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More than content generation: how AI can upgrade the outdated creative agency model

Human talent is the heart of the marketing communications industry. AI can support creatives in unexpected areas such as knowledge transfer and keeping up with the pace of change.

Marina Petrova and Bruce Amick, Intentful

We started the journey of discovering what generative AI is capable of a little less than 2 years ago. Since then, every day has been full of new discoveries, and it never gets monotonous. We are still as excited as most people who recently discovered ChatGPT, but add two more years during which we also learned to be practical about what part is hype, what gets hardly ever talked about, and where the real opportunities and efficiencies are. We also learned not to get disappointed when there is a challenge caused by AI. Just the opposite – if there is an issue to be solved, it almost always means that there needs to be an unconventional way of addressing it. 

And since that first day of creating the first text with AI, and more so every day, we have been sharing our learnings with as many people as possible. 

One of the industries that can get an immediate benefit from tapping into AI is creative agencies. The bright and sharp minds don’t need to worry about losing their jobs to the robot. On the contrary, there is so much to benefit from.

The agency model has been evolving but has not changed fundamentally over the years. There are several pain points in agency work in 2023 that are rarely openly discussed, and sometimes not realized:

  • Thousands of changes are happening daily in the ecosystems of media, marketing, advertising, and tech – from the new features rollout to the updates in algorithms. Not just major changes like cookie phaseout, but also micro ones that happen daily and might often be crucial for campaign results. How many people on the agency side keep up with these and make informed decisions when they work on creative? Such a pace of change is simply impossible for a human brain to manage. Yet, creating ads or content out of context of the latest industry news can be disastrous.
  • There is a major disconnect between strategy, creative, media, and AdOps. Of course, they have completely different skill sets. None of the strategic planners or creatives are hands-on with any of the platforms or really know all platform possibilities, and what a couple of tricks (and clicks) in settings can achieve, whereas an AdOps wouldn’t often think about telling about a new feature to the creative or strategy team. Does a junior copywriter know yesterday’s SEO update? Will the content they create be discovered? 90.6% of content gets 0 organic traffic from Google.
  • Departments don’t always talk to each other, for very many reasons, and this lack of communication is costing agencies and clients time, efficiencies, and business results.
  • Knowledge transfer is a huge issue, especially now, at the time of “quiet quitting,” and the normal length of employment in one place is just a couple of years (or less). To be clear, we are not saying it is a bad thing to change jobs, but it is incredibly difficult for businesses to be effective. By the time you onboard someone and introduce them to processes, brands, everyone in the agency, suppliers, and so on, they move on to the new opportunity. 
  • Paid advertising content remains the priority for agencies, and most are not yet set up to produce thousands of variations that will very soon be needed for contextual advertising. 
  • Data is almost always used for media planning and buying, but creative mostly remains a subjective process, isolated from objective data. Most of the tools used to discover insights rely on focus groups or other methods that do not provide near real-time information and are inherited from the past century. 

How can AI help with these? 

There is one major opportunity that often gets overlooked in all discussions surrounding NLP (Natural Language Processing), where the focus is largely on how AI might take jobs away.

AI can be trained.

Foundation models like GPT-3 have been trained on 175 billion parameters. It has so much knowledge on various topics that no single person can ever learn or remember. You can teach it pretty much anything, including information about the brand, industry, the best-performing content, a new SEO rule, the most effective content length for that one audience segment that converts best, and so much more. 

Now, instead of making sure that a junior copywriter had time to read about those recent changes, it is possible to teach AI to know it all and have AI be available as a part of the creation process. Of course, people still need to know the brand, its style, historical communication, and other important information for successful work on the account, but to be able to deliver effective work in 2023 and beyond, agencies need to look for a new way of thinking that requires a shift from the traditional linear approach.

Connecting with consumers will always be about emotional engagement, and brand and culture are the values that are and will remain fundamental. But delivering those, connecting with people in authentic ways beyond just a set of ads, will require a lot of knowledge, data, and insights – a much more complex approach that is impossible without AI. 

Integrating AI into workflows requires a mindset that doesn’t react to change as “fight or flight”, and that is incredibly hard, especially for larger companies. It is not an overnight process to introduce a change like that, yet it is necessary to succeed in the age of singularity that some think we have already entered. 

AI makes work easier, freeing people up to have more time to think strategically, brainstorm, do some creative daydreaming, explore alternatives, and discuss with teammates. AI can help creatives focus on what they do best – be creative, and deliver impactful experiences for customers.


Marina Petrova (CEO) and Bruce Amick (COO) are co-founders of Intentful, a content creation company. Their approach is built on a unique combination of human creativity, the use of data insights, artificial intelligence, and a deep understanding of engagement metrics that drive performance. Intentful is headquartered in New York City, and has a team in Ukraine.