Web Summit 2023: How Brands Can Integrate AI to Make It Anticipatory, Not Reactive

Qualcomm CMO Don McGuire and Code and Theory's Dan Gardner on AI applications for brands and agencies

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LISBON, Portugal –– On Web Summit’s PandaConf stage, Qualcomm chief marketing officer Don McGuire and Code and Theory CEO Dan Gardner spoke with Adweek about introducing AI to the marketing organization.

Opening with a video summarizing Qualcomm’s future-looking AI applications, which include seamlessly scheduling a day out with a friend, consumer product design and innovation, and home renovations, the brand and agency leaders acknowledged that the AI business is still nascent, but that its potential future applications are vast.

“We’re not even touching the surface of what can be done,” Gardner said. Until now, AI’s limited applications made it easier for people to complete simple tasks, he noted. Gardner’s agency, the Stagwell-owned digital transformation company, is working with Qualcomm and its other clients to take the technology from “prompted and reactive” to anticipatory.

“AI has gone from a prompted sort of tool to being more of a personalized and anticipatory tool. So, it’s making suggestions proactively based on what it knows about you … what you’ve allowed it to know about you and your behaviors,” said McGuire.

We’re one of the largest companies actually developing and commercializing the technology that’s going to enable all this wonderful usefulness.

––Don McGuire, CMO, Qualcomm

Readying the marketing org

Future-forward applications are one thing, but making use of Qualcomm’s own technology is another. The brand embraced what McGuire called a “duality approach,” in which he can apply Qualcomm’s products to solve challenges inside its own marketing organization. McGuire will effectively become his own proof of concept as he simultaneously markets Qualcomm’s AI solutions.

“On the one hand, we’re one of the largest companies actually developing and commercializing the technology that’s going to enable all this wonderful usefulness. On the other side, I’m the CMO of a large company, and I’m starting to deploy the tools,” he said.

Qualcomm’s AI readiness infrastructure includes its agency partnerships, like the one it shares with Code and Theory, plus active partnerships with vendors like Midjourney and Adobe Firefly.

Even with partnerships in place, Qualcomm appointed a steering committee to prepare for AI adoption inside the marketing organization. Lawyers and key stakeholders evaluate an AI model’s training, how Qualcomm should store AI datasets, what information the AI relies on to deliver outputs, and where Qualcomm should share the technology with its employees.

“Not all AI can go in the public cloud,” McGuire said.

Instead, he anticipates AI adoption and storage will become hybrid. AI can run on a consumer’s device, on-premise within company technology infrastructure or in the cloud.

The Code and Theory team, for its part, is amplifying AI’s presence inside Qualcomm, beginning with developer community relations. Gardner foresees developer communities getting curious about what pervasive AI applications mean for their own businesses. Now, his agency is effectively Qualcomm’s community platform, anticipating developer and creator needs.

Key takeaways

Normalizing change: Both McGuire and Gardner expect AI applications will supplement creative services, not replace creativity. Gardner compared AI’s rise to when computers rendered typewriters obsolete, or when digital photography eliminated the need for darkrooms.

“I do not define creativity as a skill, and I think certain skillsets will be automated or the tools will get so good, it will make it easier and in a way democratize the ability to do things. This is nothing new to the creative industry,” said Gardner.

Producing more: Contending with what McGuire described as a “two-hour news cycle” poses a challenge for Qualcomm. McGuire’s marketing organization must produce more content, quicker and with too few resources. By integrating AI tools and simultaneously leaning on its external agency partners and their tools, he expects his organization will meet those goals.

Introducing the agency SaaS stack: Agency technology stacks are growing, introducing new revenue streams and alleviating client burden by allowing them to license technology solutions, instead of build their own. Stagwell-owned comms firm Allison handles Qualcomm’s public relations, and uses its own technology to vet press releases for quality.

“It will tell me whether or not it’s hitting the mark with the audience that it’s intended for,” McGuire said, adding, “I don’t need to bring that tool in house, [and] I don’t need to invest in that tool. They’ve already built that tool.”

More than marketing: Now that marketing technology solutions are becoming more advanced and crucial to company operations, Gardner’s agency is interacting with fewer marketing leads. The leader and his team now spend the same amount of time working with chief marketing officers, chief technology officers and chief information officers.

Watch Adweek’s full interview with McGuire and Gardner below.

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