Big Brands Embrace AI: An Advertising Revolution or a Costly Mistake?

JJohn August 18, 2023 8:12 AM

Many of the world's largest advertisers, including Nestle and Unilever, are using generative AI, like ChatGPT and DALL-E, to cut costs, increase productivity, and reimagine their advertising campaigns. However, concerns about security, copyright, inherent biases, and data privacy linger, sparking debate about the future of AI in advertising.

Big brands' experiment with AI

Powerful advertisers like Nestle and Unilever are making a big bet on generative AI software, hoping it will revolutionize their marketing strategies. These AI programs are not only expected to cut costs significantly but also to ramp up productivity. They are designed to produce content based on past data, opening up a world of seemingly limitless advertising opportunities. But while these giants are keen to harness the power of AI, not everyone is convinced. Many companies remain cautious, fearing security and copyright issues, as well as the risk of unintentional biases creeping into their campaigns.

The past year has seen a significant buzz around generative AI, a technology capable of generating content based on historical data. It's not just a hyped-up trend, but a tool with real potential to transform industries. Marketing teams, in particular, are eager to leverage this technology, hoping it will offer cheaper, faster, and virtually limitless ways to advertise their products. The idea is to use AI to create original text, images, and even code, moving away from merely categorizing or identifying data.

At the forefront of this shift to AI-driven advertising is WPP, the world's largest ad agency. WPP is diving headfirst into the world of generative AI, partnering with consumer goods companies like Nestle and Mondelez to develop cutting-edge campaigns that leverage AI technology. According to its CEO, Mark Read, the savings can be astronomical, making it a no-brainer for companies looking to maximise their advertising returns.

Nestle and Unilever marketing with AI

Nestle and Unilever are not just experimenting with AI—they're actively using it to market their products. Aude Gandon, Nestle's Global Chief Marketing Officer, is enthusiastic about the opportunities these AI technologies, like ChatGPT 4.0 and Dall-E 2, present. They are not just coming up with on-brand and on-strategy ideas, but are also inspiring the creative process. This represents a new era in advertising where AI and human creativity work in tandem to deliver compelling marketing content.

The pitfalls of AI in advertising

As with any powerful tool, AI comes with its risks. Unilever's global vice president of Go To Market Technology, Aaron Rajan, points out the need for companies to be mindful of copyright issues, data privacy, and intellectual property. More worryingly, there is a very real risk of these AI models reproducing human biases—racial or gender stereotypes—that may be embedded in the data they process. This has led to some companies being more cautious about fully embracing AI in their advertising efforts.

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