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Post: Automated AI-Generated Content Can Ruin Everything



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“Marketers ruin everything.”

Entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk often gets credited for that wisdom he shared in a 2013 speech and repeated in the years following. The trope explains how any new, interesting, innovative technology or experience is usually ruined by marketers exploiting it to sell more products.

CMI’s chief strategy advisor Robert Rose has some thoughts on that in this week’s CMI News video. Watch it below, or keep reading for the highlights:


Programmatic advertising belongs in the marketers-ruins-everything bucket.

Programmatic advertising belongs in the marketers-ruins-everything bucket, says @Robert_Rose via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Automated ad-buying challenges

For the unfamiliar, programmatic advertising or media buying uses technology, specifically algorithms, to automate buying and displaying ads on digital real estate on various sites. This spectrum of ad tech includes everything from real-time bidding – where ad inventory prices are decided through automated auctions – to targeting based on content consumption.

Much of it happens through intermediary marketplaces where no relation exists between the advertising buyer (the marketer) and the publisher who displays the ad to its audience.

“What marketers gain in ease of purchase, scale, and reach, they lose in quality, safety, and audience insight of your creative advertising,” Robert says.

He explains, “If the context of the content surrounding your ad is important, programmatic ads aren’t a good solution. They almost certainly will appear next to inappropriate content within the ad network you purchased.”

More than likely, you’ve seen a hilarious ad juxtaposition as illustrated in these images. In this example, the news airs a story about a cruise ship disaster and the accompanying programmatic ad is a 75% off deal for cruise vacations.

Here’s a Reuters article about diners getting sick at the Olive Garden alongside an ad offering a coupon for dinner for two at the restaurant chain:

Interesting business and technology challenges also can manifest themselves. Last year, Gannett served billions of “local” ads to newspapers outside the targeted locale for nine months. The problem didn’t occur because of a glitch in the algorithm. It was human error. Add to that mix the potential issues from fake traffic and bots, and a lot can go wrong for programmatic advertising.

What does all this have to do with the news?

News: More brands advertise on unreliable AI-generated sites

Last week, an unfortunate and inevitable report came out from NewsGuard, a company that rates the credibility of information websites. It found some of the world’s largest blue-chip brands unintentionally support the spread of unreliable AI-generated news websites.

It identified over 140 brands spending programmatic advertising dollars on AI-generated news sites with little or no human management. And the number of those outlets known as UAINs – unreliable artificial-intelligence-generated news sites – increases exponentially. In one month this year, they jumped from 49 to 217.

For example, ads from global banks, a high-profile sports apparel company, an auto manufacturer, and others appeared on a web page with this headline: “As an AI language model, I am not able to access external links or web pages on my own …” That AI message has become the new version of the classic 404-page error message.

Ready your fight against threats from automated content sites

Robert says it’s worth watching this evolution of media and the entropy of programmatic advertising. Will AI-generated news actually disrupt or upend news networks?

In marketing and content strategy, he says, automated AI-generated blogs, content hubs, and FAQs will arrive shortly and go after your search traffic.

If you thought all those fake review sites generated by marketers to create a narrative around their industry’s products were troubling, just wait for the automated AI explainers and comparison sites to craft brand narratives.

Marketers can ruin everything.

But you don’t have to ruin anything. “Create the kind of content that sets the bar for your industry and disincentivize the marketers who try to take your clicks through an automated content generator,” Robert says.

You’ve got a fight ahead. It’s time to get busy.

Let us know how you’re fighting the good fight of marketers in the comments.

Want more content marketing tips, insights, and examples? Subscribe to workday or weekly emails from CMI.


Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

Lora Helmin

Lora Helmin

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