February 10, 2023

The future of AI-drive creative: How Foreplay helps brands build winning ad workflows

The future of AI-drive creative: How Foreplay helps brands build winning ad workflows

From DTC brands to B2B SaaS, AI is rapidly changing the way businesses operate.

That’s been the experience for Zachary Murray. Zach is the Founder of Foreplay, a creative strategy tool for effortlessly building swipe files and ad briefs.

He’s also the Creative Director / Growth Designer at Triple Whale, the “eCom operating system” putting all of your Shopify data — from creative to attribution to finance — on one intuitive dashboard. 

Zach recently sat down with the Windsor team to dive into his two unique viewpoints of the industry and where they tell him AI-powered solutions are going next. We dive deep on:

  1. How AI tools create valuable touchpoints for founder-led brands
  2. Zach’s predictions for the growth of AI across SaaS and DTC 
  3. Real-time AI use cases: A/B testing and feedback cycles
“Everyone gets personal notes from DTC brands nowadays. But if you can use Windsor to personalize and turn it into a video, it’s so much more engaging.” 

How AI tools create valuable touchpoints for founder-led brands

We’re seeing more and more founder- and creator-led brands pick up steam in eCommerce. 

That checks out, considering these brands wield a specific advantage: They already have a face of the company who can directly connect with consumers. 

For instance, Zach actually discovered Windsor when Pranay — our founder, CEO, and de facto face of the business — demoed our videos at an event Zach attended. Knowing this, Zach highlights AI-powered video as a highly beneficial tool for these people-oriented companies since they create personable, unique, and memorable touchpoints. 

In his words, building brand affinity comes down to asking: 

  1. Where are the key touchpoints where customers want to hear from us? 
  2. Whom do they want to hear from? 

Luckily, video can get the job done on both fronts. 

  1. Applicable at different stages — Whether you’re sending a thank-you email or teaching a customer how to use the product they just bought, a welcoming or helpful video is “the best thing you could send,” says Zach. Just tack it onto your order updates. 
  2. “Face-to-face” engagement with the founder — Getting a personalized video message from a brand’s founder is that much more engaging and unique than a boilerplate email. It also simulates a face-to-face conversation, building camaraderie. 

Enter Windsor: the nexus of AI and personalized video

Personalized video can also drive notable metric gains — namely performance metrics and retention — for brands that utilize it. 

1. Boost performance metrics

If your brand has a founder story that customers could strongly resonate with, leveraging a format that effectively captures that story (personalized video) will only increase the chances of that resonance and connection happening. 

That in turn improves performance across the board. 

At the same time, Zach cautions that this will vary from category to category. 

For instance, if you’re selling a sterile pharmaceutical product, the customer likely has little-to-no interest in hearing your founder’s life story. 

2. Drive likelihood of retention

When it comes to retention, Zach emphasizes trends in consumer behavior toward consistently supporting small, local businesses. Here, brand loyalty is absolutely key. 

Try building personalized video into your retention efforts, such as by sending a video of your founder saying “We miss you” to a user who hasn’t purchased in a month or two. 

You could strike a chord and play off that buyer’s intention to repeat-purchase from and support truly independent brands. 

“Founder- and creator-led brands overlap in how they try to communicate with users. AI-powered video is just one really cool touchpoint and way to do that.”

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Triple Whale’s real-time entrance into the AI ecosystem

In the last six months alone, we’ve seen massive shifts in AI in terms of what is publicly available for founders and developers to build into apps. 

For Zach, this indicates that AI will keep growing into a highly commoditized force. 

AI will become a core feature — not the product itself

Within the SaaS industry, Zach anticipates AI will touch some aspect of every product and company. Those that neglect it will likely fall behind. 

He also emphasizes that founders won’t be pushing AI the way they are today. 

In his words: “Right now, people think AI is the whole point of the company. They build themselves as ‘AI companies,’ but it’s really just GPT-3 with a new skin on it.” 

Instead, AI will power key features for most SaaS products. 

For instance, at Triple Whale, they’re currently exploring how AI can: 

  1. Analyze everything in a brand’s ecosystem, from email to SMS
  2. Build rules, predictive outcomes, and suggestions for supercharging their store

Triple Whale’s existing product suite already offers as much data-informed clarity as it can to their clients. Now, it’s all about enabling machines to take things a step further. 

AI can automate & elevate what already exists in DTC

As for DTC tech, Zach imagines how companies will leverage AI to, for instance, enhance or automate the most popular options on the Shopify app store. 

Some immediate categories that come to mind include: 

  • AI-powered product recommendations
  • Guiding customers through leaving feedback via review apps

Ultimately, in both SaaS and DTC, Zach can picture AI enabling jobs that need to be done within existing software, as opposed to creating brand new software around AI. 

“I think we’ll see that any tool that’s not enabled by AI is just going to seem a little bit further behind everyone else.” 

Real-time AI use cases: A/B testing and feedback cycles

As much as creative and ad strategy are guided by metrics, they also require human originality and an understanding of psychology to be effective. 

In that sense, Zach sees AI impacting creative in two unique ways.

1. AI predictions will likely never outpace great testing

For evaluating creative, Zach can’t see himself abandoning reliable A/B testing. 

After all, an AI could generate decent predictive metrics and performance recommendations after being fed data on a specific asset. That said, if you’ve already gone through the subjective process of grading those assets, why not just go the extra step to test them? 

In Zach’s experience, the ultimate ROI on working for that AI-generated metric may never match the return on basic creativity, iteration, and testing. 

2. AI could accelerate human learnings & feedback loops

However, Zach highlights AI’s potential to accelerate testing and shorten feedback cycles. 

Let’s say you’ve just evaluated 10 creative assets with standard A/B testing, and it seems like one is outperforming all the rest. 

An AI could rapidly analyze every metric associated with that asset to see where it’s also performing well on a more granular level. 

From there, you can infer that that piece of creative is abnormally successful due to a certain metric and leverage that as a new bar for quality. 

Again, once you’re on the right track, AI can come into play to take results one step further. 

“I find it hard to believe that AI and predictive metrics will ever outpace the practice of just spending the money to test your ads.”

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