings... because it simply hasn’t.

Marketing for humans

In the world of digital marketing, the quality of your content really matters. Great content draws in audiences, builds their trust and helps to earn their loyalty. Digital marketing is all about creating and deploying the right kind of content – something that will resonate with the ideal audience and lead them to take action and convert. It needs to grab their attention, address their concerns, answer their questions and convince them.

To do that, marketers need to be able to put themselves in the shoes of their target audience. They need to be able to empathise and apply a bit of human instinct and imagination. ChatGPT may be able to churn out massive volumes of content almost instantaneously at a very low cost, but will the result be something your audience actually wants?

The truth is, more than ever, consumers want brands to be more human. This is reflected in research from Sprout Social which reveals that 64% of consumers want brands to connect with them, and 70% feel more connected to brands with CEOs who are active on social.

Unimaginative AI

If (or, as many argue, when) AI-generated content begins to dominate the web, what we could expect to see is a bland, formulaic uniformity overtaking the content landscape. It might be 100% SEO-optimised with perfect grammar and syntax, but if that content is insipid and “soulless”– lacking some indefinable human quality and depth of understanding – it will fail to resonate with audiences in the same way and will ultimately be less effective in driving conversions.

However, those brands that become overly reliant on AI-generated content will give others the chance to stand out with bold creativity and definitively human qualities. Human writers that can craft eloquent arguments enriched with subtle humour and personal experience can never be matched by something that thinks like a calculator, even one that “borrows” the work and even voice of other creatives.

And when it comes to a brand’s look and feel, an AI can copy and reproduce it, but new iterations will always be off-limits. It can’t evolve or be reinterpreted without a designer’s input, only regurgitated and recycled in a way that soon becomes repetitive and stale.

Strategy beyond the numbers

There's also a creative process involved when marketers devise buyer personas. It may be rooted in data, but the process is enriched with an understanding of how people think. The result is something more than a two-dimensional NPC (non-playable character), but rather a profile of an emotional entity full of hopes, passions and fears that a machine could never actually understand.

This understanding (or lack of it) not only affects content creation but also the strategies that define how content is deployed. A seasoned digital marketing agency team will not only know when and where to reach a brand’s particular target audience but what kind of mood that audience will likely be in when they do.

Strategists often need to use instincts honed through years of hands-on experience to know where to allocate budgets and what to promote in what proportion, while experienced content creators draw on their experience to know what tone and language will work best. The importance of the knowledge needed to make these kinds of judgments cannot be overstated, and a machine cannot score pieces of information on its own beyond tapping into search and traffic trends, and therein lies the potential for disastrous mistakes.

AI trust issues

Data guides the way, but without a human hand on the wheel to steer the ship, you can land up far off course. Humans might make mistakes sometimes and miss details, but we always act with the bigger picture in mind – the goals and mission of the business and a set of internalised values.

ChatGPT doesn’t possess common sense and has a tendency to “wing it”, which means factual errors are frequent. Concerns over trustworthiness have already brought the technology down from the heights of inflated expectations. There are now real concerns about the potential for this tech to spread toxic misinformation at an unprecedented scale.

For these reasons, ChatGPT’s output needs a great deal of editing and fact-checking, which requires knowledgeable humans. The technology is no substitute for expertise and experience, but it can be a useful tool to support a team of marketers, like any other form of automation software. That’s why it has a place as a tool in the marketer’s toolkit, but it won’t be replacing the in-house marketing team or digital marketing agency any time soon. But you can get the benefit of our expertise, augmented by such technology, with a marketing solution tailored to your business.

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