Caution: GenAI will deliver bad creative faster

Ken Roberts
By Ken Roberts | 17 June 2024
Ken Roberts.

Generative artificial intelligence (GenAI) provides a monumental opportunity to dramatically improve the efficiency of the process of developing advertising. This has major implications for the time-based charging creative agencies presently enjoy, but will GenAI also improve advertising effectiveness?

GenAI clearly has the promise to revolutionise advertising efficiency. And properly leveraged GenAI, grounded in marketing science, can and does outperform traditional methods in both efficiency and effectiveness.

In most cases, the primary objective of advertising is to stimulate brand preference and/or brand choice. For that job to be done, the underpinning of the marketing communication should centre on the rational and emotional category drivers of choice. You might say that statement is blindingly obvious and yet, advertising based on a proposition built on the scientifically identified rational and emotional drivers of choice is perhaps far less common than you might imagine. In fact, it’s scarce.

In advertising today, what is communicated and where it is placed should largely be a product of marketing science. How that marketing message is expressed should be a matter of creativity. Trouble is, in my experience most marketers and creative agencies have a deeply ingrained belief that what is communicated and how it is said should both be the product of creativity. That’s why most advertising is doomed from the outset.

What is communicated often bears no relationship with category drivers of choice; rather, it’s the product of creative imagination which, incidentally, is sometimes right but more often, just yet another excursion into the marketing communications abyss.

It’s common to hear marketers talk about being famous and distinctive but omitting the essential element of that intention; famous and distinctive for what? Worse still, it means abrogating the answer to that most fundamental question of marketing success to the creative agency.

So long as this malpractice is embedded into GenAI produced creative, GenAI will not improve advertising effectiveness. All it will do is deliver poor advertising faster. Success comes to those whose brand is distinctive for a rational and emotional category driver.

The naivety extends to advertising testing. Rather than pretesting the advertising for its ability to activate drivers of preference and choice, instead, the main proponents of ad testing apply a cocktail of made-up measures such as likeability objectively shown to have little to no relationship with preference or choice drivers.

On the other hand, if your GenAI platform includes the input that scientifically can be shown to drive and predict buyer behaviour, then GenAI will routinely outperform traditional creative on both efficiency and effectiveness. Forethought’s new BrandComms.AI platform draws on a “content store” of a multitude of scientifically determined marketing inputs but most importantly, category drivers, to produce creative ideas that have as their foundation, the scientifically inferred chosen drivers of choice.

It does beg the question, how did imagination become such a mainstay of marketing communication? In a bygone era when there was a dearth of applied marketing science, Theodore Levitt penned Marketing Success Through Differentiation – of Anything. It was the “anything” that became the seed of 45 years of the application of vivid imagination over marketing science. According to Levitt, “only the budget and the imagination limit the possibilities” of differentiation. Astoundingly, this application of imagination over science continues today. It is the absence of any application of science in screening the “differentiation” candidates that severely dates the Levitt article, the thinking and, moreover, the practice of creative agencies pursuing differentiation rather than purposely driving brand preference and/or brand choice.

The goal should not be differentiation but rather, competitively distinctive on the chosen category driver/s.

GenAI is bulldozing its way into creativity. Indeed, studies have predicted that creative writing will be entirely replaced by GenAI. American futurologist Roy Amara stated that “we tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run”. There is no overestimating the effect of GenAI on the advertising industry. You do not need to be a prophet to foresee the structural change that will be led by GenAI.

Immerse yourself in Gen AI. This is not like the rise and rise of social media that was left to the new kids and the interns. Gen AI is transformative to processes, inputs and outcomes. Get on board.

Ken Roberts, Founder and Executive Chairman, Forethought

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