The assignment: Write a thorough explanation of how federal deposit insurance protects consumers’ accounts.
Earlier this year, Ally Financial’s Andrea Brimmer had both a member of her content team and ChatGPT tackle this writing task.
The two results were posted on a wall next to each other, without labels. Staffers were asked to decide which explanation was from a human writer and which from generative artificial intelligence.
“And everybody got it 100% wrong,” says Brimmer, chief marketing and public relations officer for the $196 billion-asset Ally.
As one of the country’s leading digital-only banks, Ally simply couldn’t ignore a potentially pivotal technology like ChatGPT, she says. The marketing department has been studying it for about a year and plans to make recommendations regarding its use by August.
But Ally’s approach is best described as careful and canny.
“It would be unwise to say ‘no’ to something that is technologically forward,” says Brimmer. “That said, we don’t just jump into things for the sake of jumping into things.”
Ignoring the Hype While Digging into ChatGPT
Brimmer says her content team is jazzed about ChatGPT. “They get excited about things that are going to make us better, smarter, faster,” she says. “That’s the nature of the team — they are creative and progressive.”
But she’s also seen some absolute fear about ChatGPT, including from young people, who are more often in the vanguard of technological adoption.
Brimmer speaks frequently on college campuses about marketing. At a recent speech, “every single question I got was about ChatGPT, and where it would replace humans, and whether these kids will have jobs when they get out of college,” she says.
A veteran marketer, Brimmer says the pace of change in marketing technology is such that she spends a good third of her time learning about the latest developments. When ChatGPT first surfaced, her initial reaction was that Ally had to get it figured out. Then, a second reaction kicked in: “I thought, ‘Holy cow! This has massive implications, in terms of work efficiency, deliverables and human capital.”
Brimmer says she’s a realist about where ChatGPT is right now. “Can it be as creative as a human mind? Can it see the art of the possible? Can it understand the creative nuances that emotionally connect with people the way a human can?” she asks. “For me, the jury’s still out.”
She considers ChatGPT to be at the “version 1.0” stage. In the beginning, it’ll serve more as an enabler for financial marketers than a replacement for people, she says.
The future is less clear, except that the technology will only get better, and it isn’t going away. “To quote a famous sci-fi movie line, ‘Resistance is futile,'” Brimmer says.
For now, Ally doesn’t have any customer-facing marketing generated by ChatGPT out there. “We’re in the ‘You don’t know what you don’t know stage,'” says Brimmer. “There are a lot of bad actors out there. We take our responsibility to protect our consumers’ data very seriously. We have a lot of sensitive information. We’re not going to do anything stupid.”
Bottom line: “We’re definitely taking a crawl approach to ChatGPT, from a marketing perspective.”
Ally’s ChatGPT Experiments: Controlled and Contained
Part of that “crawl” approach is extreme care in who touches ChatGPT on behalf of Ally’s marketing effort.
“To be clear, we do not have ubiquitous access to ChatGPT at Ally right now,” says Brimmer. “It’s definitely a more closed environment and you have to be granted permission.” That permission must come from both a central Ally committee on artificial intelligence as well as from key managers. And few people have been given permission so far.
Brimmer says this policy is designed to avoid unnecessary risk as her area and other parts of Ally evaluate the pros and cons of ChatGPT. She points out that the federal government is still weighing how to handle regulation of this technology.
“A lot of things have to be figured out before anybody’s going to be striding into using this tool full scale,” she says.
Restrictions on ChatGPT also apply to devices.
Without explicit permission, “you are prohibited from using it on your work devices,” Brimmer says. “If you have a laptop, Ally-issued, if you have an iPad, Ally-issued, if you have a mobile phone, Ally-issued, you are prohibited from using ChatGPT on them.”
In addition, employees cannot use a personal digital device for work purposes if ChatGPT is loaded on it. “You can’t input any Ally data and you can’t ask ChatGPT to do any work on an Ally project,” Brimmer says.
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Ally Could Be Using ChatGPT by End of the Year
Even if, at some point, ChatGPT becomes a tool that can be used for live marketing, there will be controls.
“We have a governance process for literally every single marketing asset or communication asset that is produced before it leaves the building, so to speak,” Brimmer says. “Every single asset is reviewed by legal, compliance and brand.”
So everything produced by ChatGPT would go through this same review process. Brimmer speculates the review process might even have extra steps, in the beginning, for ChatGPT material.
Ally has a marketing organization committee on ChatGPT, which has been evaluating how the technology can best be adopted, for what purposes and what controls might be needed. Brimmer expects to see final recommendations by August.
After those recommendations are reviewed by a separate corporate AI committee, “you’ll probably start to see us roll things out before the end of the year — assuming that we’re comfortable with what we see.”
Ally’s one pilot of ChatGPT is in its call center. Ordinarily after a customer service representative finishes assisting someone they input notes about the call. In the pilot, ChatGPT is inputting the notes. The objective is to see if this will free up time for the representatives to handle more calls.
What Adoption of ChatGPT at Ally Could Look Like
Implementation of ChatGPT will be a moving target, according to Brimmer, because the technology keeps advancing. In the future she anticipates that generative AI will be able to deal with the emotional elements in marketing. Right now it isn’t there.
“I don’t see ChatGPT ever really becoming a replacement for a creative team per se,” says Brimmer. “There are things that it will do that will add proficiency to marketing teams, technology teams, companies. It’s not just a one-dimensional tool, so it will add productivity to business in general.”
The content team is looking into where ChatGPT might be useful, including items that need to be populated with explanations and descriptions, such as forms. Ally’s blog is another possibility.
“Will we use it in the short term to say, ‘Hey, ChatGPT, go create a beautiful new Ally marketing campaign?’ Probably not. But am I a doubter that it’s going to get there at some point? No. I just don’t know what the timeline would be. I don’t have a crystal ball.”
— Andrea Brimmer, Ally Financial
Over time, Brimmer expects to see an impact on recruitment. Having expertise in use of the tool will increasingly be important for marketing people, she says, so coming into the business with some training in ChatGPT “will definitely give people a leg up.”
However, some functions performed by humans could be turned over to technology eventually. “It could be writing,” Brimmer says. “It could be production-oriented tasks.”
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Impact on Banks’ Relationships with Marketing Agencies
Advertising and marketing agencies also recognize that ChatGPT is likely to bring big changes. Brimmer has spent an entire day with Ally’s agency, Anomaly, poking and prodding ChatGPT to see what it can do. She thinks the smart firms in the business will adapt.
There’s already a lot of change going on in the relationships between large banking institutions and their agencies, Brimmer says. Some institutions are taking functions inside that used to be farmed out to agencies or contractors. Not long ago, Ally’s pulled content under its own umbrella, for example. Other banking companies have created internal agencies.
ChatGPT will usher in more rethinking on marketing labor, especially as its output becomes more acceptable to marketing directors who always have to control expenses.
“A client might say, ‘I don’t need as many creative teams on my business and I’m not going to pay for that many creative teams. I’ll pay for one lead team. And then I want you to use ChatGPT to develop everything else,'” Brimmer says.
As smaller banks and credit unions grow, they might adopt ChatGPT to augment internal marketing staff, rather than tapping outside help, she says.
“Ultimately, everybody’s going to have to get smart on this, because you can’t get left behind.”
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