Scooby-Dooing It: How AI Turns Planners into Doers

McCann London's head of strategic products sees AI tools like ChatGPT 4.0 and DALL-E 3 as his own Scooby Doo. Among successes, cautionary tales of prompt-engineered mishaps arise

By Jonathan Brown

I think of AI as being like my very own Scooby Doo. Hear me out. It’s like a partner in crime that helps accelerate my thinking in unexpected ways. It puts me in an experimental and playful mindset which helps me connect dots that weren’t visible before.

I’ve been almost exclusively using ChatGPT 4.0 Enterprise edition on our IPG workspace, alongside DALL-E 3 which has proven amazingly useful. It’s also in a secure space which is important for data security reasons.

I’m sure everyone is using ChatGPT to write discussion guides and first drafts of survey questions. But what’s been great is using it for pattern recognition when we get the responses back. When we feed it with proprietary research and cross pollinate it with other data sources it’s proving invaluable in identifying insights and picking out areas to explore. One of my favourite uses recently involved turning the written answers from a question about ‘if you described your home as a living thing, what would it be’ into imagery to use in a pitch (an idea led by our brilliants friends at Truth Central). A house looking like a Dalí snail, made by DALL-E was a particular joy.

It's also been amazingly useful in a recent research project we led to understand the foods that are being eaten by people during Ramadan. We were able to ask ChatGPT to read the images and identify the exact ingredients in all the dishes to help our food clients understand the diverse range of dishes that are eaten at Iftar – it brought to life how varied the food scene is during Ramadan in the UK.

In the spirit of experimentation, it’s worth sharing a recent failure. I spent hours lovingly prompt-engineering imagery for a deck that involved asking DALL-E to ‘take inspiration from Noma Bar and Alan Fletcher from Pentagram to create a series of graphic design led backgrounds for some charts that demonstrate the joy of finding white space’. Whilst I loved the imagery, our Art Director didn’t… and in hindsight rightly so as the image looked alarmingly like a bottom. Fortunately, our design and creative teams are Midjourney ninjas and are giving me some tuition!

One of my true joys is running our weekly creative accelerator initiative called Atomic Soup – where we explore a subject from a range of diverse angles with a range of truths and provocations designed to spark ideas that catch fire in culture and pay back in the boardroom. I’ve been using GenAI to accelerate our accelerator – through mining data for insights, prompting planners around the network to explore new angles and then summarising the written chat and the transcript of the call to find the truths and opportunities to apply these ideas to our brands. Without the help of ChatGPT we’d be missing opportunities left right and centre.

Finally, one of the most exciting ways we are using AI as strategists is in workshops with our clients to accelerate creative solutions. We’ve hosted a range of AI ‘strategic products’ with our clients including AI training, AI Creative Hothouses and AI Project Pilots which have proven to be a game changer for our creative product and also our collective fluency in using these tools. Using ChatGPT, Midjourney and Perplexity to make working prototypes all within an afternoon has added a whole new dimension to the role of being an active and hands on strategist in today’s world of marketing.

Where once us planners were just thinkers. Now we are (Scooby) dooers too.

Jonathan Brown is head of strategic product at McCann London


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