The latest edition of the Gartner® CMO Quarterly is titled “The evolving landscape of Generative AI” and includes an in-depth interview with Quad CMO Josh Golden about Quad’s marketing adoption of GenAI. With permission from Gartner, we’re pleased to share the text of that Q&A, below — Gartner subscribers can access the report from here.

Interview with Josh Golden by Hayden Norris, Marketing Research Specialist, Gartner

Q. As your marketing team experiments with GenAI, how are you identifying and prioritizing use cases?

A. As any new technological innovation comes out, marketers immediately flock to it to see if it can have an impact on their day-to-day work. Many times in the recent past — if you remember the metaverse or NFTs, or even VR and AR — the marketing experimentation that happened in those spaces was quite voluminous, but yielded limited fruit.

The difference between those things and GenAI is like comparing apples and carpet. We’re talking about two completely different scales of potential impact on marketing. I think GenAI will change how people work, how people develop creatively and professionally, and how people will think about their work output — while also prompting deeper conversations around the ownership of ideas and intellectual property (IP).

Those IP conversations are the reason why our marketing team is very much in a controlled experimentation phase. You can’t really use GenAI platforms for public-facing output right now because the chances of it being legally problematic are high. For example, it is unclear whether the output can be protected or owned.

In terms of use cases, our team is using generative platforms for research and brainstorming. GenAI as a co-pilot is the metaphor I like the most.

I do not believe that anyone would propose that their computer is thinking for them, or that their calculator is doing math for them. GenAI is a way to get to a solution and an output quicker and with more alacrity than we could historically — but it is still just simulated intelligence, separated from consciousness. You can use it as a tool, but you can’t rely on it to execute a final product.

Beyond researching and brainstorming, another use case where we’ve used GenAI is to storyboard video shoots — to create visual outlines that help us, well, visualize what we want to create. What visual GenAI platforms are producing right now isn’t anything we could bring to market, but they can help us start to see the possibilities.

Q. Based on your early trials of the technology, what applications are you finding to yield the greatest value to Quad’s marketing function?

A. Contributing to content generation — with a caveat. And the caveat is that when GenAI systems develop content, it’s basically horrible. But there are sometimes gems of, like, “Oh, that’s an interesting thought.” Or, “Those two things are interesting together in that sentence.” So, while it doesn’t necessarily do your homework, it creates some interesting, sometimes illogical connections that I find fascinating.

For instance, if I’m trying to come up with a name for something, I’ll ask GenAI to give me, say, 20 names for a thing that are all in a particular category and are alliterative. None of them quite work, but one of them is close, and then I’ll go from there.

I read something interesting recently about how GenAI can tell you how to practice how to run a marathon, but it can’t really inspire you to go run a marathon. So, there’s a difference between the doing of the thing and being inspired to do the thing — and that is the difference, I think, where humanity will always win.

Q. What steps did you take to prepare Quad’s marketing team for success in experimenting with GenAI?

A. Quad is fortunate because we actually have a lot of AI experience across our organization, which means we’re definitely not starting from scratch in terms of coming up to speed. For the marketing team, the process of adopting GenAI solutions has been about, first and foremost, opening up lines of communication across our U.S. and global locations so that all the GenAI subject matter experts are able to collaborate and share learnings. For instance, Quad created an internal GenAI charter group that collaborates with the marketing team and has cross-disciplinary stakeholders: Quad technologists who are actively testing GenAI solutions, CGI experts from our Quad Studios division, brand journalists, corporate legal counsel and so on.

Q. You mentioned ownership of ideas and IP as concerns shaping how Quad’s marketing team experiments with GenAI. How have you reduced other concerns associated with GenAI deployment?

A. First of all, we’ve been developing guidelines and guardrails for how we experiment with GenAI so this is essentially about us listening to the advice that we’re giving [clients]. The core of that advice is, basically, protect your brand. Use GenAI responsibly in ways that are brand-safe.

As for exposing confidential information and concerns about inaccuracy, our internal written policy for using GenAI explicitly addresses those and other issues. And, again, we’re not using GenAI to produce public-facing content.

In terms of interfacing with GenAI tools, I’d say the biggest challenge has to do with helping the team understand that prompt writing — so-called prompt engineering — is an art and a science.

What’s so interesting about the iterative nature of GenAI is that you can actually get it to help you write a better prompt to deliver to the engine to make the content better. The most important one that I’ve personally been using is to add, “Do not answer this question until you ask me five questions about this topic so that you can have a better, more informed response.”

Q. As Quad scales its use of GenAI, how are you approaching design and deployment within your marketing team as the technology rapidly evolves?

A. GenAI is itself a moving target, so we fully expect that how we work with and deploy GenAI platforms will be under constant review by design. In fact, our written internal policy notes that we fully expect it to evolve over time “to address changes in technology, updated legal requirements, new industry standards and potential ethical considerations.”

It’s worth noting that the Copyright Office of the Library of Congress has been hosting what it calls “public listening sessions” about GenAI and has been inviting scientists, researchers, artists, lawyers and other experts to share their thoughts. That’s a good model for marketers: Keep asking lots of questions and keep listening to the stakeholders.

This interview is from the Gartner, CMO Quarterly Fourth Quarter 2023 The evolving landscape of Generative AI, Andrew Frank, Nicole Greene, Dan Gutter, Emma Mathison, Anja Naski, & Hayden Norris, 2023.

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