Old dog or master? Mixed messages from Marketing Live.

“It's like trying to get an old dog to get up off the sofa”

That was one of the more memorable quotes from my two days at Google Marketing Live.

I am a fan of Becky Hill. It would be an understatement to say that I was impressed by her vocals when I heard them live for the first time on Tuesday night at the Convention Centre in Dublin.

Sadly, she was clearly less impressed with the lack of movement shown by the 600 Marketing Live attendees standing in front of her as she belted out her classics.

I’m sorry to say that we were the old dog in her analogy.

Meanwhile, the rest of the content from the two-day event was the expected AI fest… And some of the updates promise to be very useful.

The demo of Project Astra “our vision for an AI agent that can see, hear, remember and converse naturally in real time” would have been as gobsmacking as any of the AI advances seen yet, if we hadn’t been spoiled by two years of sailing into the future after OpenAI first loosed the catapult.

On the marketing side, the rollout of AI overviews in search results (and the ads set to start serving within them) was big news. There were also some useful PMax updates – not least bidding for gross profit – and the promise of more help on privacy compliance and the use of first party data.

But these announcements were punctuated by shoehorned reassurances that ‘the marketer’s creativity, ingenuity and strategic insights are still essential’ / ‘we are in control’ / ‘the human is the master’…

Wyclef Jean’s segment in Wednesday morning’s keynote was one of those punctuation marks.

We watched him wrestle with Google’s Music AI Sandbox, creating a track live on stage by setting the various text prompts for updating each of its four or five iterations, which did not improve, and were – to be polite – underwhelming. (I’m sorry Wyclef. The output was a lot more impressive last time I saw you on stage – a world ago… when you were Becky Hill’s age, in fact).

When the host wrapped up the segment, declaring it a great showcase of how a partnership with AI can produce great things with human creativity at its centre, the message fell as flat as the music.


It was when Google had their mini ‘fireside’ panel discussion with three case study-friendly clients (a segment that normally rings oddly artificial) that we saw a more honest and transparent indication of what the AI wave might mean for marketers.

One of the panel told us (sounding like she regretted embarking on the sentence halfway through it) that she and her team used to know exactly what was working, and how much to put into each channel, but now “with PMax, I don’t know where it’s performing… and I accept that.”

Another panellist, in response to the question of what she would have done differently two years ago had she anticipated the coming AI wave… said she would have hired differently, favouring “a different sort of marketer” given the new impact of AI on the role.

While she didn’t seem to realise what that might mean to a lot of people in the room she was addressing, I’m pretty sure many of the 600 faces became a little more stony at that point.

But it’s the truth.

And we won’t benefit from hiding from it, or making unsubstantiated declarations about our unassailable advantages over AI.

Are we the master, or are we the old dog?

Maybe Google is trying to reassure itself as much as us of the answer to that question.

But the only reasonable answer at this point is to watch this space – and watch it very carefully… See what new tricks we can learn.

Share this post

Lastest Posts

Old dog or master? Mixed messages from Marketing Live.

“It’s like trying to get an old dog to get up off the sofa” That…

Google Ads Updates - Q1 2024 Roundup

No slowdown in the pace of change with Google Ads updates in Q1 2024… Here’s…