Shreyas Kulkarni

AI, ChatGPT and its ilk: boon or bane for agencies?

Their sudden rise does not symbolise the arrival of adland’s singularity. It is a glimpse of how agencies will live with AI in the coming years.

Tony Stark and Bruce Banner designed Ultron, an artificial intelligence (AI), as part of a program to protect Earth from alien invaders if the Avengers were defeated.

Little did the duo foresee the AI becoming sentient, developing a god complex, and nearly hurtling a city from Earth’s upper atmosphere back onto the planet’s surface intending to trigger a cataclysmic reaction similar to the one which wiped out the dinosaurs.

The movie, aptly named, Age of Ultron was the point when the singularity ­— a point in the future when technology’s growth becomes uncontrollable and human civilization’s existence comes under threat — made its presence felt in the Marvel Cinematic universe.

Many writers felt the same about their profession, for a while, a few days ago when ChatGPT became the focus of nearly every second post on LinkedIn.

It is an artificial intelligence program, developed by OpenAI, which on being fed direct briefs spits out surprisingly engaging and creative content. This AI is a dream come true for futurists and a nightmare for writers.

Such chatbot programs are not new, but ChatGPT is certainly the most popular one right now. Tesla CEO Elon Musk called it “scary good” and Sam Altman, CEO of, OpenAI tweeted that ChatGPT had crossed a million users in less than a week.

The CEO also said “… it's a mistake to be relying on it for anything important right now. it’s a preview of progress; we have lots of work to do on robustness and truthfulness.”

The program like many of its ilk are a work in progress and while its utility right now is limited to a kid’s half-hour in a toy store before getting bored, it is crucial to note that if an AI program can produce copy and blog posts quicker than an office coffee machine squirts out the burnt brown liquid, a digital or advertising agency, in particular, may find it useful in the coming years.

Digital agencies may see ChatGPT as a handy tool to produce basic content for blogs or emailers or newsletters and pitch it to clients. "I see the solution being offered as part of a boutique offering from an agency,” says Neeraj Sharma. He feels such programs can’t stand alone as an offering because clients have access to said technology too. Sharma is the senior vice president of strategy at L&K Saatchi & Saatchi.

When afaqs! tried to visit ChatGPT yesterday night.
When afaqs! tried to visit ChatGPT yesterday night.

And when agencies offer AI as part of their solutions offering, there will be some collateral damage to the existing job roles and departments. The first casualty as per Sharma is content writing because it produces content, which already exists, that an AI can do far better.

Think of a blog post on How to buy life insurance? It is not a new topic and ChatGPT over the years will have more access to data points on the question than a mortal ever can.

Content writing’s future is something even Jay Morzaria feels is on shaky ground but “not completely”. Morzaria, a creative director at OktoBuzz, thinks AI isn’t that refined to execute the many nuances of content writing such as the “natural insertion of keywords in a blog post.”

While the incoming onslaught of AI may appear to obliterate content writing, it will find it nearly impossible to touch creative thinking and original thought feel Sharma and Morzaria.

“When it comes to brand campaigns, cracking a fresh thought, understanding brand nuances, human nuances, if your strength lies here, AI hasn’t evolved and can’t take over your job,” says Sharma.

Morzaria furthers the argument with Nike’s example and how all its ads and communication reflect the Just Do It philosophy. “Chat GPT can’t write in the tonality of a brand… It requires that emotional connect which only humans are capable of.”

On the contrary, Preetham Venkky feels agencies are already making use of AI. The president of 22feet Tribal Worldwide and chief digital officer of the DDB Mudra Group feels “it would be foolish” not to use ChatGPT. He terms AI as not artificial intelligence but “assistive intelligence which does 80% of your work.”

He explains agencies, when it came to depicting a scene in a script, would look at stock images but they are no longer accurate or representative. “Instead, using AI (AI-rendered photography), agencies are better able to define their visualisations be it social media posts or storyboards.”

AI has already started challenging creative thinking and will take on say writing copy or working on campaigns in the next two to three years than five to six years, states Venkky and says, “It will do a far better job than human beings but humans will have to select the best of the lot. Humans become the curator and not the creator.”  

Why will it do a better job? AI’s worldview or experience set is far greater than humans because it is being fed voracious amounts of diverse experiences (data sets) every single day.

The human damage?

On one side, the positive aspects of AI appear promising. However, flip the coin and one might see a loss of business and even jobs. What’s to say brands will depend on in-house teams and AI to get the job done than depend on agencies?

“Not really because the curator’s diversity of experiences is also important, feels Venkky and states “you hire external support because they bring a different point of view. You hire an agency because you’re too close to a problem.”

Also, unscrupulous agencies could choose to use AI programs like ChatGPT than hire and nurture interns. “The way technology is racing; one should have more interns because they have a grasp of the latest technology,” states Venkky and adds that “a 19-year-old will write your Reels strategy, you may get an AI to create a Reels but who guides and curates has to be somebody who has lived it.”

Ultron is a comic book villain and a symbol of how technology’s advances can create roadblocks for humanity. “See it as your ally than your adversary,” cajoles Sharma as he offers advice on what one can do. “It still hasn’t replaced original thinking. You’ve to think fresher, more insightful, and more emotionally.”

“Every battle is won before it’s ever fought,” said Sun Tzu, military general and author of The Art of War. Who knew the answer to winning against a rapidly evolving technology in 2022 could come from the 5th century BC?

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