Don’t Get Caught in the Slop


AI Slop: What it is and how can brands avoid it

We’re all well aware of the unwanted spam in our emails and the junk mail in our post boxes but there is a new kind of nuisance taking over…AI slop.

AI slop refers to the vast amounts of Artificial Intelligence (AI) generated content that clutters the web, mimicking human created material but serving little to no real user need - basically digital filler material. With more and more mainstream access to AI tools and generators, authentic material produced by professionals is being swapped out for generative content that offers little expertise, nuance or appeal.

So let’s explore the pitfalls of AI slop for brands…

An AI generated image for 'AI Slop: What it is and how can brands avoid it'

Firstly, why are we seeing brands using AI generated content?

Because it’s easier. It’s easier for businesses, small and large, to bypass the work of creating content. Time, resources and skills are needed to create engaging, curated content for audiences. In recent times, with the advancement of Large Language Models (LLM) and generative AI, we are seeing the increased usage of AI to bypass the work of creators like copywriters, editors and photographers to find emails filled with incoherent chat gpt paragraphs, uncanny valley ai imagery, captions on LinkedIn with no meaning, boring articles with no point of view, and searches with incorrect information. We’ve all experienced it, and the collective eye roll that comes with it.

This is not to say that with time and further development these issues won’t be improved, but currently the decline in internet usability is obvious. We have one of the largest companies in the world, Google, actively harming their search function (arguably the most successful online product ever produced), serving AI generated content rather than crawling the internet to find the most relevant results. This content is now unfortunately undermining the user experience by decreasing the integrity of a once reliable and relevant resource. An example of this is misleading content for a travel article mistakenly listing a food bank in Ottawa as a top tourist destination. The article has since been pulled by Microsoft.

So what does this mean for brands?

You need to respect the time and attention of your audience. For many brands, it is a labour intensive program to gain an audience and to nurture it. You must look after them and deliver high-quality material that they actually want, in the environment they want it. This doesn’t change because of the coming of age of AI material. You still must spend the time creating material that is true to your brand and true for your audience, regardless of the tool you use to create it. AI can be used to generate blog titles or liven up an instagram caption, but don’t fall into the trap of generating entire articles using AI that don’t add any value to your brand or to your audience. Your audience engages with you because you produce material that is engaging, aspirational, insightful, interesting, informative etc. Using AI to generate your content takes away the very reasons your audience enjoys your content. 

You can (and should) use AI tools, but spend time curating the material. AI can be a useful partner when used properly, and at present it is best placed as a companion tool to help maximise efficiency in certain tasks. Most of the programs you use will have come out with AI assist tools, and these should be explored and used to your advantage where possible; they might cut the time required to complete a task or offer a boost when you’re feeling creatively drained. But there should always be a person working with AI to get the best results - it’s not a set and forget type of tool.

Another way you can use AI is to create a series or a project, let people know that you’re exploring a new frontier of image and copy generation and have fun with it! Embrace it, explore the future and trial some new irresistible content that is not possible without an AI tool. Being upfront about your AI use, rather than trying to pull the wool over your audience’s eyes, will allow you to have fun and create in new ways that allow you to remain relevant and competitive.

But again, be careful. Only use AI if it aligns with your brand ethos. Many carbon neutral businesses will be aware of the large carbon intensive footprint every AI model query generates. The larger LLM and generative platforms use non-consensual exploitative scraping of creative works from copywriters, photographers, videographers, coders, etc to create materials with their for-profit businesses. To remain credible and authentic, think about your brand values before delving into the world of AI, just like you would with anything else. 

How a brand acts moving forward will be very telling, and the divide between ethical and non-ethical practices and values will continue to widen. Be smart about your use of generative tools, and above all else, respect your audience.

Note: The feature image for this article was created using Adobe Firefly and an Ai image generation tool. The image took 1-hour to produce after 95% of images produced during the process were unusable.

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