AI-Generated Content: Cautious Optimism & Healthy Skepticism
Artificial Intelligence is evolving. Quickly. And while its long-term repercussions remain to be seen, we at Formada are keeping a watchful eye on the space so that we can make thoughtful decisions on what makes the most sense for our clients’ businesses — and for our own.
Though tools like ChatGPT, Midjourney, and DALL-E are perhaps today’s most commonly discussed AI platforms (with new applications popping up every day), AI technology hasn’t exactly come out of nowhere. It’s been around for a while. You’ve probably used it a few times today. AI drives things like:
- Predictive language in your texting apps and word processing software
- Face identification on your phone and mobile devices
- Digital assistants like Siri or Alexa
- “You might like” features on streaming and shopping apps
- Auto-generated playlists on apps like Spotify
Pretty common stuff. Whether or not you think those tools are “good” is entirely subjective. I think that the discussions around ChatGPT and Midjourney are a little different because they’ve been framed as career killers for writers, artists, and coders.
That framing is probably a tad hyperbolic, given how these tools relate to our work and how we support our clients, we feel that it’s our responsibility to learn as much as we can about them.
At Formada, we look at any emerging tech or new marketing tactic with equal parts cautious optimism and healthy skepticism.
Naturally, our clients want to know our opinions, and we want to give our clients the best possible recommendations, recommendations we can’t give unless we’ve thoroughly explored them.
At this stage of the AI game and how it relates to what we do as digital marketers, we see some efficiency possibilities, a whole lot of hype, and a dire need to establish ethical AI policies.
Formada Is A Digital Marketing Agency That Believes In The Ethical Use of Artificial Intelligence
AI is having a moment right now in the tech space in part because companies are frantically slapping the phrase “AI” onto nearly every aspect of their business. It’s marketing. That’s how it works. There’s huge interest in this space and everyone wants their piece of the pie.
So, from a market opportunity perspective, we totally get it, but a vital aspect of this situation is being overlooked. Given the rate that this new technology is hitting the marketplace, it is fair to assume that this emerging technology is void of much in the way of thoughtful ethical policies or guidelines.
It’s partially a matter of practicality. First-to-market strategies rarely have time to include “What about _____?” and “What if?”-type thinking. If you want to win the race, then those are the things that get sorted out later, if they get sorted out at all.
But this isn’t how we want to operate. Being an early adopter in marketing trends isn’t always the way to go. It’s rarely good for us or for our clients. In order to maintain the integrity of our mission and vision, we created guidelines that will help us maintain the healthiest possible approach to new and emerging technologies.
Three Questions To Direct Our Usage Of Artificial Intelligence:
- From where does the data input originate?
- How does bias affect the output?
- Is AI replacing undesirable or ineffectual work?
From Where Does the Data Input Originate?
Artificial Intelligence is incredibly effective at sifting through data and finding patterns, but where does the data come from?
For example, AI art platforms often steal artists’ artwork off websites and feed them into their own platform. The artists are not compensated for their work and users can mimic an artist’s style without granting any permission. Not only is it unethical, but it opens up massive risk and liability concerns for brands jumping into AI art with both feet.
Remember, this is also about protecting your content. These platforms are predictive in nature, and the knowledge required to inform these predictions has to come from somewhere.
Is it fair for an AI platform to scrape the information you’ve written on your website and present it as its own answer? We’ve heard of digital marketing agencies who are feeding their client’s blog content into ChatGPT to more quickly write blog posts. But once it’s been fed into the platform, who owns that content?
Checking terms of service is essential. So is considering how input bias can affect its output.
How Does Bias Affect The Output?
Artificial Intelligence is programmed by people. AI also searches for easy patterns. Putting those two facts together should make it clear that AI is rife with opportunities for bias to affect its output.
AI does not have morality. That’s why already we’ve seen projects like ChatGPT’s historical figure feature come under justified scrutiny. If these glaring examples are making their way out, what more subtle biases are showing up in AI output?
AI is only good at connecting ideas. It is not capable of evaluating the “good and bad” of those ideas. To mitigate potentially disastrous results, it’s essential to make sure that there are multiple people with numerous perspectives reviewing the output for bias.
Is AI Replacing Undesirable or Ineffective Work?
The tech community is making a lot of promises about work reduction from AI. But it has been my experience — and I’d argue historically proven — that new technology that reduces work in a capitalist system will mean cutting headcount, often replacing it with subpar results.
While there are other industries where the uniformity of certain AI outcomes is preferred, digital marketing is a field that requires distinction in our content, campaigns, and branding.
To be perfectly, undeniably clear: We will never be interested in replacing our team with AI.
Most of the internet is already being generated by AI or overseas copywriters with dismal pay. This is not a future threat. This is the world we’re currently living in.
On top of this, it’s predicted that 90% of content on the web will be AI generated by 2026.
The sad reality is that many corporations will always be incentivized to replace people with software, even if the quality is poor, because it’s a clear cost-savings strategy.
This doesn’t mean that every aspect of AI should be deemed unethical or would have no place in our business. Far from it.
Because we are interested in replacing undesirable or ineffective responsibilities with AI, or with software solutions. This is why we periodically turn to our team to assess whether AI or other software has the potential to improve their life.
For example, there’s no way a human can synthesize the amount of data digital marketing agencies collect. There’s simply too much data to collect and organize, giving everyone even less time to assess the data and make recommendations that clients need to improve their business performance.
We rely on technology to present that data in segments that can be analyzed. We don’t want people counting the number of users visiting the website, we want our team analyzing patterns in those user behaviors once on the website to make sure we’re providing the best user experience.
Artificial Intelligence: Looking Five Years Ahead
I have an ongoing concern that we aren’t even trying to look five months ahead, let alone five years ahead when it comes to the impact of these technologies.
I got very caught up in the hype of social media when it first hit the scene. Its impact was instantaneous, the tech was constantly evolving, and it almost immediately was connecting people in ways I couldn’t imagine.
And with the bubbles of cryptocurrency, NFTs, and every other thing that the tech community has pitched as the new revolution in recent memory, it’s essential that we, even if it’s just for a split second, stop, think critically, and take judicious steps to protect our businesses and our teams.
Our goal is to elevate our clients’ brands through work that is thoughtful, original, authoritative, and therefore effective. In its current state, much of the new AI tech doesn’t meet these standards.
Here are a few examples of what I mean:
ChatGPT and AI are already being used aggressively by digital marketing agencies like ours across the world. ChatGPT is learning quickly, but it won’t be outputting different information if the inputs are the same.
If we use ChatGPT to build us a framework based off of a question, it will likely output the same results for that question for 3, 5, 20 other digital marketing agencies.
Even if we rework that content, the framework will still be similar. The internet is already very homogenous, but leveraging AI too much could result in us losing what makes our brand and our clients’ brands unique.
Search Engine’s Long-Term Goals
This may be further out, but it always stays top of mind for me. Google doesn’t hide the fact, at all, that its goals are to become the Star Trek computer (i.e., “You can talk to it—it understands you, and it can have a conversation with you.”). That is their end goal. Not to give you options of answers to your questions, but to give you what they deem to be the answer.
Google Search has always been phase one. The next phase is a smart enough AI to output a singular result or answer. Where does that leave all the other businesses vying for an audience? In my estimation, ChatGPT and AI platforms are public right now because they want to test as much input and output as possible.
It’s essentially free labor to make their platforms more effective. Google has no interest or long-term motivation to give users infinite answers — they already have those. What they ultimately want to do is give users the right answer. This probably means that, eventually, certain results will get phased out altogether.
Since Google already gives the largest online entities the lion’s share of search results, it’s safe to assume that small businesses, boutiques, and organizations will become less visible over time.
But don’t just take our word for it, listen to what the tech itself has to say about itself.
Even ChatGPT Doesn’t Think You Should Use It For Content Creation
As I’ve said, we will use AI tools for certain applications. Sometimes it’s for brainstorming, or for helping us organize information. As I was writing this blog, I wondered, “What might ChatGPT say about this?” So I asked.
This was my exact prompt: “Tell me why digital marketers shouldn’t use tools like chatgpt for writing blog content for their clients.”
And yes, I know that there’s bias built into the question, but the answers were no less illuminating. (Bolded text is from ChatGPT. The context is our own.)
- Lack of Domain Expertise — ChatGPT does not possess the subject matter expertise required to create content for many clients’ needs
- Quality and Accuracy Concerns — ChatGPT claims that its role is to create “coherent and creative text,” not necessarily factually accurate content. Buyer beware.
- Originality and Uniqueness — Remember, what goes in is what goes out. If all of your competitors are using ChatGPT to create their blog content, then odds are it’s all very much the same. Your unique perspective is the key to quality content creation!
- Understanding Brand Voice — We strive to adapt our content to that of each individual client’s brand voice. It requires nuance and understanding, qualities that tools like ChatGPT do not currently possess.
- SEO Optimization Challenges — ChatGPT is not designed to respond to changes in search algorithms, or to conduct keyword research, or to create useful, informative content in response to those keyword findings. But that’s precisely what our people are trained to do!
- Limited Creativity and Storytelling — ChatGPT is not designed to be an engaging storyteller, and storytelling is where talented writers thrive.
- Ethical and Legal Considerations — Despite what many have already tried to do with the platform, ChatGPT should not be used for legal purposes or advice!
- Dependency and Reliability — Software is buggy. It breaks. It is often unreliable. ‘Nuff said.
Even ChatGPT advises that its software be used for certain supplementary purposes in relation to the creative process, not as a replacement for content creators. This, as you can imagine, is where we at Formada see the positive aspects of AI.
The Bright Side Of AI’s Evolution
My outlook isn’t doom and gloom. Again, cautious optimism and healthy skepticism lie at the core of my thinking. And just like there are ways in which people can take advantage of emerging technologies in potentially negative ways, there are positive ways in which businesses can grow in this new world.
With the rapid rate that businesses are embracing new tech, it opens up opportunities for brands to carve out their niche. Ask yourself this question: What can you do that AI cannot?
With so many digital marketing agencies leaning really hard into AI, it opens up a lane for agencies like ours to lean even deeper into the human experience in our content marketing — for the Formada brand itself and for the benefit of our clients.
AI cannot generate quotes from providers, specialists, or business owners. It cannot tell personal stories or anecdotes. Sure, it can feign human emotion or feelings, but with about the same level of personal intimacy as a greeting card. (Apologies, greeting card writers,)
AI cannot mimic the emotion of specific people in specific situations, and ChatGPT and AI will always default to the lowest common denominator in terms of how it frames a particular topic.
Since it’s predictive and its output is built on its input, it cannot provide a unique spin. It’s not built to do that. It will, however, give you the most expected and anticipated format in response to a prompt.
While you can ask it to reframe content in another light (which may be a helpful use case for AI), it will never be able to see with the clarity and the intuitive unseen factors that make us human.
The Future Is Bright, If You Know Where To Look
Will my concerns be validated in the future? Will AI transform not only digital marketing but life itself in ways I haven’t even imagined? This all remains to be seen. What I do know is that it’s my responsibility to apply my understanding of this technology in order to best serve our clients and our team, and I continue to look forward to taking advantage of the best of what’s available to us in order to do just that.