Can AI be the new Stock and Schlock of Advertising?

One of the unwritten rules of advertising is the market leader frames the category styling and narrative

e.g. In 1971 when Coca Cola launched "I'd like to buy the world a Coke” Pepsi responded with “Young Love” and ”Outdoors”

Advertising is a game of contraints - imposed by the market leader - the only thing of interest is how the competition positions itself against the market leader's narrative

i.e. How many ways can you say we're better, faster, cheaper, etc

One of the more visible expressions of this idea was the "I'm a Mac I'm a PC" campaign launched by Apple in 2006

This month here in Australia AMart Furniture launched “Life. Styled”

The narrative is framed by IKEA’s “Make yourself. At Home”

The market leader’s call to action is “Home makes you. So go on. Make yourself at home.”

The aspirant’s less a call to action. More a nod’s as good a wink to blind bat. “Life is unpredictable. Do it in style”

The key insight here is advertising creative is no different to the billboard hit parade.

Each new hit single shapes the ideas that follow as the pop artists trade creative ‘blows’ in the never ending race to the top

The past shapes the future… especially if you choose to fight in an established market

and there’s nothing wrong with that. When disco was hot everybody was busy writing songs for the dance floor.

It is this creative ping pong that funds the industry

Things only really change when you choose to reject the past and invent a new genre. A new category.

In marketing Thinking Different means Thinking New Category

It means clearing out a whole new piece of real estate in the prospect’s mind

It means choosing to fight where there is no competition. Where there is no better. Only you.

However fighting with yourself comes at a price. It comes with extreme risk. It is first and foremost a lonely place. At least until you are discovered by the crowd

This is why most creatives and marketing professionals choose to bet on just being better… this approach is basically risk free and makes framing the narrative much easier than starting with a blank canvas

and this is why - I suspect - AI will excel at advertising

After all what is easier than writing a prompt saying this is the market leader’s ad. Make something better… (or at least along the same lines)

The future becomes a game of ping pong messaging between competing AI’s designed to riff creatively within the restraints of the category narrative

- less a game of origination. More a game of everythings a remix - pretty much a mirror of the industry today

How close are we to that today? Well let's run a quick experiment on ChatGPT to find out

This is the script of the IKEA 60 Sec. TVC ad running in Australia today

Ikea. Make yourself. At home

Something as simple as an easel can inspire our creativity and make us want to push our creativity further than we ever imagined

Learning to grow plants at home could make us want to grow something bigger later in life

At home it’s never too late to to make yourself

To write write your own story and even share it with the world

Yes we make our homes what they are

but when you think about it

Home makes you

So go on. Make yourself. At home

Now let's get started with ChatGPT... We'll begin with asking it to rewrite a summary of the IKEA ad

The first thing you'll notice is ChatGPT uses too many words for a 30 second spot

You need to help it trim the fat. Hence the request for less words

You will also notice the best ad sits somewhere inbetween the short and long takes


As a mother-to-be, you dream of creating the perfect home for your child.

A place where they can grow and thrive.

A place where they can push their creativity...

In truth the role of the editor is still central to cleaning up the script

But there is enough to work with in the raw material if you want to put the effort in

Which points to the current argument of investing in augmented intelligence over artificial intelligence

The next question is how did the 'creative' stack up against the professionals?

Well here is the script from the AMart spot

Life. Just when you think the morning routine is going to plan

A styrofoam solar system lands on your breakfast table

Minus one planet

There’s gremlin running around the kitchen. no pants.

and that yogurt. yeah that’s low (fat)

Life is unpredictable

Do it in style

AMart. Life. Styled

It paints a picture of everyday suburban life. Of life lived. The mundane of the daily grind.

The AI on the other hand speaks to the dream of a life to be lived to the full

and I think there maybe a message about the current and future states of advertising buried in there somewhere

In the meantime it raises the question

Will we see a two tiered market for advertising creativity in the near future?

One where the market leaders invest heavily in defining the narrative constraints and the rest augmented imitation

ie Category makers vs category imitators

In other words advertising, rather than living life on the bell curve, develops, like everything else in the digital economy, a very long tail

I guess only time will tell...

We'll finish up by comparing apples with apples

What happens we ask ChatGPT to rewrite the IKEA ad based on the premise of the AMart ad?

The answer looks like this...

The word count is much shorter this time around and what I find interesting is the call to action "there's no one better at building a home than a mother... so go on create your home" is stronger than the agency pitch

The tone is more uplifting

and although it is only the bare bones of the finished product it wouldn't take much to pull it together into a workable format

So what's the take away?

As I have said before the promise of AI across all professional service sectors is that it will solve the age old paradigm of the Triple Constraint: you can have it cheap, fast, or good, but you can't have all 3

This experiment simply proves that the ChatGPT inspired copywriter is fast and cheap

But is it good?

Arguably, given the current state of advertising, that question is redundant

The commercial objective, inspired by decades of managment consultants, is fast and cheap

and in that context it is self evident the technology is now fit for purpose

But only if you know how to ask the right questions :)

Until next time...

Originally Published Summer 2023. What are we talking about today? Follow us on Twitter
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