Marketers, ad agencies should brace for wave of AI tech: Hotwire global CEO

Marketers and ad agencies should brace for a wave of AI technologies that they could use over the next few years, according to Hotwire global chief executive Heather Kernahan.

Kernahan spoke to Mumbrella while visiting the head office of the Enero-owned tech and communications consultancy in Sydney.

While Hotwire and most of the marketing and advertising industry is still at the experimentation and testing phase with generative AI technology, Kernahan told Mumbrella the wave of funding that AI startups have been getting means marketers, agencies and businesses should expect more of these technologies to arrive soon.

Hotwire global CEO Heather Kernahan

“AI has been used in the marketing and communications consultancies and industry for a while now and has been part of the tools that we use. It has been in the tech and not present on top of the tech,” Kernahan said.

“With ChatGPT coming live, it just changed everything very quickly. What we’re going to see is, because of the funding that AI startups around the Bay Area have been getting, there is going to be a flood of even more technologies that are going to hit the market.

“So probably in 12 to 18 months, we’re going to be in a place where we’ve got a map of thousands of different options we could take advantage of.”

Kernahan said that right now what she likes about what’s happening with generative AI technologies is that people are testing the different options they have out there and experimenting with them, saying it’s what marketers should be doing.

And while there are concerns about the use of AI from parts of the industry, she said it’s rise mirrors that of the rise of social media in the early 2000s.

“When all the social media platforms came on, we had no idea what it was or how to think about it, or the unintended consequences, and now we’ve got some reference points for how bad it can look, so I can see that it is different this time around with this new wave of technology” she said.

How can it help? And when?

Generative AI can help creativity in all forms, workflows and efficiency, Kernahan added. “If we think about it as a tool, then we do want to play around with it and see what’s possible and experiment with it,” she said.

But right now, for Hotwire, it is still experimenting to see what and where its use will be most effective.

Looking ahead, Kernahan said marketers should look into skill development, such as “prompt engineering”, where people become good “engineers” at prompts and build it into their workflows so they know how to use it.

“In the short term, I don’t see a lot of change but definitely for the mid- to long-term. I think it will probably create new jobs just like social media did,” she said.

“There were no such things as social media managers or even online community managers before that technology came in and took over. We saw that progression over probably a three to five year period where it became very common for these titles to be added.

There will be specialists, she said, but all marketers will have to think about how they can use AI tech to advance their jobs.

Kernahan said Hotwire invests “a lot” in technology to service its clients, as well as other kinds of different technologies in other parts of the organisation, and the company will be using the same approach with AI tools.

“We are evaluating some of the general AI tools that have been around longer than others and talking to the developers themselves because our biggest concerns and questions are around privacy policies, what happens when we put content in or whether it is a black box or open source,” she said.

“We’re trying to get an understanding of what kind of governance they have and who backs them, and we’re doing a lot of that conversation work and diligence work now because we do want to bring it to our stack and we want to be able to have trust in the vendors that we work with and our partners that we work with.

“We’re doing the work now to figure out what investments we’ll make and we have our whole team involved like operations and legal to take a look at it with us to make sure we’re all safe, because we advise a lot of our clients too.”


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