A wave of new generative AI tools is vying to win a spot in brand publishers’ toolkits, as the race to help brands with content production heats up.
Over the past few weeks, brand publishing teams have been hearing from a variety of companies, each promising to solve critical pain points and each with a slightly different pitch. As one editor at a startup said, “we’re getting inundated.”
“I think embedding [AI tools] in marketing SaaS is about to become table stakes, but you can probably only win if you own a specific use case or are a behemoth already,” said Joe Lazer, who runs content and marketing at A.Team. Lazer said it remains to be seen who “wins” when it comes to AI tools to aid content production, but he thinks the most compelling value proposition would be a platform that combines ideation with SEO, analytics, AI and human creators in one platform.
New generative AI platforms have sprung up quickly over the past few months, promising to help with the entire spectrum of the marketing process. Already, brands like Coca-Cola are working with OpenAI to craft ad copy and images, while Heinz and Patron have used OpenAI’s Dall-E 2 to create ad campaigns.
But the content production niche is a particularly attractive one for companies selling AI tools, likely because boosting quality and adding efficiency to the process is a universal challenge. Brand publishers routinely lament on how difficult it is to produce quality content at a rapid clip. Many teams are stretched thin – and in a tight economic environment, they’re searching for ways to cut costs and operate even more leanly. In a WordPress VIP survey of brand publishing and content professionals earlier this year, nearly half (45%) of respondents said their biggest content challenge was resources.
At the same time, many are leery of problems with AI-generated content. Experiences traditional publishers like CNet have had with AI-produced content don’t help assuage concerns. And all of this is happening against the backdrop of the ever-present fear that AI may upend brand publishing strategies entirely. The question now is what problems, specifically, can AI platforms help solve.
“Anyone in publishing who isn’t thinking about AI has their head in the sand. I don’t think AI is going to replace journalists any time soon, or replace high-quality thought leadership,” said Google’s global head of content, Natalie Zmuda, on a forthcoming episode of The Brand Publishing Show.
But for Zmuda and her team, thinking deeply about the “spectrum” of content Google’s marketing team creates – and which could be replaced by AI – is part of that discussion as well. “Is AI going to write a perspective on the future of advertising? Maybe. But it may not be anything someone wants to read. But could there be a world where AI writes some interesting social copy or email copy, or tutorial copy? Absolutely.” (Zmuda does not work directly on Google’s own AI tool.)
Giving teams time back
Among the entrants in the content marketing production race is Pepper AI, an assisted chat interface that is trained specifically to aid with content marketing, per the company. The chatbot inputs information from companies’ websites, as well as Google Analytics and SEMRush, and provides a select number of templates. The company’s pitch to marketers is that it’ll help them create personalized content and fits into the company’s existing workflow.
Pepper AI is created by Pepper Content, a marketplace that connects brands with writers and other talent.he company is also readying to launch Pepper CMP, which it says will combine generative AI capabilities with the talent network. “The idea is to automate mundane tasks for marketers and writers,” said Natasha Puri, content marketing lead at Pepper.
Also on the content production end is Jasper for Business, a suite of tools from AI writing startup Jasper. Jasper for Business lets brand publishing teams input information, tone and style relevant to their brands, in order to train its AI to create content that is “on-brand”..
Jasper says it is focusing on solving for the “pressure” teams are under to produce content consistently, and across platforms like email, audio/video and social. Specifically, however, its pitch is trying to go beyond the writing portion of the work to focus on ideation, research, and composition – putting a variety of different information points together in a specific format. “AI has the capacity to help accelerate composition, giving teams precious time back that can be reinvested in other parts of the content strategy,” said Jasper vice president of marketing, Meghan Keany Anderson.
Typeface AI lets brand publishing teams type in commands, such as “write a blog post about an apple juice brand in a fun tone” and the platform will create a draft, including images. Teams can customize tone and copy. Typeface is founded by former Adobe CTO Abhay Parasnis, who said in a statement that it stands out from the competition thanks to its safety capabilities and ability to be brand-specific, something OpenAI, for example, can’t do (yet.) Hubspot AI, meanwhile, fits into Hubspot products to help generate ideas, create outlines for articles and generate a few paragraphs based on prompts. It’s currently in beta.
It’s unclear at this point how much these companies can actually help brand publishers add quality and/or efficiency to their content production. Many are still in a test-and-learn phase. Jasper for Business was not able to provide brands that are using the service, and said it’s too early for feedback since it was just rolling out. A rep for Pepper said that while the response has been “positive,” it’s still too early to tell. And issues like safety, fake news, copyrights and legalities also remain to be sorted out.
At a financial brand, an editor who has been “playing with” a few AI platforms said that while they’ve helped in solving the “blank page problem,” she finds herself spending more time editing the final product, making the time savings “even.” (She spoke anonymously because the company has not sanctioned the use of AI for any publishing or marketing uses.)
For this editor, it also feels “disingenuous” to be using AI because her goal isn’t to simply create more content, but create less content of higher quality. “The problem I think it solves, at least right now, isn’t the problem I think needs to be solved.”