Human Marketing vs. AI + Humans: Who Won?

Estimated read time 9 min read

Imagine you receive this creative brief:

You are a creative content marketer. Develop a marketing campaign that you will pitch to clients for the launch of LuminaEdge – a fictional VR platform that provides immersive, multi-sensory experiences.

Your objective is to introduce the product and generate interest and adoption by showcasing its limitless possibilities as a medium for entertainment, education, and productivity.

Your target audiences are:

  • Gamers and entertainment enthusiasts
  • Educators and students
  • Professionals in remote collaboration and training.

Your campaign pitch should include a strategic idea, a concept for a video ad, and a social media content plan outline.

How would you develop this campaign? Could generative AI tools do it for you, or should your human team tackle the task?

CMI and its sister site Streamly recently created this exercise to see if AI could rival a human team in the creativity, strategic focus, and subject matter expertise it takes to produce unique content marketing worthy of the audience’s attention.

Here’s the experiment and a few teachable moments gathered from the experience.

AI vs. human: The content challenge

At Content Marketing World 2023, three content marketing leaders participated in a creative campaign challenge inspired by the British TV show Taskmaster. The exercise involved two teams – human and AI. Team Human included marketing leaders Mark Kats and Geoffrey Director from the agency Manifest. Team AI featured Marketing AI Institute’s Cathy McPhillips and her chosen AI tools (ChatGPT, Bard, and Claude).

Both teams had 45 minutes to fulfill the creative brief. In the video below, co-hosts Andrew Davis of Monumental Shift and Jordan Thorne of Streamly introduce the challenge and query the teams about their ideation and development processes. The teams then pitch their campaigns, which Streamly brought to life with motion capture graphics and AI-generated audio content.

I’ve summarized the campaign concepts, tag lines, and ideas the teams pitched for their hero videos and social media plans.

Several concepts, such as transcending reality, spanned both presentations. In a bit of irony, Team Human focused on LuminaEdge’s exciting technological capabilities, while Team AI locked in on the tech’s capacity to create stronger human connections.

Team Human

  • Strategic concept: Reality is limited and disappointing – why would you want technology that mimics or simulates it? Our strategy is to push against the realities of reality and remove its boundaries.
  • Tag line: LuminaEdge is Un-Real.
  • Hero video description: We open on a video of a man in a suit riding a dolphin. The camera slowly pans out to show that it’s a group of people in business clothes riding dolphins as they conduct a meeting (see image below).
  • Voiceover: “Remember real meetings? How much you loved them? Didn’t think so. So why does technology keep trying to replicate them? Why try to make online education like school in the 1950s? Forget the virtual reality. LuminaEdge is Un-Real.”
  • Social media plan: Different executions would compare the real and the unreal, showing a boring classroom where kids are sitting at desks and listening to a teacher talk at the blackboard versus showing kids climbing the Eiffel Tower and going inside the pyramids – the type of interactive activities that would transform the classroom experience.

Team AI:

  • Strategic concept: In this digital world, we’re all so disconnected. What could Lumina Edge do to bring people closer together?
  • Tag line: New reality, shared humanity: Creating a virtual world that brings people together for engaging experiences.
  • Hero video description: The video would highlight various activities at Intergalactic Game Jam – an immersive hybrid gaming event where the physical and virtual worlds collide.  
  • Voiceover: “Imagine a world where distance doesn’t divide but connects. Game with friends without boundaries, spanning states, countries, and worlds. Collaborate face-to-face with colleagues, no matter where they are in the world. Reconnect with loved ones, bridging the miles between you. LuminaEdge: the immersive new social universe that transcends reality, bringing humanity closer in the digital age.”
  • Social media plan: For TikTok, we would create clips of people in the VR gameplay moments. We’d package footage from the event as pre-roll ads for Instagram Stories, Facebook, and YouTube.

Who or what won?

The CMI team shared the presentation video in our daily newsletter and on social media, encouraging community members to vote for the team they felt came up with the best overall concept.

Team AI’s campaign came out ahead, earning 68% of the votes.

Don’t infer too much from that result. The experiment didn’t prove (or even assess) the campaigns’ real-world viability. The goal was to reveal and learn from the different approaches to the task and the strengths and limitations each team encountered.

Both teams talked about the experience in the video below. The takeaways they shared offer valuable lessons for all content marketers in the age of generative AI.  

Lesson 1: AI requires some assembly

As an experienced content marketer, you recognize the level of insight and strategic focus required to develop a successful campaign. AI lacks this innate understanding. Team AI took steps to enable the technology to provide a campaign-worthy output. To get responses that fit the brief, it crafted prompts that helped the AI engines understand what it asked them to do.

“Results received from each tool can be unpredictable, so it wasn’t clear at the start which tool would give me the best result,” Team AI’s Cathy says. She toggled back and forth across three platforms (Google’s Bard, OpenAI’s ChatGPT, and Anthropic’s Claude) before receiving properly focused responses.

Related: AI Can’t Imagine Distinctive Content (But It Can Help You Create It)

Educate the AI engine

Coming up with effective prompts took considerable thought – and quite a bit of trial and error – despite her significant experience with generative AI. “Sometimes it just didn’t understand what I was asking,” Cathy says. “It was a lot of, ‘Nope, not quite. Let me fix this.’”

Though prompt engineering is as much an art as a science, Cathy offers three best practices to improve the quality of the output:

  • Be specific. Explicitly describe your target audience, tone, copy style, and goals to achieve.
  • Don’t expect perfection in the first attempt. Aim to get a few useful nuggets from the initial prompt. Feed those insights to your AI platform to refine the output and get closer to the desired results.
  • Create a dialogue. AI doesn’t just learn from your prompts; it can teach you to improve them. Ask what information it needs to deliver more relevant responses to your query.  

These steps took time. But Team AI regained a partial advantage with the high volume of creative possibilities the tools generated – including ideas Team AI would never have thought of.

Team Human’s Mark Kats admits learning to craft more thoughtful and strategic prompts can help content marketers who typically don’t use AI. Sharpening those skills will make us much better at writing briefs and guiding our human counterparts to produce more effective ideas,” he says.

Lesson 2: Lean into human creative advantages

In contrast to Team AI’s process, Team Human jumped right into the ideation phase. They found it challenging to generate ideas by working only with each other. “Obviously, there’s value in leveraging AI as part of the process,” Mark says.

To find campaign inspiration, Mark and Geoff leaned into an AI limitation: It responds primarily based on data from its training set, which can result in generic and undifferentiated ideas. “To beat the AI, we knew we’d need to do the kind of disruptive, creative thinking AI isn’t capable of,” Mark says.

Disrupt dogmas to distinguish your ideas

Team Human focused on a content technique to exploit that weakness – dogma and heresy. Mark described the process:

  1. Identify the dogmas associated with the marketing challenge – the related beliefs accepted unconditionally and unquestionably as truth.
  2. Identify the heresies – the ideas at odds with the accepted beliefs and challenge their accuracy.

By pushing on those heretical ideas, novel insights can emerge, taking the campaign content in exciting or unexpected new directions.  

Team Human explored this dogma in their ideation process: “Virtual reality technology is the perfect vehicle for simulating in-person meetings for attendees working remotely.”

They followed with the heresy: “In-person meetings are pretty boring, and no one likes attending them. Instead of replicating them, we should rethink them altogether.”

That thinking led them to the central principle for their campaign: “Reality is disappointing. Don’t mimic it; push against it.” The catchy slogan became “LuminaEdge is Un-Real.”

Lesson 3: AI lacks strategic decision-making skills

Whether your brainstorming is AI-enhanced or human-generated, you won’t necessarily move forward with the initial ideas. They usually must be finessed and fine-tuned to fit the campaign brief and align with your brand’s content strategy.

Both teams recognized the need to narrow their ideas to select the best one to pitch. Mark said he had the advantage of working with Geoff – an experienced strategist. Cathy lamented the lack of a human partner to help with decision-making.

She says the high volume of information provided by the AI tools made it challenging to balance quantity and quality. She had to sift through the ideas manually and use her marketing knowledge to determine which ones were worth pursuing for a fully fleshed-out campaign.

Related: Don’t Waste AI and Human Potential – Push Them Both To Do Better

More minds, better content

This experiment surfaced significant advantages of incorporating AI tools into your campaign development processes. Yet, it’s clear the creativity and strategic capabilities brought to the table by marketers are just as critical.

As Mark points out, experienced creators can push ideas in exciting directions that machines struggle to reach. But as AI technology evolves, its ability to deliver interesting and effective results will likely grow in leaps and bounds.

This experiment doesn’t end the AI-vs.-human debate. But regardless of which creative tools and techniques your team pursues, remember these words of wisdom from Cathy: “We’re all reaching for the same goal – trying to do what’s best for our businesses and our customers.”

Want more content marketing tips, insights, and examples? Subscribe to workday or weekly emails from CMI.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

You May Also Like

More From Author

+ There are no comments

Add yours