It was fever pitch when it came to AI discussions last year. When tech comes along that brings to mind that famous quote from Arthur C. Clarke (“indistinguishable from magic”), the press takes notice. In marketing, it can be hard to cut through the hype, especially when the news cycle is drawn to pronouncements about AI’s potential threat to humanity.
As I’ve trawled through 2024 trends decks from the worlds of marketing, advertising and tech, most commentators, to give them all their dues, tread carefully when they discuss AI. Don’t get carried away, they say.
For example, Scott Brinker and Frans Riemersma write in their Martech for 2024 report that “it would be as much of a mistake to overlook what’s happening with this flurry of new [AI] startups as it would be to overindex on embracing too many of them too quickly.”
And in Marketing Week, Joe Glover, co-founder of the Marketing Meet-Up, urges marketers to “Stop seeking partisan views, and embrace nuance.”
But it’s okay to be excited, of course.
I wanted to bring together AI comment from some of the reports I’ve been reading, simply because there’s so much of it. Many of these trend decks were brought to my attention by Dan Barker and the work of Iolanda Carvalho (Havas), Amy Daroukakis (Culture Concierge), Gonzalo Gregori (PHD) and Ci En Lee (Publicis), who round them up each year. The irony is that several industry folk have since built custom GPTs that draw on some of this content and allow the user to ask questions of it. My approach, for better or worse, was human-led.
Here are some of the statements that stood out from the reports I enjoyed the most. I have included links to each as there is plenty more worth exploring.
1. c. 2,000 new martech tools in just six months, “thanks largely to the explosion of AI”
As you might expect, the afore-mentioned Martech for 2024 report by Brinker and Riemersma includes lots on AI.
Perhaps most startling is the bonus update on the marketing technology landscape. The total number of martech solutions on the MartechMap is now 13,080, which the authors say is a net increase of 18.5% in the six months since the May 2023 landscape report, with generative AI (chiefly “new AI-centric startups in the long tail”) responsible for “at least 73% of the increase”.
“And that’s in addition to all of the generative AI features that have been embedded into existing martech products [in 2023],” add Brinker and Riemersma.
They note that the continued evolution and expansion of the martech landscape is “Thanks largely to the explosion of AI in the past year, but also due to other major technology shifts underway with the cloud data layer and ‘composable’ software…”.
2. “Agencies will bet big on ‘brand-specific’ AI models”
This was from Forrester’s Predictions 2024 report:
“In 2024, agencies will invest heavily to build bespoke, enterprise-ready AI solutions, formed by a combination of foundational AI models from tech partnerships, their own audience and creative intelligence, clients’ first-party data, and the brand’s standards.”
As the report says, several agency holding companies are “well underway in customizing their solutions with foundational AI models, having inked deals with multiple AI providers”.
3. “There will be an AI supply chain that includes large general models and the smaller, industry-specialized models”
Data cloud platform Snowflake also explores this theme of specialised models in its 2024 data and AI predictions.
“There will be a robust and competitive market of foundational models, under a larger economy of custom model makers for various industries — healthcare, retail, finance, and manufacturing, for example,” says SVP of Product Christian Kleinerman.
James Malone, Snowflake’s Director of Product Management for data lakes and data storage adds that although “Software vendors tend to acquire smaller companies to bring their specialities in-house… that won’t be the trend with AI. Smaller companies will exist to fine-tune models by specific need. There will be an AI supply chain that includes large general models and the smaller, industry-specialized models.”
4. “People who use AI will replace people who don’t”
AI’s potential to disrupt the workforce is something that vendors are acutely aware of as they aim to paint a picture of man and machine working together. IBM tackles this issue directly in its ‘5 trends for 2024’, published by its Institute for Business Value.
One is these trends is that “People who use AI will replace people who don’t,” with the report asking, “Can we help our workforce trust their new teammate, AI, as it helps them with day-to-day business processes?”
In this section, the report states that “Uniquely human traits such as creativity (the skill business leaders see as most valuable by 2025), nuanced decision- making, and empathy will become even more important.”
“Right now, with limited foresight, 87% of CEOs expect job roles to be augmented rather than replaced by generative AI,” the authors reveal, including data from a recent survey.
Download Econsultancy’s report: The Future of Marketing: The AI Opportunity
5. “Every text box on the internet will get an LLM”
This was from Benedict Evans’ presentation on AI (and everything else), when describing use cases for 2024. He gives the example of LinkedIn and its rollout of GenAI to help people write posts on the platform.
In his presentation and in previous blog posts, Evan has written about the ‘unbundling of AI’ and asked whether “‘general purpose’ AI means general purpose tools, or must it be wrapped in single-purpose product?”
6. “AI will power the post-cookie world”
Yep, you can’t escape cookie deprecation, even in the AI roundup. Google may only be testing with 1% of Chrome traffic right now, but eMarketer says the writing is on the wall.
In its advertising trends to watch, written with Marin, the research firm states, “With third-party desktop and mobile identifiers facing their imminent demise, AI will supercharge contextual targeting, fill gaps in deterministic consumer data to fuel behavioral targeting, and enhance campaign measurement.”
7. “Human attention remains our most constrained resource”
More sagacity from Brinker and Riemersma’s 2024 Martech report, this time focusing on the impact AI may have on UI.
“Platforms that can aggregate [attention] — inside internal business operations as much as externally with consumers — have enormous power. Aggregation of user experience is where we believe AI may have the greatest impact on the martech stack.”
Will new UIs unlock productivity? We may soon find out. A key part of this is how marketers and analysts can quickly access insights. Brinker and Riemersma write, “AI-powered, natural language interfaces will be a huge force for democratizing access to analytics for non-technical marketers.”
8. “Lots of true disruption is coming. Mostly around end user experience and how people interact with technology.”
Snowflake’s Christian Kleinerman agrees that UX may be where AI makes the biggest impact. The data warehouse company’s 2024 predictions report also quotes Amanda Kelly, Co-Founder of Streamlit, who says “The tech industry has spent decades bringing data and digital technology to how we work, but for the most part, the core fundamentals of our day-to-day work haven’t changed much.”
“The industry is only now reaching the point where the tech industry is not just driving efficiency but empowering business people to truly change how they work.”
9. The shift to LLMs “promises to make people feel understood digitally”
Accenture Song strikes an upbeat note in its Accenture Life Trends 2024 report:
“Through conversational interfaces, people will be able to steer machines in new ways and machines will be able to interpret people in finer detail, unlocking new behaviors, attitudes, and expectations for their digital interactions—and brands will be caught in the middle.”
The report states that the way people find information online will evolve from a “transactional relationship, with a browser serving as the middleman” to something “more intelligent, more informed, and more empathetic”.
LLMs and the new interfaces they enable promise “to make people feel understood digitally, and therefore have more relevant experiences.”
10. “AI will continue to change consumer’s search behaviour”
Veronica Jubera, Group Vice President, Strategy, at Publicis Commerce, discusses the AI-driven improvement in recommendation engines and virtual shopping assistants and posits this will increase customer satisfaction and drive conversion.
In the agency’s 2023 review and 2024 trends report Jubera states that, “for product searches, we expect that the advent of AI will likely contribute to shorten the purchase funnel – an example is Google’s SGE feature for product search that now serves the user with a plethora of product pictures taking you directly to a product detail page.”
11. Generative search “will cause reduced traffic to long tail publishers’ sites and apps”
eMarketer and Marin’s trends report predicts that as Google rolls out generative search, this “will cause reduced traffic to long tail publishers’ sites and apps— and could also result in a number of those publishers folding in 2024.”
Though there are many who expect generative AI to contribute to increasing volumes of content marketing, eMarketer predicts generative search “will reduce the amount of indexed content,” with Google going on to “subsidize content creation.”
12. “I worry that techno optimism takes marketers further away from the fundamentals of marketing. “
Andrew Tenzer co-founder of Burst Your Bubble, in Marketing Week’s excellent article, What marketers need to stop, start, and continue doing in 2024, urges readers, amidst all the talk of AI, to continue investing in understanding the consumer.
“We must continue to place great importance on market orientation, and developing a deep understanding of the customer out there in the real world,” he says.
13. The ‘Head of AI’ position grew by double-digits from Dec 2022 to Sep 2023
LinkedIn’s AI and the Future of Work report (published in September) states that “the number of companies with a ‘Head of AI’ position has grown by double-digits since December 2022.
In the same timeframe, views for AI and AI-related jobs increased by 12% across seven major economies (Australia, Brazil, France, Germany, India, the UK and the US).
14. “You need to guide stakeholders in your business through a realistic course of adoption”
Scott Brinker and Frans Riemersma in their Martech for 2024 report write that the hype cycle, famously described by Gartner, has been “the bane of CIOs for decades, and increasingly CMOs feel the pain of its whiplash too.”
Whereas, “these cycles used to play out over many years,” the authors say that they are “steadily compressing” and that generative AI has seen “a series of innovations that seem to have flown through the cycle in a matter of months.”
As such, the authors advice practitioners to seek to “flatten” the hype curve through expectation management. “You need to guide stakeholders in your business through a realistic course of adoption. Great marketing operations teams should own this responsibility.”
15. “The generative AI era does not call for a fundamental shift in data strategy”
This quote comes from Jennifer Belissent, Principal Data Strategist at Snowflake, in the data platform’s trends report.
Generative AI “calls for an acceleration of the trend toward breaking down silos and opening access to data sources wherever they might be in the organization,” says Belissent.
At the same time, Christian Kleinerman, SVP of Product, counsels that “the challenge of governing data is only going to get harder.”
“If you fine-tune an LLM with your proprietary data, sensitive data might emerge. AI compounds the familiar problem because you have less control of and visibility into what the machine is doing. Data lineage, provenance governance just become even more important.”
16. “…students might now find themselves learning skills in college that are obsolete by the time they graduate.”
TBWA’s Future of Employee Experience report, including the quote above from Chris Hyams, CEO of Indeed, is an excellent read.
“Employers are becoming the new educators,” it states. “As AI threatens entry- level positions and universities lose their allure, incoming workers will be looking to employers to train them for the roles of the future.”
Such an exhortation seems like a good place to wrap up this round-up.