Marketers need to quieten down about AI

Truant’s Chris Jefford urges the industry to think more strategically about the uses of AI

Chris Jefford

CEO & Co-Founder Truant


I recently listened to a super interesting chat between and Austin Russell, the ridiculously young Founder and CEO of Luminar Technologies.

From an early age, Austin was fascinated by technology, building a ‘lab’ in his parent’s garage and hitting up the likes of NVIDIA for sponsorship of his work on lasers at the age of 12.

At 17 he dropped out of Stanford to start Luminar Technologies, with an aim of saving 100 million lives in 100 years through the advancement of autonomous vehicle guidance systems that make driving safer.

Yes, a 100-year vision for the company… how’s your planning going?


Austin and his team were backing LiDAR as the technology to get them to their goal – whilst Elon Musk and his Tesla team were backing camera technology – and, to cut a very long but interesting story short, he did very well out of it, with the technology due to roll out this year.

What really caught my attention, alongside it just being a brilliant story of a young, entrepreneurial mind with a vision, was this idea that Austin and his team worked quietly on a couple of levels.

But it will pay for marketers and agencies to take a leaf out of Luminar Technologies' book and start to quiet down about their moves in AI.

Chris Jefford, CEO & Co-Founder, Truant

Firstly, his vision, whilst bold, wasn’t to fully automate cars – e.g., technology to lead to driverless vehicles – it was to create ‘quiet systems’.  Quiet systems are the bits of technology that you don’t see, that quietly work in the background, making decisions on your behalf that ultimately enhance your experience as a user.

And secondly, he worked with his team in stealth mode for 5 years. No hype, no ‘hey guys you need to get a load of this technology’, no promises of some sort of car nirvana.

Just quietly getting on with building something that really fucking worked.

The marketing industry is the antithesis to the concept of quiet systems.

We are always very quick to talk up our clients, our work, or our culture. And, having now worked in media and tech for nearly 30 years, I’ve seen enough new technologies appear (and disappear) to know that we also love to hype up shiny new things, AI being the latest of course.

But it will pay for marketers and agencies to take a leaf out of Luminar Technologies' book and start to quiet down about their moves in AI.

Firstly, by establishing the ambition and the motive for moves, what are we hoping to achieve and why? Luminar could have shot for fully autonomous vehicles as their goal, like Tesla, in the same way as marketers could shoot for a fully automated strategic, creative and delivery system.

But the short-to-medium-term reality is that this is unlikely to be better in many ways. So, the wins here are to find the quiet systems that help augment current practices across existing resources.

And developing those quiet systems will take time.

Like all tech shifts, it’ll also take a bunch of wrong solutions to get to the right ones. So, it will pay for brands and agencies to do this in stealth mode, and to use all of our self-control not to proclaim that we’re future-of-the-industry-marketing-saviours.

And to quietly shape the right solutions for our businesses and our clients, with a technology solution that really works.

Mustafa Suleyman, Author of ‘The Coming Wave’ and Co-Founder of DeepMind, sums it up brilliantly in this WSJ article.

“As we consider that future, we should be careful not to overstate things. Too much hype can be damaging—especially to businesses—as the economy lurches back and forth between bouts of enthusiasm and disillusionment.”

“I believe AI will be one of the most significant transformations we’ll witness this century; in the blink of a civilizational eye we’re already seeing it replicate such fundamental things as human creativity and reasoning.

I also know, however, that we must properly describe its future without rhetorical flourishes. A hype cycle only undermines long-term consumer and business confidence.”

Guest Author

Chris Jefford

CEO & Co-Founder Truant


Chris is CEO and Co-Founder of Truant, one of the most unique, independent award-winning creative agencies in the UK. He has worked at the intersection of media, creativity and technology for 20 years, working both client and agency-side before launching Truant in 2012, a new era agency specialising in getting clients cultural attention through advertising and music. Current clients include PizzaExpress, PepsiCo, and Royal Caribbean International.

Related Tags

AI Marketing Metaverse/Web3

Agencies Featured