Say Hello to HI (Human Intelligence)

By Tom Christmann, Executive Creative Director/Catch+Release

The promise of Artificial Intelligence to deliver personalized, engaging content at scale has got marketers everywhere all excited. And I get it. Who wouldn’t want to be able to create the perfect visual for each prospect in the time it takes to type a description?

Now, you may call me old-fashioned, but I think marketing needs more humanity, not less. And judging from a new report just published by Yahoo in partnership with Publicis Media called The Future Of AI & Advertising, many people agree. The report gives us a closer look at the gap between how marketers feel about AI and how customers and prospects feel about it. And, like many images being created by AI, it isn’t pretty.

Meanwhile AI companies continue to trot out new text-to-image models, almost always leading to controversy. The latest kerfuffle is over ahistorical AI images created by Google’s Gemini. Some perceived the images as having a “woke” agenda. This was particularly evident when the model produced images depicting Black Vikings, the founding fathers as Indigenous people, and George Washington as African-American. Such outputs have sparked a debate about the role of AI in reflecting diversity and the potential for bias in its algorithms.

Meanwhile, one of the best commercials on the Super Bowl this year was made using nothing but real, amateur fail videos of young girls in sports. This is an example of a growing trend I’m calling HI (Human Intelligence) where big brands tap into the never ending river of content that is being uploaded to social media all day every day from real people all over the world. You may know this medium as User Generated Content (UGC), but I like the term HI better, because they’re not “users”. They’re humans!

Dove + Nike Get HI

This past Super Bowl, skincare brand Dove partnered with Nike for their big game ad, which leveraged real images of girls crashing, falling, flailing and striking out to the tune of “It’s A Hard Knock Life” from the Broadway production of Annie. The ad then pointed out that while girls are tough when it comes to bumps and bruises, the thing that more often ends their sports careers is a lack of body confidence. This campaign, grounded in authentic human truth, not only won widespread acclaim (coming in #6 on USAToday’s Super Bowl AdMeter), but also demonstrated the profound impact of content that truly resonates with audiences on a personal and emotional level. Dove and Nike both understand the enduring appeal of authenticity in a landscape increasingly dominated by digital innovation.

Put side by side, Google’s AI-generated images and Dove’s real-content campaign bring into sharp focus the madness of a marketing industry that is so enamored with AI that it is leaving easy wins on the table. Millions of pieces of User Generated Content are uploaded to the internet every day. And, with its inherent authenticity and transparency, UGC offers a compelling alternative to the potential pitfalls of AI content creation.

As highlighted in the Yahoo and Publicis report, the enthusiasm among advertisers for AI’s potential contrasts starkly with consumer skepticism. A significant 72% of consumers express difficulty in discerning what is authentic when AI comes into play. This skepticism underscores the critical need for content that embodies genuine human experiences—a need that UGC was literally made to fulfill. By leveraging UGC, brands can bridge the authenticity gap, ensuring their messages resonate deeply with consumers’ values and lived experiences.

Fostering Transparency and Trust

The importance of transparency and trust in brand-consumer relationships is obvious. The call for stricter AI regulation, voiced by 75% of consumers in the report, highlights growing concerns around the ethical use of technology in advertising. UGC offers a straightforward solution to these concerns, being inherently ethical and less prone to the controversies that AI-generated content can engender. By prioritizing UGC, brands can navigate the ethical landscape with greater ease, aligning their strategies with consumer expectations for integrity and accountability.

For the Chief Marketing Officer, the evolving landscape presents both a challenge and an opportunity. The juxtaposition of AI’s potential and the undeniable value of authentic content calls for a balanced approach. CMOs must lead with innovation, leveraging AI where it adds value, while also championing the integration of UGC to ensure their brands remain relatable, trustworthy, and deeply connected to the cultural zeitgeist.

Integrating AI and HI

Used ethically, AI has the potential to actually enhance the authenticity of marketing campaigns by helping marketers identify HI in the wild. It can help marketers find the right creators for a campaign, for example. Or scrub through hours of human-generated footage to find mentions of your brand. By thinking outside the simple “get AI to do it” box, marketers can use innovative technology to make their campaigns more effective while getting closer to real consumers. In a world where consumers yearn for real connections and transparency, HI stands as the cornerstone of authentic engagement. For brands and CMOs ready to navigate the complexities of the digital age, embracing HI offers a roadmap to success—building trust, fostering genuine connections, and ensuring their messages resonate in the hearts and minds of consumers across the globe.

Tags: AI