AI Marketing: Friend or Foe?

by Brittany McSorley

A year ago, I got extremely nervous about AI. I have since calmed down because the technology is far from perfect (for example, ChatGPT is wrong like, a lot), but I still worry it will become perfect and make all our jobs obsolete but rather than freeing us from laboring under capitalism it will only increase our suffering, somehow. You know, just the typical stuff people fret about! I’m fine.

On a less unhinged note, it must be acknowledged that AI is proving very helpful for digital marketers. Particularly tempting is AI-generated image technology that could easily take the place of all the photos you’re currently taking to spread the word about your business on social media.

It may be old age, but it seems like these advanced tools are debuting at a rapid pace. It felt like ChatGPT had been on the scene for about an hour before these image-creation tools popped up. Recently, Adobe’s InDesign launched an AI feature: “Text to Image is a generative AI-powered capability powered by Adobe Firefly. Unlike other InDesign capabilities, this capability enables you to use a text prompt to generate images in various Content types (Photo or Art) and Aspect ratio (Landscape, Portrait, Square, Widescreen, or Vertical) quickly and easily.”

Cool! But also yikes? I’m really in the weeds with this stuff.

Canva also has an AI image generator now (bonus: this one’s free). Just enter a short description of the image you’re looking for, and options will pop up in no time. When I typed in “woman enjoying her life,” I was greeted with this little number:

Very grounded! Not at all terrifying! Truly, this is the future Star Trek was talking about.

A quick Google search illustrates just how many companies are now offering this technology: Gemini, OpenArt, StarryAI, DeepAI, Pixlr… and all of those are real names! I didn’t even throw in a fake one like PictrDoctr or something to mess with you (copyright pending).

AI is obviously not a passing fad, but there are definitely some kinds to work out. As usual, Meta is providing a great example of taking a complex phenomenon and forcing it into something appealing to the masses long before it’s appropriate. While Meta has incorporated AI into its ad creation tools for the past six months, it hastily unveiled its own AI chatbot in April as an answer to ChatGPT, and as the New York Times  noted, “Despite Mark Zuckerberg’s hope for the chatbot to be the smartest, it struggles with facts, numbers and web search.” Just when you think you’ve lowered your expectations enough, am I right? I’d be more impressed if this technology actually saved me time instead of costing me more as I fact-check the robots.

Oh, another neat fact about Meta’s AI feature? You can’t turn it off. Facebook: Truly Inescapable! (Copyright pending.)

So, is AI friend or foe for small business marketers? Probably both. You can certainly pull together a Facebook post using a glossy AI-generated Canva image and some ChatGPT-produced copy, and technologically speaking, that’s amazing. But will it outperform a post with a photo of human beings, taken by a human being, along with factually accurate words written by a human being? I’d like to think not, but I probably sound like the people who were defensive and reluctant when they added sound to movies. Your AI marketing journey is up to you; just make sure you check for extra arms.