Marketing Briefing: Coca-Cola and other major marketers enter ‘test and learn’ phase with generative AI

This Marketing Briefing covers the latest in marketing for Digiday+ members and is distributed over email every Tuesday at 10 a.m. ET. More from the series →

Last week, Coca-Cola pitched fans on using generative artificial intelligence tools to create artwork for the brand with the chance that something they create could potentially appear on billboards in New York and London. The beverage behemoth is also reportedly working with consultancy Bain & Company to consider how it can integrate AI technologies into its marketing.

Many major marketers like Coca-Cola are asking agencies how they can use generative AI technology. But most are not creating consumer-facing work with generative AI just yet, according to marketers and agency executives, who say that many marketers are in a test and learn phase when it comes to the technology. So far, marketers have leaned mostly on the public relations impact of using AI (i.e., promoting that they’re using the tech to create work), rather than incorporating AI tools without making mention of it, the marketers and agency execs said. 

“We’re testing,” L’Oreal Chief Digital and Marketing Officer Han Wen said, when asked about the beauty giant’s use of AI in current marketing efforts. “We are doing a lot of testing in ways that help us be able to meet our consumer goal. As we talk about the acceleration of content creation, we have to think about what the power of generative AI can be to get us there faster.”

Wen continued, “We’re testing with multiple brands that are brand safe, in a way that is also safe and fair to creators we work with in the space. We’re at the very beginning phases of this. The power of generative AI is obvious. The question mark is around, how do we do this and leverage this in a meaningful way that allows us as a marketing organization to deliver better on consumer expectation?” (Wen declined to specify how exactly L’Oreal is testing generative AI for its brands.)

Marketers and agency execs say that while clients are interested in ways to use generative AI for marketing, they are more focused on how AI can be used in the creative process rather than on using AI to create work that will be released to the public. The potential legal ramifications — with the various generative AI platforms scraping publishers, artists and others to learn and create their outputs without consent from said publishers, artists and others — could create an issue for clients who use those platforms to create work. 

“There’s some trepidation about the forward facing work,” said Giant Spoon co-founder Jon Haber. “There are legal battles yet to come. No one wants to be the canary in the coal mine. That’s slowing down clients’ desire to use it for forward facing work.”

Michael Liu, svp and head of innovation at Carat US, said that clients are cautious, given the potential legal issues, and that the agency is talking to clients’ legal teams about generative AI platforms’ methods of data collection.

Ilinca Barsan, director of data science at Wunderman Thompson, echoed that sentiment, noting that marketers and agencies are not using something they’ve built from scratch and have questions about what generative AI platforms have been trained on. “Mitigating risk will be difficult with this technology,” said Barsan, who noted that a “test and learn” phase was a fair assessment of where brands are at with generative AI use.

With that said, Carat US is working with clients on projects using the technology, said Liu, without sharing specifics. He added that much of the focus now is on education and testing and learning, rather than public work, when it comes to generative AI. 

“A lot of PR driven efforts have been released so far to say, ‘Hey we’re doing something here,'” said Liu, adding that marketers like Coca-Cola asking for art and images for their brand are “playing with their own sandbox of assets and that’s the safest way to go” so far when using AI. 

“I’m sure that we are just scratching the surface of what we can do with generative AI in marketing,” said Christian Pierre, chief data intelligence officer at Gut Miami.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if in 2024 most of the ideas in the Creative Data category in any major industry awards show will be some form of generative AI, or inspired from it,” Pierre said.

3 Questions with Dara Treseder, CMO of software company Autodesk

You recently left your post as Peloton CMO to become Autodesk CMO. How has that transition been? 

Over the past five months, it’s been amazing. I’ve reorganized my marketing team and essentially I’m really positive positioning us to continue to deliver for our customers, right and really drive that next wave of growth. That’s why you see some of the work we’ve been doing is around humanizing our brand, and really marketing the totality of what we have to offer to our vast and diverse range of incredible users. We’re going beyond marketing just our products to really marketing the possibilities and the capabilities of what our incredible customers can accomplish with our technology.

What’s the difference between marketing a consumer-facing company like Peloton versus Autodesk, a business-facing company?

My whole thing is business to human. It’s really important that we are focusing on the experience and deepening that emotional connection.

How so?

Just because you are a B2B customer doesn’t mean that you have any lower expectations of the experience that you want to have or that you feel any differently than the brands that you use. At the end of the day as a marketer, your job is to make sure that you are communicating with your audience, you’re educating them [and] you’re inspiring them. — Kimeko McCoy

By the numbers

What marketers need to know about managing social media through an economic downturn

With talk of economic uncertainty, advertisers are under more pressure than ever to spend efficiently and make every ad dollar count. Many have spent the last half year pushing for more performance marketing efforts to stand a better chance in proving ROI. Moving forward, social media will continue, as it has thus far, to play a pivotal role in terms of both spend and strategy, according to a new report from social media analytics company Sprout Social. See key details below:

  •  77% of consumers are more likely to spend more with brands they feel connected to, up from 57% in 2018.
  • More than 75% of consumers expect a response from brands in less than 24 hours.
  • Failing to respond to customers on time could result in 36% of consumers sharing that negative experience with friends and family. A comparable 31% won’t complete their purchase, and 30% will buy from a competitor. — Kimeko McCoy

Quote of the week

“Our brand partners are not moving away from TikTok or deprioritizing their TikTok strategy. Still, they are definitely pushing to ensure their campaigns are cross-platform and that there are contingency plans in place should the ban go into effect.”

— Keith Bendes, vp of strategy at Linqia, when asked about how cautious brands are being given the potential (once again) for a TikTok ban

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