How Marketers Can Reduce Digital Waste from Generative AI

By John Marcinuk, Head of Growth Marketing Services

With generative AI, more is not necessarily better. In fact, generative AI could contribute to the proliferation of digital waste. A recently published Wall Street Journal article discusses how the rise of generative AI has resulted in an uptick of useless article ideas being proposed to magazines by PR and content marketing professionals, resulting in “a new kind of spam.” The article cites several instances of news sites and social media apps being flooded with AI-generated content. The proliferation of AI-generated content is more than an annoyance -- it also poses a sustainability risk. After all, the collective carbon footprint of the internet is worse than the aviation industry. Marketing executives can play a role in fighting this problem.

The Rise of Digital Waste from Generative AI

Even without generative AI, the marketing industry faces a challenge with the proliferation of digital waste. A recently conducted Forrester study indicates that the typical business operates six MarTech platforms. According to the research, 47 percent of marketers agree that poorly used marketing and advertising tech platform waste time, money – ultimately leading to more digital waste, higher energy consumption and greater carbon emissions.

Generative AI accelerates the creation of more content and more waste. For example, in early May, the news site rating company NewsGuard found 49 fake news websites that were using AI to generate content, according to The Wall Street Journal. By the end of June,the tally had hit 277.

Generative AI contributes to waste in other ways. For instance, With the rapid advancement of technology, the hardware used for training deep learning algorithms swiftly becomes outdated, resulting in the disposal of substantial volumes of electronic waste. The operational demands of data centers, crucial for running deep learning algorithms, necessitate significant water usage for cooling purposes. A report from the Natural Resources Defense Council highlights that data centers in the United States alone consume a 626 billion liters of water each year. With advancements in generative AI technology, the water consumption is anticipated to rise further, posing environmental risks in the process.

Tips for Marketers to Fight Digital Waste

Since marketers are the most prolific users of generative AI, marketers need to take the lead in reducing waste. This happens at the top, with the CMO.  In practical terms this mean using generative AI to operate more efficiently as opposed to creating more content just because you can. For instance:

  • With thoughtful prompting, generative AI can help a marketer conceive of more personalized content tailored to a specific audience. Generative AI opens up a whole new world of possibilities for analyzing user data and preferences and then using that data to create personalized product recommendations, email marketing campaigns, and other content that resonates with individual customers. Personalization is a cornerstone of great marketing, but as The Wall Street Journal notes, unfortunately too often marketers are going in the opposite direction by using generative AI to create content that is anything but personal and tailored to an audience.
  • Generative AI can help a marketer create assets more efficiently once a marketer conceives of personalized content. Again, with the right kind of prompting, generative AI tools can create visual and written content that can be re-used efficiently across multiple platforms (ranging from the website to social media).

I recently published a blog post that discusses some other ways that generative AI can improve the content workflow. As I noted in the post, Centific can help you flourish with generative AI. Our CMO.AI solution helps you discover the data patterns that matter, so you can create relevant experiences for each customer – and create content more efficiently.