In-depth: Here's how ad agencies are bringing alive their AI acumen

Ad executives also believe that although a small portion of ad budgets is currently allocated to GenAI campaigns, this is anticipated to grow as technology advances in terms of efficiency and accessibility in the near future to attract more advertising investments

Shreya Negi
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In-depth: Here's how ad agencies are bringing alive their AI acumen

With Generative AI tools taking over the world by storm, advertising agencies in India are no different, for they are leaving no stone unturned to make their clients stand out in the cluttered market during the festive period by leveraging GenAI for a wide array of tasks such as creative ideation, social media posts, performance banners, research and hypothesis, mood boarding etc.

Having witnessed the rise of deepfakes, it was only prudent for brands to pick up on the various Gen-AI tools such as ChatGPT, Dall-E, Adobe Firefly etc. and agencies to leverage such tools for minimising time spent on menial ad jobs and focusing big on creating impact driving work within the stipulated time, as per industry execs.

Rohan Mehta

That being said, Rohan Mehta, CEO, FCB Kinnect and FCB/SIX India, remarks that Generative AI is one of the most disruptive technologies that will have a massive impact and that the industry is only witnessing the early stages wherein it is still seeping into the ecosystem to become a part of people's daily lives.

Still, the early adopters who have begun embracing the power of AI will have a significant competitive advantage over the rest of the market, he said.

However, he expressed his view that currently, AI often doesn't generate the final creative copy or output for agencies. The use cases are relatively rare and mainly confined to brands with stringent guidelines and limited constraints.

“One place where we have used it extensively is that all of our storyboarding has now moved entirely to AI-generated storyboarding. Today, the impact that AI is having is more of a support function. While there are certain cases where creatives and the final output or copy are coming from AI, in the case of complex campaigns that involve multiple scenes of emotions, AI does not play such a significant role. It's still the writer who is coming up with such campaigns,” he said.

Mitesh Kothari

In the views of Mitesh Kothari, Co-founder and Chief Creative Officer, White Rivers Media, Generative AI tools are a real game-changer in the times when AI is reinventing the digital advertising game and that even though such tools might have limitations, they do cut down on effort, especially for ‘repetitive’ tasks.

“Imagine it as your sidekick for brainstorming and idea generation, freeing you to explore new creative realms. Think about AI whipping up voiceovers and videos, streamlining workflows, analysing sentiments, and giving you the lowdown on your competitors. It’s like having your own agency wizard, making decisions and operations smoother than ever,” he opined.

He also emphasised that today marketers are teaming up with AI to boost brands and sales, especially with the festive season rolling in, because AI is like a turbocharged decision-making engine for them- it’s like having a secret sauce to target audiences, tailor content, and jazz up customer experiences.

Dhruv Rajput

Similarly, Dhruv Rajput, VP, Brand Solutions, Schbang, also shared that GenAI has truly enabled them in simplifying complex ideas and streamlining menial operative tasks and reducing reliance on human imagination to sell concepts and ideas through creating AI visual representations and mockups which opens the doors to communicate seamlessly.

Having taken care of repetitive tasks, AI tools also free up the team to work on more complex challenges and thereby drive creativity, efficiency, and better outcomes for clients while focusing on work that adds value, he said.

Our ideas are as good as our insights, and GenAI's data source for insights isn't something I would completely trust. First-hand research through reputed sources is the most ethical and honest way of going about creative ideation, but GenAI can be used very smartly for pushing the boundaries of design and visual identity since they really push the boundaries of the possibilities and quick delivery with the new tools available at our disposal. And as with any other tool, it is our responsibility to ensure that we purchase the right licenses and permissions for our clients,” he opined.

Siddhyesh Narkar

Adding the CTO perspective to was Siddhyesh Narkar, CTO, Wondrlab Network India, who stated that GenAI tools have revolutionised the agency landscape by driving creative excellence, efficiency, and data-driven decision-making and agencies are staying at the forefront of innovation by leveraging these tools for various day-to-day functions like Creative Ideation, Pitch Presentations, Mockups and Visual Representations, Data-Driven Insights, Enhanced Collaboration, etc.

This symbiotic relationship between agencies and Generative AI can not only empower the former to rise to new heights by leveraging data-driven insights, automating processes, and unlocking novel creative possibilities but also develop unparalleled excellence in the world of advertising and marketing, he opined.

Rajni Daswani

Sharing her views on how the agency is leveraging GenAI with regard to the festive period, Rajni Daswani, Director- Digital Marketing, SoCheers, also pointed out that today many more brands have embraced the concept of utilising Generative AI in their campaigns, which is why the agency is proactively developing projects for some of its FMCG clients owing to the customisation and personalisation capabilities of the technology which offers a valuable opportunity for brands to stand out amidst the typical festive clutter.

She also pointed out that during joyous occasions, brands often leverage their inventory with brand ambassadors, and therefore harnessing this technology for festive campaigns promises to deliver a significantly higher return on investment (ROI).

Shubit Rakshit

Highlighting the checks and balances when dealing with GenAI, Shubit Rakshit, Business Director, FoxyMoron (Zoo Media), stated that ensuring that AI-generated content is accurate, compliant with advertising guidelines, and original is crucial and therefore implementing robust data validation and verification framework is essential to avoid plagiarism and inaccuracies.

“A framework that can be deployed and which encapsulates all the steps to mitigate potential risks- ‘ECHO’ stands for Expert Training, Credible Data analysis, Human Intelligence, and Optimisation and Testing,” he suggested.

Further, he also emphasised that there is a definite shift in the ‘Value Graphics’ of consumers, specifically during the festive season which is precisely when AI insights can provide valuable data on consumer behaviour allowing marketers to craft smarter strategies and achieve better results.

“One of the key advantages of AI lies in its automation capabilities, making data analysis and creation of ad variations at scale easier specifically during a high-traffic festive season. This allows marketers to focus on strategic planning and creative communication while giving brands a definite competitive edge,” he said.

That being said, brands across various sectors ranging from e-commerce to fashion should be embracing AI-driven solutions to reach their target customers more effectively, and in doing so, they should exercise caution with regard to concerns around data privacy and security, making safeguarding customer information and data compliance a top priority for marketers, he added.

Commenting on how much of an ask it is from the clients to come up with AI-led work, FCB’s Mehta stated that while there is no specific demand for AI-led work from clients; the technology invariably has some role to play in every campaign of FCB Kinnect and FCB/Six, be it in terms of optimisation or impact on operational tasks or creatives like social media posts, performance banner, ORM response, etc. Because at the end of the day, clients need to build work that has maximum impact on the brand and the consumer, and if that can be done through AI, then so be it, but that's not the task.

“The only way to figure out the best use cases for leveraging any technology is by doing trial and error, running AB tests and seeing the final impact on the consumer. At the agency level, we have also developed clear guidelines for our people because continuous evolution has been baked into the FCB Kinnect and FCB/Six culture. In next year's evaluation, when our people get assessed, we will also evaluate their knowledge and ability to utilise AI constructively, company-wide,” he stated.

Commenting on the future of Generative AI in the Indian ad landscape, Wondrlab’s Narkar, stated that while the technology holds immense potential for advertising, there are still barriers to its widespread adoption. In fact, as per current trends, the adoption of GAI in advertising is steadily growing, in areas such as e-commerce, retail and fashion, and technology and electronics.

“Over time, as technology advances and marketers become more familiar with AI capabilities, we can expect to see increased utilisation of Generative AI in advertising, leading to a more data-driven, personalized, and efficient ad ecosystem,” he said.

Similarly, Schbang’s Rajput also stated that by using GenAI, the agency can create better customer experiences and facilitate connections with brand propositions that can help break through the clutter and noise of the festive season by being particularly relevant for categories that are an essential part of our lives and can use the tech intelligently to create a great and rich customer experience by solving consumers’ operational concerns.

“As marketers become more skilled at using these tools, we can expect to see even more innovative and engaging advertising initiatives. GenAI will become another tool in the marketer's arsenal, which can be used smartly to deliver great campaigns. While the percentage of ad budgets being utilized on GenAI initiatives is currently low, it is expected to increase as the technology continues to evolve and become more accessible,” he added.

As per Foxymoron’s Rakshit, the percentage of ad budgets allocated to GAI initiatives is relatively modest for now, but going forward, as the technology matures and proves its worth, more marketers will be expected to invest a more significant portion of their budgets in tech.

“One of the key advantages of AI lies in its automation capabilities, making data analysis and creation of ad variations at scale easier specifically during a high-traffic festive season. This allows marketers to focus on strategic planning and creative communication while giving brands a definite competitive edge,” he said.

Mitesh Kothari Rohan Mehta Generative AI ChatGPT Dhruv Rajput Adobe Firefly ad agency Dall-E Siddhyesh Narkar Rajni Daswani Shubit Rakshit GenAI campaigns