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Written by Robert England, PhD | Uppsala
on March 14, 2024

AI in Marketing: The Power of Humans in a Digital World

In an era where artificial intelligence (AI) is expected to transform the business landscape, the global cloud-based agency UP THERE, EVERYWHERE (UP) steps forward with a distinctive perspective. At the recent SAMPS (Sales and Marketing Professionals in Science) Annual Meeting in Boston on December 5, 2023, UP unveiled our position on AI, encapsulated in the call to #AlwaysAddHuman™. This article will delve into our perspective on AI and the future of creativity, branding and marketing.

The Reason to #AlwaysAddHuman™

Today's business world is inundated with discussions about AI’s potential to revolutionize industries. However, UP believes there is an essential component that AI needs to achieve to its full potential – humans. This belief birthed our call to #AlwaysAddHuman to everything we do with AI.

Even in a world where AI brings unprecedented new powers and possibilities, we assert that it cannot substitute our human essence – at least not yet. We view the human spirit – compassion for the human condition, authentic emotion that speaks to the heart, the power of lived human experience - as unique and valuable. It is this uniqueness that we celebrate and uphold in our position to #AlwaysAddHuman in everything we do.

On the practical side, AI cannot replace humans, especially in our realm of influence and persuasion. It doesn't get it right the first time, and working with AI in the creative industries requires skill and time. There is an irreplaceable human touch that brings nuance, creativity, and finesse to the table. While AI may assist and enhance our work, it is the human element that truly drives innovation and creates meaningful connections. We embrace the partnership between humans and AI, leveraging our collective strengths.

Our Value Proposition: The Power of Humans

Humans possess an extraordinary ability to provoke new thought, to agitate for the better, to question accepted norms, and to inspire people to take new paths forward. This ability is what it means to be human: to strive towards new horizons. It is this trait that AI, despite its immense power and potential, does not readily present.

Humans possess the remarkable ability to empathise, experience a range of emotions, and navigate the intricate tapestry of existence. Drawing upon these insights, we inspire our fellow human beings. This authentic human behaviour distinguishes us, infusing depth, nuance, and intricacy into our collective narrative.

I like to think of it as 'human umami'. (There. I bet an AI wouldn't be able to write that.)

But, as advancements in AI continue to accelerate, questions arise about the future of human creativity and expression. Will AI eventually be able to replicate our ability to create and communicate? And if so, what does that mean for us as individuals and as a society?

To answer these questions, we must understand the fundamental differences between humans and AI. While AI can process vast amounts of data at incredible speeds, it lacks the depth and complexity of human emotions and experiences. Our ability to connect with others on an emotional level is what makes us uniquely human.

Think about your favourite piece of art or music – it likely evokes a strong emotional response within you. This is because it was created by another human being who poured their thoughts, feelings, and their soul into the work. And that came from a lived experience: the heartbreak of loss, the joy of birth, the striving for freedom, optimism for the future. These experiences are expressed in music, in writing, in the visual arts and in performance. It’s no accident that we say an artist put their heart and soul into their work. We recognise it, and we treasure it.

Adam McNaught-Davis, my creative colleague at UP, gave this beautiful presentation at SAMPS 2023 to inspire us to #AlwaysAddHuman:


Testing #AlwaysAddHuman: A Challenge to Marketers

We invited the 60 attendees at SAMPS to consider the unique value they bring in their roles. Whether or not we are about to be made defunct, we thought it a worthy exercise to discuss what makes us distinctly valuable in interaction with AI.

With the concept of #AlwaysAddHuman in mind, we posed a challenge to the seasoned marketers who attended SAMPS. We asked them to create some instant marketing concepts using AI on its own, and to compare them to AI working in collaboration with them.

We ran a workshop where we took a real company that had had a tradeshow booth at a scientific conference taking place next door, at the American Society of Cell Biology (ASCB). We presented a typical marketing challenge: getting noticed amongst hundreds of other traders on the tradeshow floor. We asked the SAMPS attendees to use a custom GPT imbibed with five 'Marketing Mavens', representing five key expertises in the art of marketing. (Imagine Kottler, Godin, Sinek, Ogilvy and Draper being on your team in AI format.) 

The workshop proved to be an eye-opener for those who participated. Here are some of their conclusions:

  • Although the majority had not previously used an AI tool in their work, they found it surprisingly easy to generate new content. However, they also noted that it lacked the nuance and creativity seen in their human-generated and human-mediated ideas.
  • They discovered that AI could offer valuable insights and correct data-driven strategies but emphasized that it did not replace the human element of storytelling or emotional appeal.
  • Some found that by refining AI-generated concepts with their own ideas and direction, they were able to create more compelling marketing concepts in record time.

In essence, using AI was a serious productivity booster for their work. Twelve really interesting ideas were generated by the 12 breakout groups. The ideas were quite different despite having the same tools and brief. The majority had the potential for further development. 

However, they would never have considered the untouched AI-generated content and images as finished work - it just wasn't up to the standard and nuance that they would feel proud of.  But it certainly acted as inspiration which would take them in directions that they might not have otherwise considered.

Embracing AI as an Effective and Ethical Collaborative Tool

As demonstrated in our workshop challenge, UP believes that AI should not be viewed as a replacement but rather as a collaborative tool. We recognize the immense power and potential of AI, but we also understand that it is limited in its ability to replicate the complexities and nuances of human experience.

Just like any new technology that truly transforms human behaviors, AI initially arouses skepticism and caution. However, as we learn to adapt and harness its capabilities, we can utilize AI to our advantage. Despite the naysayers, those who put in the effort to truly understand how to apply this new technology for good will ultimately triumph and reap greater benefits.

One very important aspect of this new collaboration is the promise of ethical working practices when proposing AI-collaborative work to clients. That's a fundamental difference that we bring to the table. #AlwaysAddHuman is not just about the value of human contributions but also about ensuring that any AI integration is done with ethical principles in mind. These principles are:

Embracing AI as an Effective and Ethical Collaborative Tool

Will AI make Marketing Cheaper?

My colleague, Adam McNaught-Davis, who created the #AlwaysAddHuman launch presentation, showed some of the AI-inspired imagery generated for clients. He compared it with the images created by AI tools Midjourney and DALL-E based on the same brief. We also gave the same brief to someone on Fiverr to see what they could produce for $5. 

The results from AI and the Fiverr dude were comparatively underwhelming. The AI-inspired work, where the initial ideas created an unexpected route and were further developed using the intervention of a human team, was much more satisfying and achieved the expected level of agency work. They answered the brief.

The conclusion we draw is that AI will not necessarily make marketing cheaper. It could certainly create a new tier of work: idea generation and exploration. Through ‘channelled randomicity’, AI can create an explosion of routes to explore, essentially making the haystack of ideas bigger. In collaboration with humans, this is where AI can add significant value. By leveraging AI to handle tasks such as idea exploration (as well as in audience data analysis and insights gathering), marketers can dedicate more time and resources towards developing creative concepts that effectively engage and connect. 

All good branding, marketing and communications are based on an authentic, experienced, central idea that is anchored in a solid understanding of the perspective of the audience. AI can contribute with speed and scale to enhance the work done at every phase of auditing the audience, strategizing the best approach and generating a range of ideas to inspire the mind. It’s up to us humans, not AI, to ensure that the final concept will move the audience.

What is the Worth of Human Experience?

On the subject of the cost of a piece of work: I'm reminded of the day I bought a painting by a friend of mine, Stefan Gadnell. It showed a gathering of people sitting on a park bench on a summer day in Kungsträdgården in Stockholm. The sunlight played on their heads through leafy trees. The people in the picture were clearly engaged in friendly conversations, inspired by the apparent warmth of the day. At the time I bought the painting, we were smack in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic; the scene in the painting represented the world that we longed to return to.

Embracing AI as an Effective and Ethical Collaborative Tool

Stefan and I met on my verandah with face masks on. Stefan said that he would normally take a tidy sum for it, but since we were friends, he would give me a discount. I thanked him and accepted. And then I asked him the stupidest question in the world. How did he calculate the price of his work? Was it based on square area? Or how much time it took?

Stefan looked me up and down with a rather disappointed expression on his face. "Well, I guess I could base it on the fact that it took me three days to paint this version. On the other hand, that doesn't account for the fact that I painted a few versions before it that I didn't quite like." He flipped the painting over, showing me that the other side had another version of the same scene - but not done quite as brightly and vibrantly.

"I could also base it on the fact that this painting would never have been as good as it is if I hadn't been painting since the age of three", Stefan continued. So if you ask me how long this took me to paint, then an honest answer could be 60 years."

Stefan chuckled at his own joke, but there was much truth in his words. As an experienced artist, he knew that every brushstroke, every choice of colour and shade, was a culmination of years of practice and honing his craft.

The time taken to produce good art is irrelevant. Time is not an accurate measure of worth.

Similarly, when it comes to creating your brand, communication or campaign, time should not be the only focus. It's important to take time and effort into crafting the quality that accurately reflects your brand voice and resonates with your target audience.

This is where some of the components of human umami reside: years of learned experience and good judgement to produce good work. Similarly, your perception of a piece of work, be it hanging on your living room wall, residing in a magazine or hanging at the Tate Modern, is subject to the singularly human attributes of your learned experience and the consequent judgement and values that you apply. On top of that, every human is different. Vive la difference! And so it has been throughout human history. AI will not change that – as long as humans remain the receiver and the judge of the work.

Embracing the Future: Humans and AI in Harmony

At UP, we are enthusiastic about embracing new technologies based on AI. In fact, we see it as a never-before-seen opportunity to enhance and elevate our human abilities. We are burning with curiosity for all the immense opportunities that lie ahead. We believe that by collaborating with AI, we can achieve new dimensions of creativity, efficiency, and impact in our work.

At UP, we pride ourselves on our unique business model, global reach, full-service offerings, flexibility, and expertise. Above all, we value the human spirit and the unique, personal touch it brings.

To find out more about #AlwaysAddHuman, sign up below for a presentation of our AI Code of Conduct and how it can transform the use of AI in your business.

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