Conversations about AI dominated the agenda in Davos this year, and few corporate functions stand to be more impacted than marketing and communications. Techonomy, a Worth Media Brand, partnered with OPRG CEO Chris Foster and Mastercard CMO Raja Rajamannar to gather a group of the world’s leading marketing and communications executives to candidly discuss how they see AI impacting their profession. Attendees at the private breakfast meeting, which was conducted under Chatham House Rule, included C-suite executives from banking, consulting, healthcare, insurance, software, and technology industries. While they all acknowledged the huge potential of AI, the conversation quickly shifted to the challenges of accountability, transparency, privacy, and regulatory compliance.

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Pictured (L to R): OPRG CEO Chris Foster, Mastercard CMO Raja Rajamannar, Worth CEO Josh Kampel

“We are trying to find ways to strategically engage in AI automation to help us,” Says Foster. “That means we have to change the way we practice communications so we can deliver more precision at scale at speed for a client.”

Not surprisingly, most of the executives have already deployed some type of AI solution to increase productivity.  Many agree that marketing departments are already stretched, so AI will help them accomplish things they haven’t had the resources for. In other cases, there were specific examples of how AI is allowing them to do things that weren’t possible.

“Mastercard is already using AI to identify micro-trends, rapidly create content, A/B test the creative, and then deploy campaigns at scale,” said Rajamannar.

From the conversation, several key points emerged that show the challenges and opportunities that face executives:

Change Management and Adoption

Integrating AI into marketing and communication strategies isn’t just about adopting new technology. It involves a significant change management effort, requiring companies to adapt their approaches and align AI implementation with strategic business objectives. Foster commented, “Our challenge isn’t just adopting AI; it’s reshaping our approach to communications, making our craft more precise, scalable, and swift.”

AI’s Impact on Efficiency

AI has dramatically enhanced operational efficiency, significantly reducing the time required to draft responses to RFPs. This transformation underscores AI’s role in enhancing productivity and decision-making in marketing and communications. “An RFP used to take me three or four weeks to assemble,” an executive commented. “Now, we can do it in three or four hours.”

Balancing Opportunity and Risk

AI presents vast opportunities for personalized marketing and efficient communication. However, navigating these possibilities carefully is crucial, considering the associated risks and ethical implications. As AI systems process vast amounts of consumer data to personalize marketing efforts, ensuring that these operations respect individual privacy and comply with data protection regulations is imperative. “There are going to be more privacy and PII regulations coming, not less.” stated an executive.

Transparency and Ethical Considerations

The conversation highlighted the need for transparency in using AI, especially in industries like finance, where disclosure is paramount. This includes being open about AI’s role in creating content, making decisions, and ensuring ethical usage of AI technologies. One attendee expressed concerns about transparency, pondering, “In industries that value disclosure, how transparent should we be about our use of AI in marketing and communications?”

Accountability and Liability

The group also recognized the importance of accountability and liability when integrating AI into business practices. Companies adopting AI must consider the technology’s capabilities and the legal and ethical responsibilities. This framework, at this point, does not exist. As a result, one executive noted: “This is a case where I am happy to be the second one through the door.”

The Human Element 

Despite AI’s growing influence, the human element remains irreplaceable. Human creativity, judgment, and storytelling are essential components AI is meant to support, enhance, and not replace. Balancing AI’s capabilities with human insight is key to leveraging the technology effectively in marketing and communications. “AI is a powerful tool, but it’s the human element that brings true value and creativity to our strategies,” a participant noted, underscoring the technology’s supportive rather than substitutive role.

Despite the real risks that AI-driven marketing presents, the discussion’s overall tone was cautious optimism with a sense of inevitability.

“We can be precious about the tradecraft, but we must embrace AI.” said Chris Foster ”It is coming.”

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