By Greg Friend, VP Data & Analytics, Nativo
Although AI-augmented capabilities have been powering digital marketing for years now, the topic of where AI can and should play within the creative and content ranks of marketing has heated up only recently. And indeed, “heated” is an appropriate way to describe many of these conversations. While many marketers are quick to defend human talent over AI creative capabilities, others protest that to deny the advances and efficiencies offered by AI-driven content generation tools would be foolhardy of marketers.
But here’s the real question: Does AI or human-generated content perform better? And, can people really tell the difference? A recent Nativo survey of more than 700 U.S. consumers put these questions to the test, presenting different pieces of content to see which consumers preferred—and whether they could even tell the difference. The results were both surprising and instructive.
Can People Tell the Difference Between AI and Human-Generated Content?
In Nativo’s study, consumers were presented with an article at random, asked to rate various features regarding its quality, and finally asked to guess whether it was written by humans or AI. What was perhaps most surprising was that, despite most people’s belief that it is pretty easy to tell when content is written by a machine, the reality is a little less black and white. In fact, our research found that 53 percent of people struggle to distinguish AI-generated content from human content.
People’s ability to discern the origin of content varied according to the type of content. Across the board, users could typically identify AI-generated content successfully within three minutes of viewing, and their ability to pick out AI content was highest in the realm of fashion and style content (68 percent) and lowest when it came to financial content (56 percent). Meanwhile, people found it easiest to spot human-generated content when it was focused on the topic of food and drink (45 percent). They found it considerably harder to identify human-generated content in the realm of fashion and style (32 percent).
From a qualitative standpoint, AI and human-generated articles scored similarly in many regards. However, AI-generated articles ranked higher when it came to being enjoyable, relatable, and (ironically) personable.
Actionable Takeaways for Marketers
Based on these findings, the question is no longer whether marketers should use AI to generate content. Rather, marketers need to focus on when and how to use AI to generate content. Based on Nativo’s study, marketers should consider leaning on AI when their priority is content that is:
- Concise and digestible
- Personable and relatable
- Natural and organic
At the same time, based on how respondents reacted to various types of content, marketers will want to continue to lean on human beings when their priority is content that is:
- Attention grabbing and holding
- Educational and informative
- Deeply engaging
Of course, we’re only just scratching the surface of what there is to learn about the impact of AI on branded content, with many questions left to explore. Are the results seen in this study the same for companies with strong, unique brand voices? Would AI struggle with increasingly technical or emotional subject matter? Will we have a moment of “AI fatigue” when consumers seek out and favor real human voices? Time—and research—will tell.
At the same time, one truth is becoming increasingly clear: The future of content isn’t a binary battle between robots and humans; it’s an intricate tango where both partners bring their unique talents to the floor. Brands that master this dance will create content that resonates, informs, and leaves a lasting impression.