The emergence of ChatGPT in late-2022 has raised the stakes for marketing students and professionals. In this context, the emlyon MSc in Digital Marketing & Data Science has rapidly responded and adapted its teaching accordingly. Three major figures in the program's content and delivery share their thoughts on how this phenomenon has moved the goalposts and how best this burning issue should be tackled.

In the words of Stéphane Bazan (CEO of TomKeen and Director of the MSc in DMDS at emlyon), among the messages conveyed by the program are “responsibility, respect, and an exigence of quality”. As he goes on to say, “quality content remains the weapon of choice in digital marketing”. It is against this backdrop and the rise of Chat GPT above all that the school has had to find an immediate response to this new trend and fashion its teaching accordingly. Evaluating written work from students using the tool to find content has also had to be reviewed, as is the case for any school or higher education institution. Generative AI would appear to be here to stay, so how best to advise students and future marketing professionals on its correct use?

Ask the right questions

The current boom in Generative AI has seen an immediate shift in processes and organizations within companies – content can be synthesized far more quickly, and consumers can, in turn, find content more quickly when going in search of products and services or simply looking for information. This, though, does not guarantee 100% accuracy. Clément Levallois (co-founder of the MSc DMDS) strikes a cautionary note: “We've incorporated these tools very quickly into the course and our teaching approach, but let's not kid ourselves into thinking they are omniscient. They should be acknowledged and used as agents, and students must learn how best to use them. To get the right answers from ChatGPT et al., you must learn to ask the right questions.”

Make responsible use

One of the reasons for the unsettling impact of AI on marketing has been the experimental way in which it arrived, as MSc DMDS senior lecturer and AI Ethics researcher Laurynas Adomaitis remarks: “It has been surprising that OpenAI has made ChatGPT accessible to everyone. They opened it up to the public to experiment without foreshadowing certain ethical concerns. However, the most interesting part of it remains what use cases people will find for generative AI.” Recognizing the ethical questions surrounding this technology, Laurynas has incorporated a module into the course that examines how leading companies like OpenAI and DeepMind address ethical concerns in their development and deployment practices.

Clément Levallois has considered what the existing tools can do and where their limitations lie, including in sound, image, and film searches. As Clément says, AI should be considered a moving target in constant evolution but something to acknowledge rather than viewed merely as a threat. It is for this reason that he insists on a Socratic approach, whereby students should try to get the best out of such tools by refining their answers with a continuous flow of questions rather than by considering them as oracles. Stéphane Bazan has also gone down the route of investigating the potential of such tools, advising students on intelligent usage, but also insisting on the notion of responsibility: “I adapt my content to allow them to have a critical point of view and to understand their role as future marketers to later provide audiences with quality content, positive messages, and (more importantly) responsible choices.”

Adopt a critical stance

Despite the furore in some parts, the arrival of these new predictive technologies has been fully embraced by emlyon. AI should not be, as Clément puts it, viewed as doing the work for us but rather a new contribution to ways of working and doing business. ChatGPT is one of the dozens of models, with new ones sure to emerge, focussing on image and sound content, so the moving target of which he speaks will only continue to evolve. For Stéphane, there is no replacement for human intuition and imagination, casting AI as an opportunity rather than an end in itself. For him, the implications of this for students are clear: “AI is a fascinating domain, but we're still far from replacing human creativity. Students should measure the impact of their future professional actions and make sure they keep control of them. I hope that they'll use these technological opportunities to improve the world we live in.”

Laurynas also echoes the prospect of further change and the need to remain wary whilst using the tools responsibly: “Generative AI has already changed marketing practices, and it will continue to do so. However, it is crucial to evaluate these transformations critically. It has happened in the past (and we learn from past mistakes) that technology hype has led to false conclusions. The ultimate goal is to maximize the potential of generative AI while remaining cognizant of its limitations.” Challenging times that emlyon is making an effort to turn into a golden learning opportunity.