Using Artificial Intelligence in Marketing? First, Ethics.

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Using Artificial Intelligence in Marketing? First, Ethics.

Reading Time: 5 minutes
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Artificial intelligence (AI) is changing almost every industry you can think of, including marketing. Powerful machine learning tools that can quickly process vast amounts of data can help marketing professionals automate actions for improved audience engagement, fine-tune audience targets, predict customer behavior, and make research-based decisions about how to allocate resources.

In addition, generative AI systems can create written and visual content in response to prompts to quickly meet a range of content marketing needs, from social media posts to blogs, emails, logos, and presentations. AI marketing tools can deliver many benefits, allowing companies to operate more efficiently while better predicting and satisfying customer needs. However, it is also essential to consider some potential ethical and legal concerns related to using AI in marketing campaigns. This blog will review some of the most central ethical issues and how to use AI responsibly in marketing campaigns.

Privacy and Security Concerns

By accessing vast amounts of data, AI marketing tools can be used to generate personalized content marketing that is highly targeted based on customer behavior and preferences. Customers are learning to expect this level of personalization, which can lead to positive customer experiences and relationships.

However, data breaches have become a common problem for organizations that collect and use customer data. For companies in the healthcare or medical sector, this could lead to both legal challenges, if a breach exposes personal medical information, and a damaged reputation and loss of trust.

Systems must be built to protect customers’ private data from exposure. It is also vital for businesses to be transparent about how they collect and use data and allow users to opt out of data collection.

Intellectual Property Concerns

Large natural language processing models like ChatGPT and AI art generators like Stability AI scour the internet, slurping up all available content to generate written and visual outputs. The use of works protected by copyright and trademark protections without consent from the creators contributes to ethical and legal concerns for the creators and users of these AI tools.

Likewise, feeding protected information into a large language model could make that information vulnerable to disclosure. For competitive biotech or biopharma companies that need to fiercely protect their proprietary information, using these tools could be problematic.

To avoid these types of concerns, companies can use generic or anonymous data rather than specific examples when interacting with AI content generation tools. Organizations should properly train employees about how to protect intellectual property when using AI. In addition, organizations can complete an opt-out form to prevent ChatGPT from using their data.


Large language models like ChatGPT often “hallucinate” — or make things up. While this feature may make the outputs they generate useful for creative brainstorming, the tendency to produce inaccurate, incomplete, misleading, or biased information has ethical implications for users. As the use of AI for content generation expands, so will the potential for inaccuracy and misinformation. Some experts predict that, by 2025 or 2030, AI-generated content could account for 99 percent or more of all information on the internet. Generative AI tools are good at creating persuasive content that sounds accurate but often is not. It may be even better at this than people. This helps anyone who intends to mislead readers and can also contribute to unintentional inaccuracies by people who use the tools without thorough fact-checking.

For science-driven companies, accuracy in marketing is already a top priority. Research and scientific evidence must back up marketing claims. While pseudoscience has long been known to creep into advertising, AI can take it to a new level. Therefore, it will be increasingly essential to vet sources, fact-check claims, and carefully scrutinize information accessed online, with an extra critical eye on content created via a generative artificial intelligence system.


Artificial intelligence systems will reflect the data they are trained on. If the underlying data carry social prejudices related to differences between genders, races, and ethnicities, the AI outputs will likely demonstrate those same biases. This can perpetuate discrimination and stereotyping and counter an organization’s efforts to promote diversity and inclusivity. Examples of bias in AI systems causing unintended consequences are prevalent.

To reduce the risk of bias in AI-assisted marketing campaigns, businesses should monitor their data inputs and consider how they may influence the outputs created. As much as possible, data sets used to train artificial intelligence systems should represent diverse demographics and multiple perspectives.


As helpful as technology can be, it often has an obscuring effect. Users may not realize that they are receiving and applying information from an AI platform that has been generated according to a specific set of rules. This lack of transparency can perpetuate the issues of bias and accuracy described above.

Therefore, businesses and organizations developing and using AI should build and develop these systems responsibly, follow clear guidelines, and communicate openly with stakeholders about how they use AI in marketing. Specifically, marketers can take care to:

  • Collect and use information appropriately. Only gather data that is necessary. Avoid asking for sensitive information, protecting yourself and your audience from privacy issues.
  • Be transparent about what you’re using data for.
  • Let the customer decide what to share. This lets them know that you value their privacy.
  • Explain what’s in it for them. Letting customers know the benefits they can experience in exchange for their data can help them understand your goals and establish trust.

Being proactive about transparency can go a long way to establishing and maintaining trust with customers and partners. It can also set you apart from competitors who are not as open about their use of customer data.

Job Displacement

Will AI replace marketers? With the ability to automate marketing decisions and tasks and create marketing content with generative AI systems, human workers could see their responsibilities shift.

As in other sectors, people will most likely use AI systems to complete tedious data analysis and integration tasks. Humans will still be better equipped to make decisions about implementing marketing strategies, engaging customers, building client relationships, and overseeing content creation.

Marketing strategists, writers, and designers can stay relevant by learning how to use available AI tools to enhance their abilities. Businesses will have to consider employee needs for continued training to build the confidence and skills that workers will need to leverage AI systems and avoid ethical and legal risks.

Proceed with Caution

AI, as a marketing tool, has the potential to simplify many tasks and improve overall efficiency. These tools can be transformative with the proper amount of scrutiny and caution. By remaining mindful of the ethical implications associated with AI, you can leverage its advantages while avoiding consequences that may not align with your values.

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About the Art

Cobalt’s Design Director Mark Miller used Adobe Photoshop’s built-in AI Firefly generator to create the organism-looking typography for this blog. “I wanted the finished art to have an organic science feel,” Mark explains. “But I also wanted it to be clear that the image was created using AI.” The final piece was the result of several iterations based on a series of carefully curated prompts.

As a strategic communications agency serving science- and R&D-driven organizations, we specialize in highly technical markets where complex ideas and information must be conveyed with clarity. Our team includes writers, designers, strategists and content architects, all working together to help you reach — and engage — your internal and external audiences.

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