AI came, AI saw, AI conquered, and we’re seeing augmented reality (AR) and artificial intelligence (AI) in every industry imaginable. In the marketing industry, we are in the honeymoon phase; we’re intensely attracted to it, we’re prioritising it, and we’re excited about our future. We feel invincible.
But AR we blinded? AR and AI present a different narrative to the one most people (and to an extent most marketers) are used to – that to be liked, we must be authentic. Marketers have always had a certain penchant for questioning the truth, challenging perceptions and getting consumers to buy into something, somehow. But there is something about brands rushing to AR and AI that gives me pause for thought.
Whilst it would be foolish not to take advantage of this new tech that allows us to do a lot more with a lot less, we need to make sure we’re not confusing or alienating our audience. According to the Global Web Index, nearly 50% of UK consumers consider authenticity a key factor when choosing brands making it the second most important factor after reliability. So, a question for marketers: Do consumers think AI and AR-made ads are authentic and if not, do they care? The positive reaction to Maybelline, the nods of approval for Heinz and the overwhelming praise for Orange’s ad for the Women’s World Cup suggests that consumers enjoy this new reality, and maybe the fun lies in not knowing whether something is real or not. But how long will this awe last, and will consumers get bored of all the twists?
In 2017 it became standard practice for influencers and celebrities to make it clear that they were promoting something on social media. Before #ad was introduced, it was tough to know who genuinely liked and endorsed a product, and who was being paid to do so. Consumers need (and deserve) these distinctions, and while I’m not sure that AR and AI-made ads warrant a new hashtag, it’s certainly new territory that should be explored.
In an AR and AI world, will authentic mean ‘real and genuine’, and will fake mean ‘artificial and deceitful’? Without defining the terms of engagement, our relationship with new tech will struggle along. Consumers always find ways to fight against the ‘new’. When filters started taking over Instagram, we saw the invention and rise in popularity of BeReal (2020) – focussed on, you guessed it, being real. With the success of Spotify and streaming music, we saw record collecting rise. With scaling screen time, we saw typewriters make a comeback. In short, there will always be nostalgia for a simpler time. So, what does this mean for AI and AR when anything is possible, Burj Kalifa-sized Barbies and all?
Now that it’s easier than ever to create masterpieces, could we be entering an era of artistry where AI-generated design blends human intuition, innovation, and artistic flair in the shaping of the final product?
And where authenticity is concerned, perhaps we need to shift our thinking and strive for transparency instead. The consumers will appreciate it, and the relationship will have a solid foundation to deal with what comes after the honeymoon phase.