Marketing Briefing: Marketers race to use generative AI tools, find ways to make humans ‘smarter, faster, better’

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CMOs have long been pressured to do more with less. 

The push for that efficiency continues — despite squeezed budgets, an evermore fragmented media landscape and an evolution of the CMO role that’s made it more difficult. How CMOs are posturing themselves to the industry was clear in how the showed up at Cannes. It’s easy to see how the pitch of generative AI tools to help brands do more with less could be appealing to marketers. It remains to be seen whether these tools actually deliver on that pitch.

Some already seem to believe. Marketers including the likes of Klarna, U.S. Bank, and, most recently, Toys ‘R’ US have been touting the use of generative AI and the ability to speed up processes as something that’s already helping them. Others are conducting their own tests to figure out where and how to use generative AI tools in their marketing. 

“Like most everyone, we’re also thinking about how does gen AI play a role and to make our humans smarter, faster, better?” said Kristyn Cook, State Farm CMO, recently in Cannes, where she explored hearing about AI use cases. “But then also make the creative work harder.”

Answering that question will depend on the marketer.

Some in the industry criticize that using generative AI just to use it can be seen as a marketing tactic for the brand, and ultimately, CMO role if the use is not tied to something that makes sense for the brand.

“You can only know where to apply tech if you understand the human experience [that] you’re trying to transform,” said Leonid Sudakov, Mars Petcare’s president of growth, digital and platforms, when asked about the use of AI in marketing. Earlier this year, the brand used AI to give pets up for adoption a better shot at being adopted by using AI to make shelter photos look like that of professional photos and boosting said photos with out-of-home placements. The work won a Grand Prix at Cannes just a few weeks ago.

Rather than succumbing to fear of missing out or pushing too quickly into using generative AI to make C-Suite execs happy, marketers need to think about how using generative AI makes sense for their businesses and their customers. 

“The Pedigree work that got us a Grand Prix was a great and innovative way for us to apply AI to help solve pet adoption issues,” said Sudakov, adding that it wasn’t the use of AI but the problem that the company was solving that made it impactful. “But we’ve been on that for 20 years. This is latest step. How do we create more impact, how do we create it cheaper and faster? The commitment to the problem you’re trying to solve has to be an evergreen commitment versus jumping in.” 

AI is just the latest hurdle marketers have to determine how to find efficiencies without hurting the creativity of their brands.

“Marketers are by their nature supposed to be immersed in culture and what’s happening in culture,” said Jim Mollica, CMO at Bose, who noted that the company is experimenting with AI for media buying as well as generative AI to help with personalization. “This is part of the cultural conversation.”

Mollica continued: “You can use it as a tool to help you cut costs but still not kill creativity. It’s how you apply it.”

3 Questions with Lee Anne Grant, chief growth officer at Babylist

How is Babylist evolving its business?

We’re on a three-year plan to evolve from being just a registry to this platform for everything expecting new parents need. We’ve launched, in the last year, a health business that is doing really well. We launched a showroom, which is our first brick-and-mortar experience and that’s to bring more delight to people’s lives, but also experiment with what the future of retail looks like. With all of that on the marketing and advertising side, I would say the marketing side of the showroom is a brand initiative. We are funding it through brand dollars and we’re working with 35 different partners to co-fund that experience — so [that’s] an indicator that advertisers are interested in experiential too.

That’s a lot. What does that mean for revenue and ad spend?

Well, we have now four different revenue streams, experimenting and innovating. On the advertising side, we’re actually very much just focused on our core because we know that has product market fit and that’s profitable. I’m sure you’re aware, investors care about profitability, everybody cares about profitability. So while we’re innovating, we’re not spending money to innovate.

Do these new verticals open up more first-party data for Babylist?

My biggest priority this year is around life cycle marketing, which isn’t as sexy as [mergers and acquisitions], or launching new verticals. But the core is that we know when people are expecting, we know when their baby arrives and so we can really guide them through this journey. It’s a lot about leveraging that core user lifecycle data we already have. And then yes, getting new data points around, how are they engaging with this new vertical? — Kimeko McCoy

By the numbers

Don’t assume Gen Z have gone totally cold turkey on Facebook. Despite the platform’s reputation as the a home for too-online Baby Boomers (who have begun to worship crustaceans, no less) a recent study by researchers at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Acceleration Community of Companies think tank found Facebook more popular than you’d think among younger consumer cohorts. The study included qualitative and quantitative surveys of Gen Z undergrads, plus a larger survey conducted by YouGov.

  • 31% said they felt most comfortable on Facebook, versus 11% on TikTok and 11% on Twitter/X.
  • 52% said they felt comfortable with brands interacting with their online communities via influencer marketing, versus commenting online via an organic profile (43%) or sponsored content (32%).
  • 43% said they were comfortable with brands commenting or reacting in their online spaces. — Sam Bradley

Quote of the week

“Social networks can call themselves whatever they want. Brands are still going to want to be there in order to reach those audiences.”

Sammy Rubin, vp of integrated media at digital marketing agency Wpromote, when asked why some social media platforms are distancing themselves from the social media label.

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