Skip to content

The Problem With AI Headlines

Today is the Ides of March.

It is not a day to celebrate; it is a day to beware, as the soothsayer told Julius Ceasar.

It didn’t work out well for him, but will the 2024 caveat — beware of the Ides of AI — from OpenAI’s Sam Altman work out for you?

He says future AI will accomplish “95% of what marketers use agencies, strategists, and creative professionals for today.”

As a creative and content professional, will you find yourself on the steps of the proverbial senate saying, “Et tu, ChatGPT?” and getting knifed in the back by a prompt engineer?

We went to CMI’s chief strategy advisor, Robert Rose, for his take. Read on or watch this video:

Caveat to marketers

In a Marketing Artificial Intelligence Institute article and podcast episode, they discussed the recent report about Sam’s bold predictions about the future of AI and marketing creative.

The prediction is going largely unreported by mainstream media because it comes from a book being written in real time called Our AI Journey by Adam Brotman and Andy Sack.

(Side note: The book appears to be a clever content marketing effort by the authors and an innovative way to combine both a book and an online community, as well as a revenue-generating audience build.)

Sam’s prediction occurs in the discussion of AGI — artificial general intelligence. That means AI is much more advanced than today’s generative AI tools and can solve problems on its own and learn to adapt to a range of contexts.   

That understanding puts the prediction into better perspective. Sam was asked what AGI means for consumer brand marketers trying to create ad campaigns to build their companies. He responded, “95% of what marketers use agencies, strategists, and creative professionals for will easily, nearly instantly, and at almost no cost be handled by the AI.”

He continued, “AI will be likely to test the creative against real or synthetic customer focus groups for predicting results and optimizing. Again, it is all free, instant, and nearly perfect. Images, videos, campaign ideas? No problem.”

So, should you fold up your tent and head home? It doesn’t seem you’ll be needed much longer. What CEO would turn down a system of instant, free, nearly free perfect images, videos, and marketing campaigns that could be instantly and continuously optimized against real and synthetic audiences? Their results would be predictable because they are always going to work; otherwise, AI would NOT do that campaign.

But before you plan your exit, let’s get a reality check on those AI possibilities.

Get an AI reality check

Sam is selling a utopian version of AI in an interview for a book entitled Our AI Journey. It would be a short book and self-deflating if he said, “Meh, AI’s going to increase our productivity by a few percentage points and make some menial tasks a little easier.” It’s hard to raise a trillion dollars in venture money, which he’s trying to do, without whipping up a little clickbait.

I don’t mind that. But what bothers me about quotes like that is the reaction. Markets and people, including practitioners, hear them, and two things happen. First, it becomes about the headline, not the nuance.

That’s where the context should come into play. In the interview, Sam says, “We’re about five years away from AGI — maybe longer.” Some experts extend that time to 25 years. And, by the way, agreement on the definition of AGI still hasn’t happened.  

But that nuance will get left behind as the quote ends up on the news and spreads around social media. The headline will be something like, “Sam Altman Says ChatGPT Will Replace 95% of Marketing Agencies and Creative Professionals.”

The second thing to happen, as it does with other fear-based quotes about technology innovation, will be to associate that 95% with jobs and people rather than how it changes people.

The change isn’t one-sided. Do you really think the nature of what creative and marketing people do won’t change as everything else does? Of course not, but that’s how many read stats like that.

Revisit the office of the future

In 1975, Business Week ran a cover article called The Office of The Future. George Pake, the head of research at Xerox, predicted a revolution. In 20 years, he said, a TV terminal with a keyboard would let users push a button to call up documents on the screen and another button to get their mail or messages from anywhere in the world. He predicted printing paper would no longer be needed, ending the days of people filing and typing things. Office costs would plummet.

People were giddy. Word processors would eliminate the need for typing pools, typewriters, and filing, all the things that office workers did. Of course, when that did start happening, weird, unpredictable things happened too.

People paid attention to fonts and layout. The plain walls of text in interoffice memos turned into desktop-published beautiful layouts. It enabled side hustles. My mom had a career working from home, creating interoffice quarterly reports because she knew how to use a word processor. In the late 1980s, one of my first jobs out of college was in market research, where I dictated research reports into a tape recorder. A word processor person would put the content into the technology and layout the report because they could do the fonts and graphs that the client liked.

And yet, in 2024, my doctor’s office still uses fax machines and filing cabinets. Their forms still appear as walls of text. Business is not entirely digital despite the Xerox executive’s prediction.

Gain a fresh interpretation

You don’t know. Sam Altman doesn’t know. You don’t know how technology will shape your future. All you know is that it most likely will.

Let me switch up Sam’s quote. What if I said, “In five years, 95% of creative agencies and marketing people will use some form of AI to do what their clients want.”

At the core, Sam and I said the same thing. I focused on the evolution and change on you, not the technology. When you hear that, your reaction changes, right? My phrasing feels more realistic to you.

But my quote doesn’t make headlines.

That’s the takeaway. Every time you see one of those headlines — a prediction — look at it through this lens: “What if it’s me who changes to meet the value of the innovation and not what the innovation will do to change the value of me?”

Like what you read here? Get yourself a subscription to daily or weekly updates.  It’s free – and you can change your preferences or unsubscribe anytime.


Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute