Overheard at Adobe Summit — how AI is changing the game

Overheard at Adobe Summit — how AI is changing the game

There was one topic on everybody’s mind at Adobe Summit 2023 — artificial intelligence (AI).

At the premier digital experience conference, Adobe announced Adobe Firefly, a creative generative AI model focused first on images and text effects. Adobe Sensei GenAI in Adobe Experience Cloud will help businesses create personalized marketing copy and content, audiences, digital journeys, conversational experiences, and much more.

Building upon Adobe’s decade-plus history of AI innovation, it’s clear from where I sit that this functionality will bring enormous benefits to those in the digital economy. It will serve as a companion and copilot to realize bold new potential for our innate creativity, and to help meet the growing demand for content in an age of personalization.

Especially for global brands, I’m excited by the capabilities that Adobe is planning — such as letting customers extend Firefly training with their own creative collateral to generate content in their own style or brand language. Generative AI has the potential to accelerate how our teams operate by improving experiences, predicting customer behavior, and helping brands deliver the nirvana of one-to-one customer experiences at scale.

How do leaders feel about AI today? Will brands actually use generative AI in their customers’ experiences? How will AI change the workflows behind digital journeys?

What digital experience leaders think about generative AI

At Summit this year, I asked Adobe customers from a variety of industries for their takes. Perspectives ranged from anxious trepidation of a Terminator-like future to bold optimism and excitement — with a healthy dose of vigilance toward ethics and reality.

Here’s what I heard:

1. AI is an opportunity to get curious about change

Adobe believes AI will usher in an entirely new era of creativity and productivity.

“Generative AI is real,” said Don McGuire, CMO of Qualcomm. “It’s tangible. It’s going to change everything I consider when I think of the marketing mix.”

“It’s important for us to embrace it,” said Xenia Lane, SVP of personalization enablement at Truist. “Change allows you to propel into that future state. Look at change as the opportunity for growth rather than an obstacle.”

One leader embracing this change is Jill Ashley Brandt, CEO of renewable energy marketplace Covento by Vestas. “AI is already actively playing a role for us. We like to keep costs down and the productivity of our team high, so if we can find AI tools to help with serving that, we will absolutely take advantage of them. I think AI is here to stay, and it’s exciting. I embrace it and welcome it.”

Jeff Hall, global director of information technology at EY Global, shared that his team is “investigating the art of the possible,” with proof of concepts and experimentation. “There’s a lot of AI integrated into the product stack with Adobe today that we’re currently leveraging to automate some of our processes, build unified customer profiles, and weave together different information and sources through Adobe Experience Platform.”

2. AI will augment humans, not replace them

I heard one theme consistently on the Summit stage and from customers — AI is intended to be a copilot within Adobe’s suite of products, meant to free humans to push the boundaries of what we can achieve.

“I view the technology as supportive of our people and their creativity,” Xenia Lane said, “augmenting as opposed to taking over. AI will give our people time for other activities that add value to the organization.”

“AI can do certain things,” explained Joel Caracci, associate director of creative operations at commercial real estate firm JLL, “but it still can’t have a meeting with a stakeholder, push back a timeline, or interview somebody.”

“Ultimately, you need human ingenuity. Generative AI is a copilot,” said Kate Mackie, global marketing director at EY Global. “You are still the person flying the plane. You’re just getting better instructions and better insight.”

Stephen Kyefulumya, GM of media, product, and technology at carsales.com.au, shared with me how he is reducing costs using AI and Adobe Real-Time Customer Data Platform full of first-party data about their customers. “We apply AI to determine who is most likely to convert. We can then create a campaign to target those people first. This is personalization and precision marketing at its best using AI, and we’re able to bring down the cost per acquisition — a key marketing metric,” Kyefulumya said.

3. AI will be key to creating content at scale

Personalization is the holy grail of the digital economy, and Adobe customers see AI as a central component of delivering one-to-one customer experiences at scale.

Take Michelle Filla from Bayer Crop Science, for example, who serves audiences across 90 countries, each with its own agricultural makeup. Their personalized digital campaigns often require an image of a specific crop native to a region. “AI will have a huge impact on our speed and scalability,” she told me. “The fact that we’d be able to create assets and be prepared, instead of waiting for the image to be available in the real world, is a game-changer.”

Mike Lebron, senior director of corporate IT at Canon USA agreed: “This is a game-changer for the content creator. You’d be surprised how much time is spent driving creative out to various channels. AI is going to optimize that workflow so the content creators can spend more time creating unbelievable experiences. In the end, the customer will benefit because they’re going to get delivered the content that’s most relevant to them. I call it a force multiplier!”

Michelle Cascone from Marriott reiterated this benefit. “As a marketer, content is key. We are being asked to make content for thousands of segments. AI will have a huge impact on the creation of assets for speed and scalability, and it’s going to transform marketing and personalization at scale.”

“Our customers interact with us daily,” said Chris Raimondi from Australian sports betting platform Tabcorp. “We’ve got a lot of volume, and it provides complexity in the amount of personalization we need to do. The more we can automate how we serve content, the better scale we can generate. If we can solve the one-to-one relevancy for customers, that’s the game-changing element for us.”

4. AI will impact content velocity and speed

In a recent survey, 88% of brands said content demand doubled over the last year, while a majority expect it to grow five times over the next two years. As the demand for content comes into focus, so does the benefit of using AI to increase content velocity.

“I think the biggest improvement is going to be speed,” said Tom Boos, omnichannel experience lead at IBM. “A lot of people believe that AI is going to replace your job or something like that. I don’t view it that way. I view it instead as something where you can eliminate a lot of repetitive, tedious, and time-consuming parts of your job and instead focus on important things.”

Srini Nallasivan, chief AI and analytics officer at U.S. Bank agrees. “If we can use AI to create personalized messages with emotion and intent on the fly, it’s going to speed up the process of sending an email communication or personalizing an image in a matter of minutes.”

For Naruhiko Miura at Casio, speed is how they win. “We have lots of ideas but not unlimited resources,” he said, and noted the benefit that AI would provide to avoid agency fees to develop creative for A/B testing. “With Adobe Firefly, we can quickly generate more than one option. This can help us be more agile — and speed is so important. My boss always says, ‘Everyone can move slowly, but we have to act fast.’ That’s a way to win in the digital economy.”

5. AI is squarely on the radar — along with guardrails

Adobe’s focus on transparency and safety was clear at this year’s event. Adobe Firefly, for example, is trained to generate content safe for commercial use, ensuring brands won’t generate content based on other people’s or brands’ IPs.

I appreciated Kate Mackie’s perspective as she warned, “The information is only as good as you put in. We have to be really keen around the authenticity and credibility of that information, and we must enable artists to still have ownership. Inclusive AI is hugely important for the future, and we must ensure imagery is inclusive, covering all elements of society, and bringing everybody to the party.”

I’m encouraged by Adobe’s efforts with the Content Authenticity Initiative, a collaborative effort to add a layer of verifiable trust to all types of digital content through a secure workflow.

Thank you to all who joined me at Adobe Summit to chat about the impact AI might have. In the broadest sense, I appreciated Michelle Cascone’s feelings about the impact AI will have on our collective future. “It’s our generation’s contribution to society…however it shakes out.”

Learn more about Adobe Sensei GenAI and how it amplifies human ingenuity across Adobe Experience Cloud.

Katie Martell is an on-demand communications strategist based in Boston, MA. She is exploring the collision of marketing and social movements through communications consulting, startup marketing, and SaaS entrepreneurship. As we navigate the digital age, Katie partners with B2B brands to amplify stories of transformation and trends in business, marketing, CX, and more. Katie has been named “one of the most interesting people in B2B marketing,” a top voice in marketing on LinkedIn three times, and an Adweek Pride Star.