Digital Pharma East 2023 kicked off with its first workshop Monday afternoon, focusing on a topic that has become increasingly relevant in healthcare in the last year: AI.

Healthcare marketers have likely heard the buzz around generative AI tools like ChatGPT, and wondered whether the technology would make their creative and brand strategy work easier or better.

The uptake of the technology isn’t fully there yet: While a small portion of audience members present noted they occasionally use AI in their work already, the majority said they rarely do.

Still, generative AI will become an increasingly useful tool in healthcare marketing, speakers from GSW and Addison Whitney, both Syneos Health companies, argued Monday. 

Yet the workshop also unveiled some of generative AI’s limitations — and underscored why it will be crucial to maintain the human element (i.e. why AI probably won’t be replacing your job anytime soon).

Bryan Roman, EVP of creative technology at GSW, a Syneos Health company, kicked off the workshop by providing some historical context to AI as a “disruptor.” 

In modern history, there have been cycles marked by innovation and disruptions: the first wave in the late 1700s involving water power, textiles and iron; the second wave of rail systems and steel, to the third wave of chemicals and electricity. We’re all familiar with the fourth and fifth waves, which encompass electronics, software and the internet.

We’re now entering the sixth wave, which of course involves AI, robots and drones, as well as clean tech – what the speakers noted is a “precipice of change.”

“[The sixth wave] is based on the internet and built on social media — stuff we’ve created,” Roman explained. “This cycle is going to happen incredibly fast, and it’s going to be incredibly disruptive” — even more disruptive than the advent of the internet, he argued.

According to a recent Salesforce report, 49% of people surveyed across the U.S., U.K., Australia and India have used generative AI, with one-third of them using it daily. A large chunk of those “super users” are young, with 65% of users being millennials and Gen Z, and 72% of them employed, meaning they’re using the technology for work.

“People are dialing into this product and it’s not tapering off,” Roman said. “It’s only getting stronger. What does that mean? It means your competitors, colleagues, friends, clients – everyone is using AI.”

In other words, everyone needs to get on board, if they haven’t already. 

“There will be a clear divergence soon enough, and when we get to that point it’ll be clear what companies are leveraging this and which ones aren’t,” Roman added. “You don’t want to be left behind.”

Where that comes into play for healthcare marketers goes beyond using AI to schedule meetings or write emails.

The workshop honed in on two generative AI programs, including ChatGPT, which is an AI-powered chatbot that can produce billions of ways to answer questions or prompts. ChatGPT is typically used for analysis and research. Midjourney, meanwhile, turns your text or voice into images, including logos — and is used for content and visual creation.

AI can be used to “ignite creativity,” argued Jamie Cobb, SVP and creative director at Addison Whitney, a Syneos Health company. Cobb noted his creative team was using AI to open up new avenues of thinking for writers, and allowing designers to play with different color palettes and variations of ideas.

The speakers walked the audience through a scenario in which ChatGPT and Midjourney helped create a brand name, logo and tagline. By writing detailed prompts and tweaking them to get as specific as possible, they showed how ChatGPT can generate a brand name and logo for an oncology brand.

Plug ChatGPT-generated ideas about colors and designs (soft peach, gold, electric blue, radiant purple; paired with logo ideas of trees, kaleidoscopes and radiating waves) into Midjourney, and watch as it produces seemingly endless variations of logos.

Still, even as Midjourney generated a large number of images, Dave Dixon, associate creative director at Addison Whitney, conceded that it has its limitations.

“If any of my designers came to me with some of these [logo designs], I think we’d have to have some kind of conversation,” he joked.

In response to one audience member questioning the large amount of “bad content” that it appears generative AI produces, Dixon pointed to the human element needed when using the technology in the creative process.

“There’s job security for us for legal reasons, ethical reasons and creative reasons,” Dixon said. “We would never use these [AI-generated designs] as an actual logo to present to a client. But they can be an extra viewpoint — especially if you have a smaller team, or you’re in a creative rut. It can take away a creative block and be used as a springboard.”

“You’ll need to put in some work,” Cobb added, noting that with enough time spent tweaking and playing with AI, you can “get it 70 to 80% there.”

“What you put [into AI] is what you’re going to get out of it,” Cobb said. “We’re working with a toolbox, but we’re the ingredient.”

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