‘What are we doing about AI?’

AI is likely to have a huge impact on the future of marketing, so senior marketers must look at what that will mean for their organisation, business ambition, approach to talent and strategic thinking.

Gareth Davies, CEO, Leagas Delaney, explores what AI means for the future of agencies.

There can’t be many brands or businesses which haven’t considered the impact of AI on their business in recent months, and the action they need to take to address it. As senior leaders in boardrooms everywhere ask the question “What are we doing about AI?”, the advertising industry should be following suit.

While AI is likely to have a huge impact, for many senior marketers attempting to answer this question the most obvious place to start will be automation. By this, I mean the automation of marketing assets through the adaptation and delivery of content. This will be particularly relevant to marketers looking to adapt global content for multiple markets and for local marketers producing high volumes of content for a single territory. 

However, while nearly all creative agencies depend on production revenue to bolster their P&L, surprisingly few have developed technology that’s sophisticated enough for a marketer who wants to respond to this fast-changing environment.

Perhaps this isn’t so surprising in the short term, given how quickly things are moving, but in the medium term, failure to take action may lead to dramatic consequences. Automation enables agencies to produce assets in a fraction of the time and at a fraction of the cost, compared to manual processes. It can often be 10 to 15 times faster and about 80 per cent cheaper than traditional adaptation. This isn’t about marginal gains: it’s about the total reinvention of a major part of our industry and a transformational reduction in time – and therefore, cost.

The impact of automation won’t, however, be limited to those clients and agencies producing vast amounts of content. While it’s true that the economies of scale will be greater there, our own use of automation technology (Leagas Delaney created one of the UK’s first creative asset automation platforms over a decade ago) has demonstrated that projects of scale won’t be the only ones to benefit. Even on far smaller projects, automation can deliver suprising efficiencies. As few as 10 adaptations of one master asset is enough to justify shifting tasks to automation.

For many marketers assuming that creative asset automation will only ever be relevant for those high-volume jobs, it will be a surprisingly low threshold and one that points to just how widespread creative asset automation will eventually become.

So, what could this mean for the shape of agencies? More than likely, it will require a major rethink of their organisational structure and approach to talent, with more emphasis on strategic guidance and breakthrough creative thinking – the areas clients and, indirectly, their boardrooms, will feel the most benefit from.

Perhaps of even greater interest to those boardrooms – and certainly to CMOs – will be the future ambitions of these technology platforms. The most progressive will look to stitch together transformational improvements in asset adaptation and deployment along with analytic functionality capable of determining the effectiveness of those same assets in market.

Together, technology of this kind will be able to offer clients a live view of the performance of their assets and the possibility of real-time analysis and optimisation. Such platforms promise not only a true end-to-end process but moreover a virtuous cycle of efficiency-effectiveness-efficiency, where live data continuously loops back to production, fine-tuning assets and, correspondingly, content plans (and marketing spend).

It is a transformative view of how technology will super-charge marketing operations and, more widely, business – and one that points to an ambitious answer to the question of “What are we doing about AI?”

Gareth Davies


Leagas Delaney