It’s the time of year when we look back to look ahead and one practitioner primed to do that is Jessica Alter, co-founder of Tech for Campaigns, which provides in-kind digital consulting services to candidates in down-ballot races.
This year the group focused on the Virginia House and Senate, where it had 36 campaigns between the two. The group ran an email program that Alter said raised $500,000, while simultaneously testing to see whether solely human-written or AI-assisted email copy was more effective.
The results of that research are expected early next year, but the experience gave Alter food for thought. Looking ahead to 2024, she said the biggest threat facing campaigns from generative AI tools isn’t deep fake videos, which frequently generate headlines as a potentially destructive force for campaigns.
“What is the easiest to make look good, particularly at scale, and what is the hardest to detect? It’s not video. It’s text,” said Alter. “I think the media is far too concerned about video deep fakes. If you use AI, it’s hard to make [videos] look good. … People can see them [as fake] pretty quickly.”
Alter isn’t the only practitioner sounding the alarm on the potential disruption that could be caused what by AI content. Michael Kaiser, president and CEO of Defending Digital Campaigns (DDC), also flagged this as a concern to C&E.
That said, Alter knows that many (maybe most) campaigns next year will turn to generative AI tools like ChatGPT, Claude, Bard, or now Gemini to help with things like copy writing for email and text, or producing images.
Her group isn’t ready to recommend one tool over another, and Alter cautions campaigns against investing too heavily in using generative AI at all, particularly without close human monitoring: “It’s like the best intern you ever had, but you still check your intern’s work, right?”
Instead, she advises down-ballot campaigns to explore running a micro-influencer program, which her group did in Virginia this year.
“Influencer content is giving us a much higher [Black, Indigenous, People of Color] signup versus traditional GOTV content. It’s something that we’re going to continue to push in 2024,” she said.
One thing that should concern every digital practitioner heading into the presidential year: the pace at which AI tools are developing is faster than anyone can reasonably keep up with.
“AI is moving so fast, and this is coming from me who has spent my career in tech. It’s moving faster than any other revolution in tech I’ve ever seen,” Alter said. “It’s way faster than mobile. The state of progress is so fast that I think that’s going to be a place where we really need to both help people understand what’s possible and what’s not possible, and also help make sure there’s safeguards in place.”