If you sit a group of monkeys down in front of typewriters and allow them to hit the keys at random for an infinite amount of time, you'll almost surely have the next Netflix pilot, not to mention the complete works of William Shakespeare.
The well-known infinite monkey theorem underlies many assumptions businesses are making about how artificial intelligence (AI) can cut their costs in advertising and marketing. Impressed with the speed with which AI's metaphorical monkeys can generate text, some company executives are reconsidering the need for copywriters. For one, according to a report by the Financial Times earlier this year, Google and Meta have started allowing advertisers to feed generative AI a diet of creative content, such as imagery, video and text, which the AI will then "remix" to spit out new ads targeting specific audiences. But this type of practice has proven dangerous in these early days of AI-related lawsuits, as evidenced by the high-profile copyright case Getty Images brought against AI company Stability AI.
Cutting costs on copy by relying on AI simultaneously overlooks the skill and creative savvy of many copywriters and ignores the legal risks inherent to advertising claims. For example, what statements can a brand make about its sustainability without attracting unwanted attention from the Federal Trade Commission? What facts can a company share about the origin of its textiles without misleading customers? What slogans can a marketing email reference without infringing third-party copyright or trademarks? Are all product claims in marketing copy substantiated? If text and imagery are intended for social media posts, what disclaimers are required? These considerations inform the standard pre-publication review process for advertising materials, and companies gloss over them at their own peril.
AI is a shiny new tool, and rightfully one that many businesses are eager to add to their toolbox. Using AI to generate marketing copy or trademarks without having professional human writers review what the AI produces, however, is fraught with risk. In other words: the monkeys can type, but only a human can recognize the next Hamlet.
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