Two executives from one of the largest independent marketing communications firms in the country were featured speakers during a discussion of artificial intelligence and its impact on the advertising industry at Niagara University on Nov. 6. The talk was presented as part of the Holzschuh College of Business Administration's Leadership Speaker Series.
Doug Bean, vice chairman and chief brand officer at Mower, started the discussion with a brief presentation about the agency, an employee-owned company with offices in New York City, Buffalo, Albany, Rochester, Syracuse, Chicago, Atlanta, Boston, Charlotte, and Cincinnati.
Erinn Steffen, Mower’s senior vice president, Insight, then shared the ways the agency was using AI and the pros and cons of doing so. She noted that agencies can use AI to become more efficient, but that they must also be aware of its limitations and the regulations around its use.
“Platforms are constantly evolving, laws are constantly evolving, what our clients are willing to let us do or not do, is constantly evolving,” she said.
AI can be a useful tool to help marketers, and others, access crucial information and subsume data, she said, but it also raises questions about ownership of content, data privacy, and bias and fairness.
“The models are all built off existing data, so there is implicit bias that’s being built into them, and there are implicit challenges that are being reflected in the responses that AI gives,” she said.
To demonstrate some of AI’s capabilities, Steffan gave the example of “The Last Revision Left,” a Halloween video the agency produced using AI to write and critique the script and compose the soundtrack.
Bean is responsible for the delivery of strategic and client services across nine offices at Mower, as well as directing the agency’s overall growth strategy. He has directed brand strategy and communications programs for numerous agency clients, including BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York, KeyBank, National Fuel, Northwest Bank, and Fisher-Price. A graduate of Kenyon College, Bean holds an M.A. from Dartmouth College and an MBA from the University at Buffalo. He is active in the Western New York community and serves on the boards of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, the Buffalo Niagara Partnership, the Darwin Martin House, and the UB School of Management.
Steffen has more than 20 years of experience understanding complex business problems and creating strategies to address business objectives. Her experience ranges from go-to-market strategy, branding and positioning to salesforce design and effectiveness, sales channel and strategy management. Client experience includes Cabarrus County CVB, Buffalo Niagara Partnership, Maid of the Mist, Explore & More, and Turning Stone. Prior to joining Mower, Steffen worked at American Express in various marketing and strategy roles, including product management of the Corporate Meetings Card and partnering with the Global Business Travel group. A graduate of The College of William and Mary, Steffen has an MBA from the University of Virginia.