How AI is shaping the relationship between agencies and brands

As AI changes the way business gets done, it’s also changing the nature of the work agencies provide to businesses — for the better.

April 2, 2024
Tom, Chief Operating Officer, has over 20 years of experience leading strategy and business transformation.
4 min read
4 min read
April 2, 2024
Tom, Chief Operating Officer, has over 20 years of experience leading strategy and business transformation.

With AI now playing a pivotal role in everything from day-to-day tasks to insights-gathering to creative work, it’s little surprise that it’s evolving the partnership between agencies and brands, too. Increasingly, operations and procurement leaders at brands are seeking out agency partners who understand how to use AI to drive demonstrable results.

“Agencies need clear differentiation and agility to succeed. Multi-disciplinary agencies with a unique point of difference, such as AI expertise, will stand out amidst the competition,” says Tina Fegent, a leading marketing procurement expert who’s worked with brands as varied as Fujifilm and Ferrero. “Procurement has been slow to adopt AI but there is a growing interest in how agencies represent AI capabilities and charge for them.”

At Beyond, we’ve allocated over £1 million to scale our AI offering and are constantly trying to find new ways to maximise resources and improve operations with AI. Here, we share just some of the ways our work is being shaped by AI — and how that impacts the brands we serve.

Accelerated research and insights-gathering

One of the key aspects of any successful brand-agency relationship is a deep understanding of the company and the industry in which it operates. Traditionally, this involved hours of manual research and analysis, but AI can now help with gathering insights more quickly.

Alongside our use of AI search tools such as Perplexity, we recently developed an in-house AI tool called “SAGE” to help us collect and digest large amounts of research in a few simple steps. SAGE combs through online resources to build a detailed, insightful profile of a company. It provides a business overview, determines target audiences, builds personas, and shares customer journeys and pain points. This tool has accelerated our onboarding significantly, allowing us to quickly gather initial information for pitches and projects. 

Building our own tool has been crucial as it has allowed us to place greater trust in the output of the AI model and limit hallucinations. Hallucinations — when AI produces nonexistent, nonsensical, or incorrect results — are an issue with many popular large language models (LLMs), but developing our own tool has allowed us to reduce these inconsistencies and determine the LLM temperature. (“Temperature” refers to the setting that determines whether the output is more random and creative or deterministic and factual.) 

“AI allows agencies to gather much deeper insights from vast amounts of data, which is something all clients want.”

Tina Fegent

Marketing Procurement Expert

We are further exploring how AI can enhance our understanding of specific audiences. Because AI can quickly sift through mountains of consumer data, social media trends, and market research findings, it can extract valuable insights into consumer preferences and behaviours. Together with synthetic customers, these AI-driven insights can help us understand what people are looking for and can serve as the foundation for the products and services we build for brands.

Enhanced copywriting and media

AI tools can act as a springboard for creativity, sparking new ideas and assisting designers in creating compelling visuals. In these instances, AI functions as a sounding board or an assistant rather than a replacement for teamwork, offering ideas for further creative inspiration.

Our creative teams have found Midjourney and to be particularly useful with generating visuals for new concepts and moodboards. These tools also streamline the visual ideation process, allowing our designers to explore various concepts rapidly and efficiently. They can even generate personalised visuals based on a brand’s visual guidelines and audience demographics.

AI has also helped our teams with written content. ChatGPT and Gemini are two tools that we use to generate content where AI assistance would be helpful, particularly where our human writers’ time would be best spent focusing on ideation, refining, and polishing. This is particularly true when optimising copy for search engines — by leveraging natural language processing capabilities, AI algorithms can identify relevant keywords and phrases better than most people can, helping content to rank higher in search engine results pages. 

Looking ahead, there’s a lot more that can be done in this space. Something we hope to explore in the future is using AI to analyse past performance data. By identifying what worked well in previous efforts, we can integrate those successful creative elements into future work, making it even more effective.

“AI has a great role to play in agencies, especially in terms of creative presentations and ideation. From a procurement point of view, I believe AI will help with repetitive tasks, such as filling in RFPs. AI will definitely shake up the procurement process and that will make it better for everyone involved.”

Tina Fegent

Marketing Procurement Expert

Improved predictions

AI is increasingly a driving force behind predictive analytics. By analysing historical data, AI can anticipate customer needs and empower teams to make proactive, predictive decisions. In addition to more targeted, personalised, and effective customer experience efforts, having this kind of insight can also be invaluable for innovation and allow the brands we work with to capitalise on emerging opportunities and develop innovative products and services.

Predictive analytics also has a role to play in testing and refining creative concepts before launching full-scale campaigns. By simulating user interactions and predicting outcomes, AI can assess the potential impact of different creative elements, messaging variations, and design choices on consumer response. This means agencies like ours can iterate and optimise creative concepts based on data-driven insights, leading to more effective strategies and outcomes.

What this means for agencies and brands

In the evolving relationship between agencies and brands, AI serves as a powerful tool, offering opportunities to better understand audiences, enhance creativity, and deliver personalised customer experiences. 

But it’s not without its challenges. AI, at this stage, is still best used as a co-pilot or collaborator, not a replacement for human expertise. While AI can automate tasks and save time, human creativity, complexity, and originality remain irreplaceable. People are still accountable for the way AI is used responsibly and are responsible for leading the way — agencies need to prioritise data protection and ethical practices and ensure that consumer privacy rights are respected whenever AI is used. By establishing clear guidelines and safeguards, agencies can build trust with brands and consumers alike.

Where AI is able to be responsibly integrated into agency operations, we’re seeing agencies able to expand beyond their traditional functions to offer broader strategic and innovation services. As we look to the future of agency-brand relationships, the growing role of AI will only continue to inform the dynamic. Agencies that embrace this technology — and brands whose procurement teams vet for its use — are sure to gain a competitive edge.