Will Marketing Be Replaced by AI? Why Digital Agencies Remain Vital in an AI-Driven World
January 5, 2024
By Tracey Bauer
The ’80s brought us big hair. The ’90s brought the proliferation of the internet. And the 2000s so far? The technological revolution.
We can’t deny the role artificial intelligence (AI) plays, especially across marketing, sales and business operations. From strategic analysis to targeting and beyond, the buzz around AI is real—but will marketing be replaced by AI?
Obviously not, but forward-thinking marketers can do more with less if they know how to use AI correctly. So what’s the right balance? We’re breaking down the emerging value of AI for marketing and the continued significance of digital agencies—and exploring the potential for collaboration to elevate your efforts.
The Rise of AI in Marketing
AI has the value it does in marketing because it gets us automated. As a result, we have more freedom to turn to higher-value work—from bigger-picture creative thinking to deep strategy and relationship building. So instead of, “Will marketing be replaced by AI?” you should ask, “What will AI make easier?”
Repetitive and Routine Tasks
Consider all the little things that inform your brand’s marketing but that you don’t have time for to do properly. AI can lighten that load so your team can focus on higher-value tasks.
Take reporting, for instance. AI streamlines data analysis and reporting because it’s adept at recognizing patterns across data sets.
Don’t just gather audience data with AI; make it work for your brand, too.
Think about the ways AI could improve your email marketing strategy. Need to base your messaging around research? AI tools can analyze case studies for key insights to call out—especially when results are more qualitative than quantitative—and recommend what to highlight in lead nurture emails to promote the content. But it can also be a maestro behind the scenes. By assessing the contents of your email, AI tools can segment campaigns to align to your audiences and optimize elements such as send time.
When used responsibly, generative AI tools such as ChatGPT can be great assistants for refining messaging and improving engagement and conversion.
Take social media, for instance. Post generator Anyword takes user prompts to create posts for Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and X, going so far as to analyze for male/female voice and potential post engagement. Developing social media content with AI support can help you go beyond generic posts. With the right input—such as, “Write five LinkedIn posts to promote the blog we just wrote, speaking to key themes that the audience will be most compelled to engage with”—some AI tools can make impactful recommendations to resonate with audiences.
And you can’t overlook efficiency for content, especially for larger pieces. AI can get you moving by generating key points and organizing content outlines to reduce top-down thinking—plus, with focused prompts, generative AI can be a helpful brainstorming tool.
We usually think of SEO as a long game because it takes time both for marketers to strategize and for Google to catch up and start generating results. But AI can assist with SEO by automating data analysis and providing content optimization suggestions.
AI tools can work in tandem with the heavy hitters you rely on, such as Ahrefs, Semrush, and Moz. You can use platform-native AI tools such as Google Analytics, ClickFlow, HubSpot’s ChatSpot, and others to save time combing through data, test SEO enhancements, or even learn about your audience to improve targeting.
AI is also gaining momentum for sales and service. A basic solution? Deploy chatbots to engage web visitors and encourage them to book demos. Chatbots provide 24/7 access and support and increase sales by an average of 67 percent.
But AI can also provide more robust sales support inside a dedicated platform. Hubspot Sales Hub uses AI to take your sales efforts to the max, from forecasting to prospecting. Its predictive scoring tool empowers data enrichment, populating your CMS with contact properties from email conversations with prospects, leads, or customers and identifying high-quality leads based on certain criteria. Sales still falling short? Sales Hub’s conversation intelligence solution can help explain why, with AI-power insights from sales calls to reveal trends and objections that contribute to performance.
Will Marketing Be Replaced by AI?
You might be thinking, “Sounds great! Can’t wait to put it all in motion for my brand!”
Not so fast—there are human elements you can’t replace.
The direct answer to the question if AI will replace marketing: absolutely not. As an agency, we might be biased, but we also recognize that AI has just as many weaknesses as it does strengths. Yes, the right tools can help with a range of tasks, from crafting buyer personas to brainstorming and optimizing content, but it’s not as good as the real thing. The time, resources, and energy you save often come at the expense of quality that only human marketers can deliver.
Think back to AI’s value in data analysis and reporting. Working with data and patterns makes AI good at repetitive tasks. But here’s the rub: You still need a human to check for errors and implement big-picture thinking.
AI is missing emotion.
Think of commercials designed to tug at our heartstrings: scenes of sad animals in the cold appear as Sarah McLachlan serenades in the background. AI just can’t do this.
AI is based in logic, algorithms, and patterns, so it can’t make connections or decisions that require empathy or intuition. As humans, we tend to act based on our feelings—whether it’s “I want to help the sad puppy” or “I’m hungry”—and marketers have the empathy to make the connections we crave and drive engagement.
AI isn’t creative.
Experience and imagination are powerful tools that AI doesn’t have. Because it creates outputs based on what it’s trained on, the technology can't handle ambiguity or think outside the box. Do you think ChatGPT could have come close to exploiting Barbie’s popularity to execute a social media campaign for the 2023 film?
AI follows formulas and probability models. Certain words and structures worked before? Its output will be formulaic, and the technology will repeat successful models—even if that means lying.
If you want to create something quirky, better to go with human insight. AI struggles with humor and sarcasm, which are largely contextual and culture-driven; marketers can discern both how and when to integrate these elements.
The Crucial Role of Digital Agencies
Data-driven AI can only take your marketing so far. From creativity and emotional intelligence to flexibility to bend to your changing needs, digital agencies have the tools to be a cut above. But that’s just a sneak preview of the value agencies like SmartBug Media bring to the table.
Why Digital Agencies Remain Important
As your human partners, agency teams provide strategic thinking to not only draw on what’s worked in the past but also innovate new ideas to push boundaries. We build a relationship with you so we can understand how your audience thinks and the nuances required to execute successful campaigns.
Digital agencies also have integrated strategy capabilities to kick your campaigns into high gear, plus the skills to translate data into plans that align with your goals, target audiences, and market trends. Creative experts cohesively coordinate marketing efforts across multiple digital channels—from web to social to content assets—all while staying on-brand and on-message.
And you can’t overlook the ethical and legal implications of generative AI. As of the time of writing, works created entirely by AI are not protected by copyright, and in human/AI partnership, only human output may be protected—opening the floodgates to potential lawsuits. Agencies not only help you navigate these muddy waters using human judgment, but also ensure your campaigns adhere to social and cultural conventions. (Who’s heard of AI creating offensive content? ✋)
How Agencies Can Leverage AI for Better Results
Agencies are AI guinea pigs so you don’t have to be. Segmentation? Campaign optimization? Content assistance? Agency experts leverage the right tools at the right times to augment the services we provide.
We can help you use AI tools more effectively, too. SmartBug’s HubSpot AI Training Workshop helps your team become HubSpot AI masters in just three weeks. Get the most out of HubSpot’s AI toolset for your marketing, sales, and service teams to:
- Work smarter
- Boost productivity
- Engage engagement
- Improve creativity
- Drive lasting growth
The Future of Marketing: A Hybrid Approach
At SmartBug, we see the future as one that brings the powers of AI efficiency and data together with human creativity and emotion.
SmartBug’s AI Committee sets us apart from agencies—and organizations—that merely tinker with AI without considering its implications. The niche group of team members studies, experiments with, and iterates on how to best use emerging technologies—from HubSpot AI and Jasper to ChatGPT and Gemini—bringing them to our larger team to mindfully implement while respecting human creativity and our clients.
And across the entire organization, SmartBugs are doing the work to skill up with AI. Members of our team have proudly obtained certifications in using Jasper and HubSpot AI, the ethics of AI, ChatGPT prompt engineering for UX, and more. And with our quarterly Certification Day, the learning never stops!
SmartBug is a champion for the hybrid of AI and agency expertise. We’re not worried about being replaced by AI. Rather, we’re all in on using it ethically while our trusted team of experts delivers creative results.
About the author
Tracey Bauer is a copywriter with 10+ years of experience and a background in content, advertising copywriting, and social media. She’s written for a wide range of industries, from technology to health to higher education, among others. A self-described generalist, Tracey has the skills to flex her voice and tone to the needs of any audience, and has been doing so for SmartBug since 2021. Read more articles by Tracey Bauer.