How are strategists using ChatGPT?
In case you missed it, we're republishing some of our most popular stories of the year so far. Here we spoke to agency planners to find out how new AI chatbots have affected processes
ChatGPT has captivated and terrified people working in the creative industries. Questions remain over whether its ability to write and research will replace some job functions, but it's also being touted as a viable tool for doing administrative jobs and saving on time and resource.
So, how are planners using this tech and how is it speeding up the planning process? And are there any challenges to be aware of at this stage? We spoke to a number of industry planners to find out whether they are embracing the software or remaining cautious of its use.
Sid McGrath, chief strategy officer, Wunderman Thompson
A good planner is a client’s competitive advantage. This is best seen when advising a client what not to do.
What are the conventions, what’s the expected thing to do, what are consumers primed for? This is where ChatGPT is brilliant as it serves up the obvious. It can be used to identify the cliches, the well-trodden paths, the average. Then, the job of the planner is to do the opposite, the stuff that AI-driven technology could never come up with, to join the dots in an irregular fashion, to be deliberately impractical, to maybe even dispense with the dots entirely.
If nothing else, ChatGPT represents the bar that we always have to better – in client briefs, in our thinking, in our insights, in the idea that creatives develop and the work we present. ‘It’s a bit ChatGPT isn’t it?' should be our worst nightmare.
What will we do when this technology learns to serve us up the non-obvious stuff, the randomly joined-up dots, the leaps of logic, faith and creativity? I’ve no idea, but surely it can only make us better and more determined to show our worth, our real competitive advantage.
Matt Holt, chief strategy officer, Digitas UK
There are many parts of a strategist’s job that we can all enlist AI to help with. At Digitas, we’re in the throes of a “30 Day AI Challenge”, during which the whole agency is experimenting to see how AI can help us in our individual roles.
From a strategist’s point of view, we’ve seen some brilliant applications so far - from enlisting AI to summarise research findings, to using it to bring to life personas to building out contact strategies. And we’re still experimenting.
We already have many established use cases for AI up and running via our Digitas AI Lab. One of them is a natural language intelligence product we’ve built which analyses customer experience data, such as reviews and comments, and can detect emotions. We’re then able to use these learnings to identify opportunities across the customer journey.
By far the best use cases we’ve seen for ChatGPT so far are those that enable automation and efficiencies, freeing up time to let strategists do what they do best – connecting the dots to write strategies that create a positive impact.
But like any emerging technology it carries a health warning. Though it might be tempting to enlist ChatGPT to help with that ‘difficult first draft’ of your strategy, do so at your peril. Humans know humans better than anyone, and it would be remiss to rely on AI to connect those dots. The act of writing the first draft gets you to unexpected places be that diagnosing the problem or reframing the brief. The ‘difficult first draft’ is also difficult for a reason – it’s our way of synthesising information, connecting the dots and a critical part of the thinking process.
Mara Dettman, digital strategy & content lead, BBH
ChatGPT has captivated and terrified people working in the creative industries. Questions remain over whether its ability to write and research will replace some job functions, but it's also being touted as a viable tool for doing administrative jobs and saving on time and resources. So, how are planners using this tech and how is it speeding up the planning process? And are there any challenges to be aware of at this stage?
Open AI’s latest research on the impact of ChatGPT and its ilk on jobs confirms what we all suspected - it’s a good time to be in marketing or any role involving emotion and nuance.
Our early work with ChatGPT has borne this out. It’s a great strategy partner for initial research. It can turn out digestible briefings on complex topics, condense long papers into handy bullet points, and create top-line competitor reviews and SWOT analyses quickly. I suspect this will rapidly develop into more sophisticated tasks, such as mapping customer journeys across touchpoints and designing communications ecosystems.
It is also a handy tool for eeking out prompts and thought starters and suggesting presentation structures with timings when fed the time frames and constraints. And it is a whizz at sense-checking, again with some limitations, scanning for logical flaws in key arguments.
Challenges remain beyond the biases and ethical considerations, however. Figuring out how best to feed information to ChatGPT to make it useful involves a lot of tests and learning. Refining the prompts can take longer than just doing the task. Meanwhile, figuring out exactly how intelligent it is also requires significant groundwork and input from planners because it currently only generates generic results.
Will ChatGPT redefine planning? It will eventually take on the least creative - and most mechanical - elements of strategy and planning. For now, our alchemy of transforming insights into creative magic is proving much harder to replicate, at least until machine learning moves into true AI.
Brian Williamson, senior strategist, AMV BBDO
We’re strategists, so there’s optimism and scepticism in equal measure with ChatGPT. Most of our team are using large language models like fast, cheap, unreliable research assistants.They aren’t going to make strategy happen faster, but in some situations they open new ways to dig into a problem that could get us to a more interesting answer.
Still, no good strategist should prefer ChatGPT over talking to real people.
We’ve used it for summaries, categorisation, and overviews for our own use, but never for anything client-facing or consumer-facing. Specifically, I recently used it to pull an example list of 20 popular gaming creators who also talk about their cat, which shortened a tedious task to a few minutes.
It’s also good at synthesising the popular received wisdom in a category. Of course, our best work usually challenges received wisdom, in the end. For a strategist, ChatGPT won’t have the right answer, but it may help rule out wrong answers faster.
Fred Schjottz, senior strategist, Atomic
Unless you’ve been living under a rock in 2023, you’ve probably heard of ChatGPT.
Everyone is writing about it. Everyone is talking about it
Our universal quest to cheat time and claw back valuable minutes throughout the day has seemingly entered its next phase. The promise of increased productivity, curated outputs at the click of a button and streamlined processes are simply too good to ignore.
Like a mystical orb ready to reveal the secrets of the universe, I’ve marvelled at ChatGPT’s ability to provide answers on seemingly any topic, at unbelievable pace and depth of knowledge.
From retail to transport, AI’s potential to change the world is undeniable.
In advertising, for better, or worse, we tend to be attracted to new technologies like magpies to shiny metallic objects.
Part of that is our job.
But as an industry that struggles with sameness, it feels like relying even more on algorithmised outputs will create more indistinguishable work, driving us further down the road to irrelevance.
At the end of the day, we’re paid for creative thinking, not pre-packaged thinking.
Then again maybe I’m just a luddite.
I’ll be first in line when they make an AI for timesheets, though.
Asad Shaykh, head of planning, Grey
Like any other groundbreaking tech, of course it is captivating and terrifying.
For planners, it should just be one thing. Exciting!
The possibilities of using it are endless, especially for creating rapid input for strategy. Using it, you can summarise long articles. You can feed it dense documents and then interrogate them in real-time. You can ask it to explain extremely complex topics. You can ask it to be a florist if you’re pitching for a flower delivery business. It might even help you go lateral in exploring off-beat strategic territories and making better work.
Doing all this took precious time and expensive planner-hours, but now provides space for the craft vs. the grind.
My watch-out for planners? It’s a tool. Even if it is a good one, it shouldn’t be your only one. Treat it as an addition to your armoury, not an excuse to get lazy. AI won’t replace you – only if you don’t know how to use it.
Was this piece written by ChatGPT?