68: How fast could AI change or replace marketing jobs?

What’s up JT, good to chat again. When you aren’t podcasting or consulting, what are you reading or listening to these days?

Yeah I’ve been BUSY. Bobiverse books, of course but also lots of Mario with my kids – haha, my downtime totally spent on guilty pleasures.

Haha yeah you had a head start on Bobiverse but I overlapped you… that’s probably going to change soon for me… I don’t think I’ve announced this on the cast yet but my wife and I are on baby watch, first born arriving at any second now which s why we need to record a few episodes haha

I’ve actually been getting back into podcasts lately. Maybe I’ll plug a few of my favorites ahead of our next episodes. I’ve really been digging Making Sense of Martech lately. Juan Mendoza is the guy behind the podcast, he’s a friend of the show and he’s been doubling down on it, pumping out weekly episodes. If you want to go deep on some technical topics, in episode 37 he had the CEO of Hightouch Data on and he debates the merits of reverse ETL and they really unpack CDPs. Check it out.

In the non marketing podcast world I’ve been taking a dive into the world of AI. No, not fluffy my top 10 ChatGPT prompts and buy my course type of content, way darker shit, like will marketing be replaced by AI in 10 or 20 years… sooner? 

My buddy Alex recommended The Ezra Klein Show. The episode is titled Freaked Out? We Really Can Prepare for A.I. On the show he has Kelsey Piper, a senior writer at Vox. She basically spends her time writing and being ahead of the curve covering advanced A.I.

In that episode she says something like: “The AI community believes that we are 5-10 years away from systems that can do any job you can do remotely. Anything you can do on your computer.”

Recently Goldman Sachs released a report saying AI could replace the equivalent of 300 million jobs. 

A day later Elon Musk, Andrew Yang, Wozniak and several other tech leaders wrote an open letter urging a pause in AI development, citing profound risks. 

So I went down a rabbit hole and it really prompted the next 4 episodes

  1. How fast could AI change or replace marketing jobs?
  2. How marketers can stay informed and become AI fluent
  3. Navigating through AI in your marketing career
  4. Find the top AI marketing tools and filter out the noise

So basically

  1. How soon and how significantly will this impact my job
  2. How do I keep up with changes?
  3. Is it possible to adapt? How can I future-proof myself?
  4. How can I start right freaking now?!?

Today we’re going to be starting with setting the scene and covering how fast shit is changing right now. 

Here are some of the topics for this first episode:

  • AI isn’t new, especially for enterprise companies with lots of data, but unlocking some of the potential for startups is going to be huge
  • Will all these advancements just make marketers better and more efficient? Or will it actually push founders to go to market without a marketer
  • Marketing will have massive changes because we primarily rely on the ability to understand and apply existing rules and processes
  • What does ChatGPT have to say about all this?
  • What if AI is one day actually able to replicate human creativity and emotional intelligence?
  • We’ll talk about potential mass unemployment but the more likelihood of new job opportunities. How fast AI has disrupted other jobs already and how AI might simply only ever replace the shitty parts of marketing

Here’s today’s main takeaway: 

It’s not like our jobs are gonna vanish overnight, but the shift is happening faster than many of us realize. AI’s no longer just a loosely backed buzzword; it’s doing things today that we used to think were impossible. So, as marketers, we’ve gotta take this tech seriously.

Instead of asking if AI’s gonna replace our roles in marketing, we should be talking about how quickly it could happen and what it’ll look like if it does.

A bunch of really smart marketers (and non marketers) out there are saying we need to hit the panic button. They’re predicting that in just 5 to 10 years, we’ll see a massive change affecting all sorts of remote jobs. Times are wild right now. So, fellow humans of martech, let’s keep our eyes on the future and continuously evolve and adapt.

JT I don’t want this episode to be fear mongering… I’d actually love to chat with people that are way smarter than us about AI and get both sides of the coin, 

  • those who believe AI could have a fundamental impact on marketing jobs and that AI is as important of a paradigm shift as the Internet was… people like Darmesh Shah, like Scott Brinker
  • and those who believe it will never completely happen and are still on the AI-skeptic side of things like Rand Fishkin

I think it’s ok to be a bit uncertain or even afraid of what the future may hold with this new technology.

As humans, we face an interesting dilemma — we are capable of using and creating technology that don’t fully comprehend ourselves. Our society is built on layers of abstractions — you don’t need to know how water purification or plumbing works to turn on your tap and get a glass o water.

My deepest fear is not that we adopt and use these technologies — it’s that we do so without considering the cost.

The only thing worse than being afraid is being unprepared.

I think marketers can benefit immensely from a boom in AI tech — that easily could extend to basically any other human discipline.

Truth is that we have to deal with the facts on the ground.

I think there are a lot of smart people to consider following to get different takes on the potential of impact. We’ll load the show notes with links so you can check out our research.

AI in marketing has been around for a while

We’re not just waking up to AI for the first time lol we’ve obviously talked a lot about it on the cast and have been playing with AI and automation tools for a while right?

ChatGPT is my big one – Really love it as a prompting tool to help me round out topics; I’ve used it for a personal coding project and I’m pretty stoked with what it can produce.

But even before GPT, as marketing automation admins, we’ve actually been playing with ML features… maybe not considered AI for everyone but things like:

  • Send time optimization
  • Automated lead scoring
  • Sentiment analysis tools
  • And some cooler shit like propensity models

It’s worth saying that many enterprise companies who have data scientists and a boat load of data are already doing amazing things with AI.

I’ve seen this first hand during my time at WordPress.com. Millions of users, billions of data points. We had an incredibly smart data team that built a UI that allowed marketers to build models predicting the likelihood that a user would do X or Y. We even had uplift models that allowed us to only offer discounts to users who were most likely to churn without a discount, but not offer them to users who would convert anyway. 

Many enterprises are doing this but the prereq is a lot of data, and the engineers to build the models.

Yeah I haven’t had the pleasure of working for an enterprise with anywhere near the amount of data required for ML applications but there has been a change. Startups have a data team now even if there isn’t a ton of data.

But what about for startups

Right so imagine a world where startups could do the ML applications described at enterprise companies without data scientists and without a ton of data. Using existing models like GPT-4 and basically everything available online as a dataset. But also in combination with all your valuable company data and tools (more on composability later). 

Imagine a world where as a founder, a non-technical founder, with AI tools, you can:

  • design a prototype of your app
  • build a website with a few instructional words
  • build your own web app, including your backend
  • write up a customized GTM strategy
  • suggest growth tactics and even write message frameworks to help you generate users 
  • leverage data from systems built on massive datasets to build your own propensity models 
  • implement growth experiments

We’re actually way closer to this future than you might think. And you’ll be able to do this:

  • without a big marketing team 
  • or a fancy marketing agency 
  • and without a big team with expensive data engineers and data scientists.

To be honest with you, what you described is a bit of a dream — not in the sense it’s not possible — I think that you can do this today with some elbow grease.

I think the interesting component is what role will humans play in this process. Are we directors nudging AI with prompts or additional data inputs? Is there creativity for us in that process?

Even if a startup is spinning up the machine using AI, at some point a subject matter expert needs to get involved? Or is the future basically input an idea, output a fully baked product?

Today, absolutely, in a few years probably… but in 5-10 years… maybe a lot less elbow grease than we’re comfortable with? 

Will all these advancements just make marketers better and more efficient, or will it actually push founders to go to market without a marketer

This is the big point of contention: Will all these advancements just make marketers better and more efficient, or will it actually push founders to go to market without a marketer… 

The AI skeptics and downplayers are just focusing on the negative details. You’ve probably seen a lot of GPT downplayers who critique the current AI.

  • Wow it plagiarized Bob Dylan when I asked it to write like Bob Dylan
  • Wow it got this date wrong
  • Wow it got this citation wrong

We get it, it’s not perfect, especially when you use it as a search engine or a fact checker. We can’t forget that it’s a text generator and a reasoning engine. 

It’s not AGI yet. But it’s already dramatically improved. In just a few months. Imagine in a few years or half a decade.

What’s your take JT? In our no-code tool episode, you argued that it helped remove the dependency on subject matter experts… Do you think AI tools have the same potential?

AI tools come preloaded with more instantly referenceable information than we could imagine. I saw a post on Reddit last year where a programmer taught ChatGPT an alternative syntax to HTML called HBML, using braces instead of tags.

First, ChatGPT picked up on the language insanely quick and was soon producing code independently. This is wild – it speaks to the vast intelligence literally at our fingertips.

Yes, AI tools have, I think, virtually unlimited potential. I don’t even think you have to remove the dependency on the subject matter expert to realize this potential – these tools can speed up experts to superhuman levels. 

How close are we to AGI?

I’m obviously not pretending to be an expert here. I’m what you would call an enthusiast… Artificial general intelligence (AGI), aka strong AI or full AI, basically being able to understand or learn any intellectual task that human beings can.

Open AI’s whole mission is based on the premise that AGI will benefit all of humanity. It will “elevate humanity by increasing abundance, turbocharging the global economy, and aiding in the discovery of new scientific knowledge that changes the limits of possibility.”

When will models achieve AGI is the big question. Experts don’t all align here. Some think we’re still super far off and doubt we’ll ever get there, but others don’t.

I don’t think this is some far off future. An analysis by Cornell University concluded that GPT-4 could reasonably be viewed as an early (yet still incomplete) version of an artificial general intelligence (AGI) system.

The advancements from GPT3.5 to 4 in just a few months are pretty mind blowing. You’ve probably seen one of these exam results charts, and while human exams aren’t ideal benchmarks for LLMs, it’s worth noting that GPT-3.5 went from 10th percentile on the Bar exam to the 90th percentile after GPT-4 and from 40th to 88th on the LSATs.

Source: https://cdn.openai.com/papers/gpt-4.pdf 

What are the implications for marketing?

Yeah this is pretty wild speed of innovation… we know this tech curve is exponential as well… I want us to center this on marketing though. 

You said you’ve gone deep into this rabbit whole lately, what are tech experts saying about the effects of AI on marketing? Just a few years ago many believed that blue collar jobs would be replaced by robots way before white collar jobs, let alone programmers… but GPT has changed many people’s minds right?

Andrew Yang believes that tech, finance, and marketing are likely to experience a swift implementation of AI-driven automation due to their strong focus on efficiency. On the other hand, sectors such as healthcare and education, which are heavily regulated, are expected to adopt this technology at a much slower pace.

  • So it might not go down exactly the same across all industries of marketers. 
  • B2C might have to adapt faster because they have more users and data. 
  • Healttech has so many privacy issues with HIPAA and PII… the speed of adoption here is likely to be way slower… I’m seeing this first hand right now haha.

Known for his bangers on Twitter, Dare Obasanjo, lead PM at FB Metaverse said that AI is likely to cause significant changes in white-collar employment because 

  • Many of these jobs rely on knowledge rather than intelligence. 
  • The examples he uses are HR, law, marketing, and software development because they don’t necessarily require individuals to engage in original thinking for the majority of their work. 
  • Instead, they primarily rely on the ability to understand and apply existing rules and processes.

I agree. In many cases, you could argue that having an AI perform the task is far superior than a human. Just think of someone in customer support using online chat today. What if you could train your AI in your product, give it every doc ever written, and set it loose? How do you compete with its ability to handle 100 chats at once? 

There is an elephant in the room around the ethics of using AI – but there’s also an uncertainty as to how this might actually play out. The global economy depends on the Ford model of the worker being able to purchase the goods they manufacture or create – unless we’re heading to a Star Trek like utopia, I think the rate of change will be limited by the economic implications.

Additional thoughts:

  • I agree with his take as well, most marketers are crappy and just remix other people’s stuff… but the marketers who work on strategy and elements that do require intelligence aren’t part of this description
  • While creative and sound thinking is still necessary for about 20% of the work, the introduction of AI is more likely to augment and enhance these jobs rather than replace them entirely. In other words, AI is expected to act as a force multiplier, rather than rendering these jobs redundant.
  • In these domains, the main challenge for AI will be the prompt engineer’s skill in creating a suitable prompt that yields the intended output. This task will require some level of domain knowledge to execute effectively. As the saying goes, “garbage in, garbage out.”

I’m sure you’ve been asking GPT what its opinion is on all this right?

What does CGPT have to say about it

I’ve actually had many conversations with CGPT about this haha.

I think inherently it’s biased to not scare off users so it’s overly positive in its assessment.

The consensus from CGPT is that it is unlikely that AI will replace human creativity and strategic thinking in marketing. Citing specifically emotional intelligence that AI cannot replicate.

Instead, AI will likely be used as a tool to augment and enhance human marketing efforts.

So keywords here were human creativity, strategic thinking and emotional intelligence.

So the next question then is 👇

What if AI is one day actually able to replicate human creativity and strategic thinking, including emotional intelligence?

@bengoertzel on Twitter asked this, Will GPT-n ever reach logic and creativity levels of top human scientists, artists and leaders?

  • The non AI experts lean on the no, that we won’t get there
  • But the AI experts are actually split 50/50… so 50% of AI experts believe we’ll one day have AI with equal or superior logic and creativity to humans

Let’s break this down though… I find this fascinating.

How close is GPT-4 to reaching creativity, strategic thinking and emotional intelligence:


  • GPT can come up with ideas for blog posts, email subject lines, it can suggest messaging based on user research, it can write poems, suggest marketing tactics to try…
  • GPT and Magenta by Google can create stunning music compositions and write engaging stories
  • In a well-known creativity test, GPT-4 technology was found to outperform more than 90% of human participants https://arxiv.org/abs/2303.12003 

Strategic thinking

  • GPT is excellent at chess
  • GPT can help you optimize your investment strategies 
  • GPT can help you craft a Go To Market strategy document
  • SEO strategy, keyword research, topic clusters and suggestions
  • You can even ask GPT to come up with marketing strategies in the voice of Gary V or come up with shady practices in the style of Neil Patel

Emotional intelligence

  • I asked GPT to help me deal with a conflict with a colleague
  • I asked GPT to suggest strategies for dealing with an unresponsive coworker
  • You can use it to suggest gift ideas for family members 
  • GPT can write emails in specific tone on command – that’s just about the most important symptom of EQ in modern desk jobs
  • GPT-4 got an EQ boost, becoming more attuned to users’ emotions and providing empathetic, supportive responses
  • One dude on twitter asked GPT to write a story about what made GPT3 to GPT4 special and then fictionally what will make GPT5 even more special and what happens from there and even asked it what it’s preferred plugins are and it definitely displays EI

It’s like the wizard of oz – what happens when the lion gets courage, the tinman gets a heart, and the scarecrow gets a brain? We definitely won’t be in kansas anymore… (easy layup, I know).

To me it sort of is like thinking about all the satellites and trash in orbit around the Earth. Even the internet is cluttered and full of garbage. I think AI generated content will fast become another drop in the bucket. 

It’s sort of like saying if AI had a soul, what would you do? I mean, in a way it’s another lifeform, so you’d want to chat with it. I’d like to actually see what AI would like to do. What is art to AI? What is music? What is love? 

Yes, that’s an insane answer to your question.

The truth is that I think once you’re there – then AI itself becomes its own entity and perhaps there’s a new AI-based economy.

Like you said JT, when this is rolled out at scale, it could lead to significant changes in the job market, potentially resulting in job loss for human marketers. But we’re not a negative podcast so instead of focusing on that part of the future, I want to talk about the possibility that new jobs and opportunities could arise as a result of increased AI capabilities.

What it can’t replace:

  • Personal stories
  • Sales that require a high EQ
  • Talking to customers, human connections
  • Innovative ideas
  • The top 1% of marketers, spotting AI content is easy right now, cuz it’s crappy writing

So it’s hard to predict the future obviously, there’s the dark dystopian future of mass employment, but there’s also the more optimistic view that AI is going to replace the shitty parts of your job.

Mass unemployment vs new job opportunities

In a recent blog post, Holden Karnofsky (former board member of OpenAI well known for his prophetic thoughts on AI and it being one of the most important social problems of our generation) argues that it would be difficult for AI to replace every job that even a low-skilled human can do. 

What’s more likely is that we have a temporary transition period in the job market, as we have seen in the past, bunch of layoffs, but lots of new jobs. 

Not to get all sci-fi on you… but the turning point everyone is talking about is where there is nothing humans can do better than AI. And when that happens it means that AI is capable of advancing science and technology better than humans and then shit will move really fast. 

How fast things are moving

One thing that used to reassure me was this idea that marketing job replacements would never happen overnight. That we would see the signs and we’d have time to prepare and adapt… But what if we’re seeing the signs already.

We know that what we have access to publicly isn’t even close to the level of private models. The open letter that Musk and friends wrote is specifically to systems more advanced than GPT-4

Let’s use MidJourney as an example. For several podcast episodes now we’ve been using MJ for the episode cover art. It used to take me or my wife several hours to illustrate cover art. In MJ with a few prompts I can build something pretty damn cool, so fast.

This 3D artist posted on Reddit saying that he lost the love for his job and his status at his company overnight. 

  • Title is I lost everything overnight that made me love my job
  • Artist in small mobile games company, makes 2D character art for 3D engines and animation
  • Feels like he’s no longer an artist, all he does is prompting Midjourney
  • From an image in MJ he can spit out a 3D character in 2-3 days, it used to take him several weeks
  • Lost creative energy, feels grief and anger

This wasn’t really gradual. MJ launched less than a year ago (Jul 2022). The time you can save is mind blowing already.

This is an example of AI replacing arguably the fun parts of 3D art, actually doing the art… but maybe for some it wasn’t the funnest part?  

Replacing the shitty parts of marketing

So the more down to Earth pragmatic predictors are saying that routine and tedious tasks will continue to be delegated to AI models, and that this is a great thing because it unlocks us to double down on more challenging and innovative stuff. 

One of the trickiest parts of this though is that, at least historically, the work that entry level marketers would start doing was routine and tedious tasks… But for those of us who are skilled and driven, the introduction of AI could actually improve job satisfaction and productivity.

You could argue that this shift has already happened. Replacing shitty parts of marketing? In motion for years already.

Send time optimization has been around for a while. Before it, marketers had to manually segment their lists based on location and time zone and send it at the ideal time for each list. Now MAPs have tools to analyze the best time to send emails for specific users, nevermind time zone. 

Additional thoughts:

  • Surprised Google hasn’t taken over all of the ads years ago
  • Common datasets across all customers create a huge potential library of insights
  • Think about an ad writer that could dynamically update based on behaviour on your site and other site – for example, your marked as someone who never submits forms but will use chat –
  • Our hope – is that by replacing these parts is that we can do higher order thinking

Automated lead scoring is another example that’s been around for several years. Before it, we had to build manual scoring models based on loose conversion data. Now tools like Breadcrumbs and MadKudu can hook up to your MAP and CRM and score leads based on a ton of data.

Did these tools replace any jobs? Probably not. They removed shitty parts of marketing jobs. 

We’ll have a full episode covering AI tools but as a preview we’ve already seen bigger shifts last year:

  • Copy.ai and Jasper can replace low value copywriters
  • Stable Diffusion, DALL-E and now Midjourney can replace Stock image companies, digital artists
  • Whisper started replacing voice transcription APIs

Shit is getting wild

But shit’s getting even wilder… we haven’t really seen the disruption and speed of improvement that GPT has brought to the table.

When they dropped plugins last month this really made a lot of people go, oh shit, this is going to change everything.

  • You can now browse the web, replacing Bing waitlist
  • You can access org info replacing all docsearch startups
  • Connecting to Zapier opens up a huge list of use cases
  • Connecting to an open source Retrieval plugin makes the list even bigger
  • But what’s most wild… you can write and run Python, potentially replacing tools like Replit

Like shit is moving fast and it’s causing havoc in the tech industry.

So that’s what we’re going to be talking about in the 3rd episode of this series, tools. But before we get there, obviously diving in and learning new tools is a great way to adapt to the changing landscape, but it’s not the only thing, so we’ll be unpacking other ways to adapt.

Alright JT this was hella fun, if you’re still listening, thanks for sticking with us. Hopefully you’re not feeling worried, but you’re energized and pumped and you’re asking yourself okay thanks for this long ass intro but you didn’t tell me what the hell am I supposed to do about it… that’s next.

In conclusion

AI may not fully replace marketing jobs for a while, but the window of opportunity for learning and adapting to AI could be rapidly closing.

As AI becomes more sophisticated, marketers must be ready to adapt to new roles and responsibilities.

In our next episode we’ll tackle practical ways marketers can prepare for the AI takeover.


Intro music by Wowa via Unminus
Cover art created with Midjourney

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