As new AI tools are released, some agencies seem eager to try them

Execs say AI could have multiple uses for agencies, from designing campaigns to A/B testing.
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· 4 min read

Robots: they’re so hot right now—from CES reveals to M3GAN’s debut to the “AI revolution.”

With the release of software like DALL-E 2 and ChatGPT in the last year, many have wondered how AI could impact roles and processes in marketing. For now, experts told us that AI seems to work best as a supplement (as opposed to a replacement) when it comes to creative jobs, and agencies seem eager to integrate the new technology into their workflows in 2023.

Putting the AI in campAIgn

Ahead of last month’s 2023 Color of the Year reveal, Pantone partnered with ad agency Huge to create a campaign for “Viva Magenta.” Using the AI software Midjourney, Diego Nicolau, executive creative director at Huge, told us his team was able to create hundreds of images that came to be known as the “Magentaverse.”

While this was Huge’s first client campaign built using AI, Nicolau said the agency was prepared for it. “We’re constantly trying and testing with our own internal projects so when a client or a real business opportunity comes to us, we accumulate enough experience to be able to say, ‘Okay, we can go there.’”

image for Pantone's "Magentaverse"

Huge has an AI “community” of about 80 employees who are specifically focused on AI, including how to develop design prompts for AI like Midjourney in order to create a specific image—something that Nicolau said they have “mastered.” He said the creatives working on the Pantone campaign were able to find such specific prompts that the only tweak needed in the Magentaverse images was adding the Viva Magenta color.

Pantone isn’t the only brand out there interested in AI: Spirits brand Martini and Nestlé’s La Laitière brand have both released AI-generated campaigns in recent months. Since releasing the campaign with Pantone, Nicolau said there has been “a lot of curiosity from [other] clients to understand how they can use AI.”

Why try AI?

Natalie Comins, group creative director at Huge, told us that AI is “something that agencies should start to consider offering as part of their capabilities.” As conversations on AI continue and campaigns like Pantone’s are released, she said clients have taken note and agencies should be ready to field those questions.

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“In order to actually offer using this technology to our clients and the customers that they work with, we need to fully understand it,” Comins said.

Eric Vienna, a creative director at Huge who also works with AI, told us that even if clients aren’t necessarily looking for their campaigns to be designed using AI, they may increasingly expect agencies to “produce rapid mood boards or storyboards much quicker or [have] a broader range of ideas for them to choose from” because of AI, which agencies should be ready for.

Beyond design, Melissa Bouma, CEO of content marketing agency Manifest, told us that in the short term, she thinks AI could be “most valuable” for copy processes like A/B testing. “I also think the personalization of the experience is where [AI is] really going to flourish first,” she said. “How do you personalize certain messages to the end users so they get more of the experience that they’re looking for?”

While Manifest isn’t using software like ChatGPT currently, Bouma said the company is in conversation with a few potential partners. Looking ahead, she said having a baseline knowledge of AI, like how its algorithms work and what influences them, could become expected of employees within the next year or so.

Julie Michaels, CEO of brand agency Team One, seemed to be even more bullish, telling us that she believes “people will be AI native in a matter of a couple of years” when asked if AI knowledge will become standard among new agency hires. She added that she sees opportunities both on the front end in using AI and on the back end in coding new AI tools, particularly for recent grads or those currently in college.

As Comins put it, “If [AI] is something that helps create efficiencies in the creative process and helps creative people focus on bigger, more important, more challenging initiatives, then it might be something that we see in every single project that we do. But I think we’re in the early phases right now, so we’ll have to see where it goes.”

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