AI Slated to Worsen Our Global Digital Waste Problem. Here’s How Marketers Can Help

By Stefan Bardega, Global Head of Performance Marketing, IDX

Our industry has a problem—a big one. And it all centers on digital waste resulting from a proliferation of MarTech platforms across the globe. In fact, according to a recent Forrester study, nearly half (47%) of marketing professionals believe that mismanagement of MarTech platforms leads to both wasted resources and funds—which, in turn, escalates the digital overflow, increased power use, and elevates carbon emissions—all things we can agree are bad. But that realization doesn’t even consider yet another threat which will undoubtedly deepen our “piles” of digital waste: Generative AI.

Just about every company—big or small—is embracing Gen AI in some capacity, but most are using it to create more content. But why? Because it’s easy to prompt a tool like ChatGPT to crank out a blog post or press release, or MidJourney to manufacture a new graphic, and voila—within a matter of seconds, you’ve got something new to post and share. But here’s where it gets complicated. Gen AI doesn’t automatically translate to superior or even distinct outcomes. Indeed, its rise might exacerbate the issue of digital clutter.

A Wall Street Journal article recently shed light on how gen AI’s advent has led to a surge in irrelevant article suggestions submitted by PR and content marketing experts, evolving into a blizzard of spam. The report flags numerous examples of AI-created content overwhelming news platforms and social media alike. For example, NewsGuard, which evaluates news websites, identified 49 AI-powered fake news portals in early May, as reported by The Wall Street Journal. By June’s end, this number had soared nearly 300% to 277. And it’s no secret why. Gen AI expedites content production, which compounds the waste problem.

Now it deserves mentioning that this influx of AI content isn’t merely a nuisance—it has a very real environmental impact. Perspective and context are everything, so now’s the time to spotlight the fact that the internet’s total carbon impact is greater than that of our global airline industry.

So, what’s a marketer to do? How can we help?

First off, own that we—as a global collective of marketers—are primary users of Gen AI. Which means we can help fight the issue by being more thoughtful about the content we choose to create.

Second, remember that content should never be created in a vacuum. Whether your team is using Gen AI or building by hand, ensure you’re tapping into the data you already have around your customers, their browsing habits and their product preferences. In other words, understand the distinct attributes of your audience, which is a fundamental approach that perhaps marketers are losing sight of in their rush to create content just because they can with Gen AI. Then, use that data to ensure your content is customized and tailored, and therefore less likely to be seen (and treated) as waste. Less likely to be flagged as spam or sent to trash, and more likely to be clicked.

Third, Gen AI can help you optimize your content before you create it—to measure twice and cut once. Yes, AI-powered tools can auto-generate both text- and visual-based content, but they can also help you ensure your message is succinct, direct and engaging for your intended audience, and your imagery is inspired. With effective prompting, Gen AI can help marketers create content which can be re-used efficiently across multiple platforms—from their website to social media.

One last flag: Don’t rely on AI for everything. It’s a tool—an asset, even—not a substitution. After all, prompts need to come from somewhere—someone’s creative ingenuity or their strategic mind.

Tags: AI