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AI-Powered B2B Marketing Trends & Dangers at Cannes

AI-Powered B2B Marketing Trends & Dangers at Cannes

Since the unveiling of ChatGPT, the marketing industry, and the world at large, have been buzzing about artificial intelligence. While the use of AI in marketing isn’t a new phenomenon (think: chatbots and Siri), the introduction of new AI technologies has sparked conversation around the utilization and future of these tools.

In June, artistic minds from across the globe gathered on the beaches of Cannes, France to celebrate creative feats and discuss industry outlooks driving innovation in the space. Joining in on the conversations at this renowned event was our very own Dan Gardner, Co-Founder of Code & Theory, Rhythm’s parent company. Joined by Taj Reid of Edelman and Val Vacante of Denstu, the trio dissected the uses, trends, and threats associated with AI in marketing.

Since many of us couldn’t tune into the "AI-Powered B2B Marketing: Trends & Dangers" panel in real-time, let’s reflect on some of the ideas discussed and the future of AI in B2B marketing.

AI: Overhyped or understated?

Let’s get one thing straight–AI is not new. While many of us have imagined AI as a diabolical computer program wreaking havoc in our favorite Sci-Fi films, the actual use cases are much more benign. Have you ever used a chatbot to answer FAQs? Then you’ve used AI.

Machine learning can be traced as far back as the 1950s, but it really began to flourish with the widespread adoption of the internet in the late 90s, thanks to the availability of abundant data. The biggest difference between AI in the past and AI today is accessibility. The average person can command their Amazon Alexa to order new light bulbs or ask generative AI to explain the law of attraction in their everyday lives. It’s no longer a work of science fiction; it’s reality.

The newest iterations of AI may be the most impressive, and the most talked about, versions of the technology to date. Unless you’ve been off the grid most of 2023, you’ve probably heard heated discussions around this topic. However, the media frenzy surrounding AI begs the question–is it worth the hype?

With unique perspectives colored with optimism, the panelists are in agreement that AI presents a whole new realm of possibilities for marketers, creatives, and individuals alike. And while all three speakers confirm their companies are already using this tool, they also acknowledge that there’s untapped potential, especially as the technology continues to improve.

Will AI kill creativity?

Taj Reid, Global Chief Experience Officer at Edelman, poses an important question on the panel. Will AI diminish or fuel the curiosity essential to creativity?

Reid muses that when he’s most optimistic about AI, he believes it can spark curiosity and creativity. However, he fears that convenience will lead to less curiosity, and thereby less innovation within the space. And he’s far from alone in his skepticism.

The concern is that in a quest for efficiency, creatives will have less room to explore, contemplate, and develop genuinely inventive ideas. Meanwhile, the very concept of AI implies the absence of originality. AI functions by using data and repetition to continuously improve its output, but the key here is that it needs to make use of available information. It cannot think, reason, or create on its own.

However, the panelists ultimately concede the more optimistic outlook, viewing AI as a way to enhance creativity. Val Vacante, VP of Solutions Innovation at Dentsu, describes AI as an “amplifier” meant to add to the creative journey, not supplant essential components of the process.

Code & Theory CEO Dan Gardner reflects on how we define creativity. Rather than viewing creativity as an elusive, inherent trait, Gardner views it as a discipline–one that can be honed by anyone. Oftentimes, we view ourselves as either being creative or not. Those who belong to the latter group may be deterred from exploring their own capacity for creativity, leaving it to those who have already learned this particular skill set. Gardner views AI as an equalizer, one that will inspire more experimentation, giving people an opportunity to discover new ways of thinking.

The new efficiency hack

When people talk about the potential of AI in B2B marketing, they’re likely going to mention efficiency. AI promises to increase productivity, save time, and boost ROI by reducing strain on processes and employees.

This isn’t just hypothetical–active use cases of AI have already proven this to be true. For example, AI can minimize time spent on ad personalization by using aggregated data to make recommendations based on factors like buyer behavior and competitive intelligence.

The panelists praise the many ways in which AI in B2B marketing can be utilized right now. From drafting content outlines to demand forecasting, there are AI marketing tools, software, and services that use this technology to streamline processes and maximize efficiency. When processes are refined, marketers are able to focus their attention on the kind of human-powered strategic thinking that AI just can’t produce.

However, Garder warns marketers not to get too caught up in how AI can make their current processes more efficient. Instead, he looks forward to finding entirely new ways of doing things with AI assistance.

Combating bias in AI

For better or worse, AI is learning from us. It takes in available data and generates outputs based on that information. And if there’s one thing we know about society, it’s that it’s imperfect. If AI is learning from information that may contain bias, how do we mitigate its presence in the system?

SoFi, an online banking company, tackles this concept in an artfully executed campaign called “Face of Finance”. In the video, SoFi prompts AI to create various images of people who are apt with finances. They then go on to reveal that out of thousands of images generated, less than 2% were of women. In a powerful statement, SoFi declares that AI can’t unlearn bias until we do.

Taj Reid echoes this sentiment, encouraging active engagement with AI to help this technology learn from as diverse a dataset as possible. He also recommends that users feel empowered to participate in policy-making around the tool so that their voices are heard.

How to start deploying AI now

Ready or not, AI is here, and companies that fail to integrate this technology into their operations risk falling behind the competition. So, where do you start?

Dan Gardner has a major recommendation for companies looking to bring AI into their processes–don’t silo it. There’s not a singular department that can benefit from AI more than others, and each should have an opportunity to discover what this technology can do for them. Gardner encourages individuals to experiment with the tool to identify ways in which it can be used across B2B marketing and throughout the organization.

Vacante advises seeking areas of friction to ideate how AI might provide solutions to these problems. Is your content failing to communicate with the right audiences? Is your ad strategy making the most effective use of your budget? Whatever your issue, AI B2B marketing tools likely has a way to help.

Reid’s advice is simple–just start. Don’t get too hung up on use cases just yet. Get familiar with the tool, understand its potential, then apply it where you see fit.

Want to hear more? View the panel on LinkedIn to learn from these visionary leaders.