See more of the story

Digital marketing firm Voro is using ChatGPT, the popular new artificial intelligence program, to "supercharge" content creation for clients.

Before ChatGPT, content had been "incredibly expensive" to create — especially individualized content necessary for search engine visibility, said Chris Gauron, partner and CEO at the Minneapolis firm.

Voro has created an artificial intelligence-assisted, but human-edited, process that increases speed at the same time it lowers cost. Gauron likens it to an artisan bakery becoming a full bread factory.

ChatGPT's power and potential have fueled explosive growth, reaching 100 million users in just two months. Reports that it passed exams in four University of Minnesota law courses, at the Wharton School of Business and the exam to become a licensed physician have only heightened interest globally.

As digital marketers — and those in other fields — incorporate ChatGPT into their work, Voro partners Gauron and Matt O'Laughlin are among those also urging caution.

"We don't see this as a sentient human or synthetic human at this point," Gauron said. "It is just technology."

A call for Food and Drug Administration-style regulation, made in February on a Center for Humane Technology podcast, is "very intriguing," Gauron said.

"We are supportive of having conversations that lead to making technology, like ChatGPT, work for the humans it aims to serve," he said.

In the meantime, human-assisted AI could deliver more relevant online advertising to the benefit of consumers and brands, according to Andrew Eklund, founder and CEO of Ciceron, a digital marketing firm in St. Paul.

To that end, Eklund expects AI — with its power to sift through huge amounts of consumer data — to "dominate and automate" many marketing services.

"The data around doing that well has become so cumbersome and so large that it's almost as if AI is necessary to do it," Eklund said. "If a machine can do better, faster, cheaper something that hasn't been very well monetized to begin with, that's kind of a win for everybody."

Tools like ChatGPT and AI image generator MidJourney offer "inspiration with speed," Eklund said. They also boost "an underserved market for creative production, creative ideas from brands that probably didn't have the budget for it."

The economics also would favor allowing ChatGPT to write, for example, brief descriptions of items in a catalog featuring thousands of products, Eklund said. On another project, ChatGPT might stimulate new ideas even if he doesn't use a word it writes.

Eklund welcomes the new technology even as it disrupts and transforms his business and encourages clients to get on board.

"At some point, you hit this thing called good enough," Eklund said. "The savings are great enough that the output is good enough for the investment."

Improvements in advanced AI will lead to a greater ability to make "decisions that are more accurate, more appropriate, more human, more empathetic, more relevant," Eklund said. "And will take away from people's daily lives that which is truly unproductive. This could be a massive productivity boom."

Joe Redden, marketing analytics chair at the U's Carlson School of Management, admits he's been addicted to ChatGPT for weeks.

"In my lifetime, there's been three big inventions — the internet, smartphone and now this," Redden said. "Everything I can imagine I've been throwing in it, and I am absolutely overwhelmed with what all it can do. We're only scratching the surface."

AI tools are good for quickly, cheaply generating images or positioning statements for marketers to test, Redden said.

But Redden wouldn't trust AI models to produce written content or images a company needs to own or "a final version of anything."

"It's like having another smart person in the room that throws out some ideas," he said.

ChatGPT is so good at some elements of marketing analytics, using data to make marketing decisions, that Redden said it would change the way he teaches.

Redden now would have students use ChatGPT to analyze and interpret marketing data, an area where some struggle. Students — and marketers — instead could focus on generating business questions for ChatGPT to explore and deciding how to use its results in marketing efforts.

"Synthesizing information and themes, it's great at," Redden said. "If it's got to make judgments, it's not so good at that. … The human how-do-I-integrate-this-into-a-strategy, there will still be that layer we probably need."

Todd Nelson is a freelance writer in Lake Elmo. His email is