May 7, 2024 - Technology

Exclusive: Adobe alum takes AI-enabled marketing beyond the prompt

Illustration of a billboard shaped like binary code numbers.

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Automating entire marketing campaigns — from crafting a message to targeting an audience — is the latest feat promised by generative AI, as a startup called Typeface launches a new all-in-one service shared first with Axios.

Why it matters: Marketing has emerged as one of the key early business uses for generative AI, alongside coding and customer support.

Driving the news: Typeface, led by former Adobe chief technology officer Abhay Parasnis, plans on Wednesday to announce Typeface Arc.

  • The software-as-a-service tool is capable of using a company's existing data, images, brand style and analytics to build marketing campaigns for new and existing products, including email outreach, blogs and social media posts.
  • Arc can monitor how its campaigns are performing, offering up suggestions on which messages are landing with which audiences and suggesting tweaks that could be more effective.

The new product isn't cheap, and it isn't for everyone. It is aimed specifically at large businesses that can afford at least several hundred thousand dollars, or even millions of dollars, for a tool to run large campaigns.

Between the lines: The idea behind Arc is that AI tools can do a lot more when they're fed enough custom data and built directly into a specific workflow, instead of always starting with a prompt in a chat window.

  • "That gets pretty old pretty quickly," Parasnis told Axios.

As Parasnis sees it, phase one of the generative AI revolution was about broad tools like ChatGPT that could impressively answer a wide range of queries.

  • The next phase will feature tools designed for specific roles and functions. "The second chapter is going to be very deep and narrow," he said.

He also rejects as "absurd" the idea that workers of the future are going to have to be experts at prompt engineering to get chatbots to spit out a desired result. "These AI models should get smart enough to learn how we work," he said.

The big picture: Marketers have flocked to generative AI, in part because the technology is really good at translating content from one format to another.

  • Marketers are constantly reworking assets like photos, product specs and promotional text to suit specific media and audiences — and that sort of content transformation is one of generative AI's strengths.
  • AI is also good at virtual photo shoots, allowing marketers to present a product against various backgrounds without having to physically create those scenes.

Yes, but: Much of the work is on complicated workflows and systems, Parasnis said, noting that globally companies spend about $35 billion on software for content each year and more than $100 billion for services.

  • "That just tells you it is still a little bit in the Dark Ages," he said.

Zoom out: Parasnis left Adobe at the end of 2021 and launched Typeface two years ago, just before tools like ChatGPT and Stable Diffusion captured popular attention.

  • Parasnis said he was looking to see if generative AI could provide "a step function change in how companies can tell their stories in their own voice."

Arc builds on an earlier product, Typeface Hub, that focused on creating personalized marketing assets that combined text and images.

  • Typeface's existing customers include one of the world's largest beverage companies, a giant global electronics firm and a large insurer, among other Fortune 500 companies.
  • As of last year, the company had raised $165 million, including a $100 million Series B round that valued the company at $1 billion, with a roster of investors that includes companies like Salesforce, Google and Microsoft.
  • Those companies aren't just passive investors, Parasnis said. They're integrating their data and product offerings with Typeface — in some cases, helping sell the service in conjunction with their own tools.

What's next: Parasnis believes the kind of transformation AI is enabling in marketing can occur in other sectors as generative AI tools improve.

  • Already, Typeface is looking to expand Arc into other areas including worker training, internal communications and employee recruitment.
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