What Does a Chief AI Officer Look Like in the Marketing World?

What brands must consider when hiring for this role to stay competitive

Leaders from Glossier, Shopify, Mastercard and more will take the stage at Brandweek to share what strategies set them apart and how they incorporate the most valued emerging trends. Register to join us this September 23–26 in Phoenix, Arizona.

For all of the talk about the jobs AI is expected to replace (that’s 85 million, according to the World Economic Forum), it’s also expected to create some 97 million new roles by 2025.

And the buzziest of these new roles is the position overseeing it all: the Chief AI Officer (CAIO).

Major brands like UnitedHealth, Deloitte and Intel have already tapped big names. Even the U.S. government is on board, announcing computer scientist and attorney Jonathan Mayer will serve as the Department of Justice’s first CAIO.

Marketing agencies need to get on the bandwagon too. Given the recent Under Armour controversy over allegedly reusing the work of others without proper credit in its new AI-powered commercial featuring boxer Anthony Joshua, brands must decide how they want to incorporate AI into the organization, especially marketing and creative services.

The music industry has demonstrated the power of a great mashup; AI-generated art has the potential to be the marketing version of this success, as long as the CAIO helps the organization establish rules of conduct and disclosure principles.

But what should the role look like? What does a CAIO do? Here are some of the key elements and responsibilities brands must consider in candidates for this role.

Serve as a liaison between departments

The ideal CAIO will collaborate with different departments in all the major functions of the company. That includes HR, marketing, sales and product development, because anytime there is a piece of content created, AI can help make it better and faster.

And, just as agencies have social media control rooms to cover key events in real time, there needs to be an equivalent for AI. The chief AI officer should be the point person connecting each key department to AI supply chains.

Marketing is currently the easiest way for AI tools to have an immediate impact. The CAIO should be building relationships with the marketing team first, because that’s where most of the internal and external-facing content is generated.

Next, they should look at HR for job descriptions and posting material to internal websites, employee manuals and onboarding materials, before finally examining enablement and sales materials.

Lead experimentation and deployment

The CAIO’s team should experiment with building partnerships and relationships with all the latest AI tools (there are thousands of them) before deciding where and how they should be deployed.

That experimentation needs someone who can prioritize, streamline and guide the process. There are many AI options out there, and an intelligent filtration system is essential to stay competitive.

Understand the intricacies of an organization

For this unique position, employers must prioritize a sense of curiosity from potential candidates. This includes a passion for innovation—someone who could have been a technologist if they’d chosen a different path.

This sense of imagination needs to be balanced with a practical approach. The successful candidate should be an “organizational psychologist,” someone who understands how organizations are run, how different groups interact with each other, and how they contribute to the greater good. They should also always keep the larger organizational mission in mind.

The one thing your potential CAIO doesn’t need is a knowledge of how large language models are written. They don’t need to know how neural networks are built; they just need to have enough understanding to allow them to be an applied scientist. This opens the position to more diverse and varied candidates.

Set standards for success

Following the onboarding process, establish the time it takes for basic, core functions within each department, then compare the overall quality of the output before and after AI deployment. This can develop into new thinking—is there a way to evaluate new output with and without the use of AI? More ideas, better ideas, faster ideas. These should be the priorities of a successful CAIO.

The bottom line

The CAIO role is about to become an essential component across all industries, but marketing is where the position can make the most immediate impact.

By defining what the job should look like, as well as the type of candidate you’re looking for, you can create a position that will allow you to stay competitive in this fast-moving space.

Very quickly this role will become obsolete. Eventually, there will be no distinction between a process and whether AI contributed; there will just be the process. Just like we no longer use www in front of a website address, we won’t have to have someone designated as CAIO. But for the time being, we need an insurgent and a champion and very quickly, we won’t.