My new column is live in The Drum:
AI or BS? How to tell if a marketing tool really uses artificial intelligence
Amid the giddy excitement about artificial intelligence, chronicled in our latest deep dive, columnist Sam Scott cautions us to look twice at some of the big claims about how AI is supposedly remaking marketing.
Advertisers and publicists know that they can use the phrase “artificial intelligence” to describe software and that almost everyone will repeat it without giving it a second thought. Well, let’s give it a second thought.
A common way to seem trendy is to use a new buzzword to refer to something that already exists. The “cloud” is usually just using someone else’s IT infrastructure. The “blockchain” is just a digital ledger. An “NFT” is just an online graphic design accompanied by the ludicrous proposition that someone can pay to own it.
One of the most recent buzzwords, of course, is the “metaverse.” But it is simply the virtual reality platform of Meta, the company formerly known as Facebook. And VR is nothing new – look up “AI Winter.” From stereoscopic images in 1838 to Second Life in 2003, VR keeps trying to come back, but it is never successful.
Last week, a New York magazine feature by Paul Murray proclaimed the metaverse a “deserted fantasyland.” At the same time, Meta’s commerce and fintech lead, Stephane Kasriel, announced on Twitter that the company would be “winding down digital collectibles (NFTs).”
Mark Zuckerberg himself told his employees last week that now “our single largest investment is in advancing AI and building it into every one of our products. We have the infrastructure to do this at unprecedented scale, and I think the experiences it enables will be amazing.”
And what about all those marketing consultants and influencers who breathlessly proclaimed that the metaverse and NFTs were the future and that all companies should immediately use them or perish?
That sound you heard last week was them switching their Twitter and LinkedIn profiles from proclaiming their expertise in the metaverse and NFTs to artificial intelligence. Even though they have likely never taken a single university course in the subject.
Several marketing software companies have done similar pivots and recently released tools that purport to use AI. But is that true – or are they just using that newly popular buzzword? For this column, I contacted Folloze, HubSpot, Intercom, Prequel and Propel to see.