Can marketers really be replaced with AI?

Mike Maynard, founder of Napier, explores the human advantage

Mike Maynard

Founder Napier


Unsurprisingly, artificial intelligence was a big talking point at Davos. Business and political leaders from around the world scratched their heads and involved themselves in what’s now a fairly well-worn debate: is AI good or bad for us? Will it lead us to bright, sunlit uplands? Or will it end all life as we know it?

On the other hand, perhaps AI isn’t going to destroy the world as we know it. Most of us have experienced the wonder of the first text we created with generative AI, and then the slightly empty feeling when we realise the second AI-written article is too similar to the first.

People do worry about AI, and a common reason for this is because they think it’ll take their job or perhaps demolish their whole industry. Even the question ‘Will robots take my job?’, which began as an understandable worry, mutated into a meme and then spawned its own website. With the arrival of ChatGPT, that question, for many, became yet more pressing. And let’s face it: AI will take some jobs. But will it take yours? In other words, are marketers at risk? 

People like other people 

I’ve given the short answer to that question away in my title. But let me explain my reasoning. Marketers operate in the roughly defined area we call communications. They speak to people, and when they’re not doing that, they’re devising campaigns that are aimed to give off that impression. This is not just a matter of preference or convention. People like other people. More importantly in this context, people buy from other people. In fact, a recent McKinsey study found that as selling became more complex, the need for human interaction increased.

Trust, loyalty, relationships – this is the real underlying currency of commerce, and it can’t form between people and inanimate things. With channels proliferating, new technology appearing and a breathtaking area of products and vendors to choose from, being and seeming human is absolutely key. 

It isn’t creative 

So it helps that marketers are humans. But it also helps that they bring distinctly human qualities to their work. They’re empathetic. They’re intuitive. They’re creative. And creativity is impossible for an AI. In fact, ‘artificial intelligence’ is something of a misnomer. It is really extremely efficient information-processing, not intelligence. Real intelligence is nothing like what a computer can do. And part of that is creativity – that ability to find connections between apparently unrelated things, and to generate entirely original ideas. That can only take place in a human head. AI can generate text. It can generate images. It can do amazing things with video. In other words, it can imitate creativity. But it can’t be creative, and it shows. 

AI might not be as safe as you think 

Even if you could replace your marketing team with an AI and be sure that the AI could do just as good a job as the team did, it would be risky. When it’s just you and ChatGPT, interacting through a screen, AI feels private, but we don’t actually know how secure it is. Last March, OpenAI said that data leaks did happen and had happened, potentially exposing chat histories. Within an organisation, using third-party AI could risk the loss of sensitive information. That’s one reason why Samsung, Apple and JP Morgan have limited or banned the use of ChatGPT in their offices. 

It’s overhyped 

ChatGPT broke all sorts of records when it first appeared, and much ink was spilled over its ability to transform just about everything. One year on, and AI hasn’t really changed much. Don’t get me wrong. AI, generative and otherwise, is an incredible innovation. It just isn’t as incredible as we’re led to think it is.

I’m not alone in believing this. Towards the end of last year, 1,500 tech workers were polled and more than half said they felt AI was overrated. From software engineers to designers, they said that the technology wasn’t trustworthy and wasn’t mature. They’d struggled to find those transformative business use cases. 

Don’t dust off your CV yet 

So no, assuming you’re in marketing, AI isn’t going to take your job for the time being. Your skills are too human. Marketers communicate well. They’re highly creative. They have strong social skills, good intuition, and the ability to persuade. The jobs that AI really threatens are those that involve routine, repetitive, mechanical tasks, such as data entry or bookkeeping. Whereas for marketers, no two days are ever the same.

Guest Author

Mike Maynard

Founder Napier


Mike Maynard is the CEO and Managing Director of Napier, a leading PR agency that specializes in the technology sector. With over 30 years of experience in the industry, Mike has worked with some of the biggest names in tech, including ABB, Avnet, Microchip, Nokia, NTT and Yokogawa.

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