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Brand Leaders Debate AI Ownership at IAB ALM Marketing Breakfast

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If you followed breathless press releases over the past year, you would think that the marketing industry is being radically transformed by artificial intelligence.

The reality, debated and explored at ADWEEK’s Marketing Vanguard breakfast at the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s Annual Leadership Meeting at the end of January, reveals a more complicated reality.

While marketing executives from Zipcar and Adobe showed real ways generative AI helps their businesses, from letting employees think strategically to helping design campaigns, they questioned the limits of the technology. Attendees, who represented a vast swath of the advertising industry, debated where AI should sit in an organization, if any executive or department should own it, or if it should be prioritized at all.  

“The fundamental role of chief marketing officers remains unchanged as a result of AI,” said Justin Holmes, vice president of marketing and public policy at Zipcar. “AI can be an important catalyst to solve many challenges. What we focus on is unlikely to change.”

How brands use AI

For Nicole Williams, head of events at Adobe, AI helps employees focus on the human part of their job.

“You have a team of people who are historically burned out,” said Williams. “They don’t have time to focus their brains on strategy and forward-thinking. They’re too busy putting out everyday fires. Having resources that they can use to offload those tasks frees them up to think bigger-picture.”

Zipcar, with agency Supernatural, used AI to generate consumer insight based on Zipcar’s existing data, Holmes said. A potentially months-long market-research exercise took minutes. Zipcar also used AI to help generate ideas for copy. As previously reported, the campaign drove increased visits to the site and brand awareness.

Holmes added that an important use case for AI is serving Zipcar’s members and improving the product in response to user feedback, particularly because the company has a base of subscribers.

“We picked up an incident last week where there was a small technical bug in our application that we would not have picked up if it weren’t for some of these AI-based tools that we use to train our customer listening even more intently,” Holmes said.

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