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AI can help brands be more “sensitive” – but is that really what we want?

Ok Listen. “Cancel culture” is a phantom train.

Bad brands and bros being called out for their action is accountability, not cancellation. The term “cancel culture” is a crafty invention by crisis PR teams aimed at undermining legitimate calls for social reform. Also, the idea that anyone gets given a one-way ticket to a permanent cancel is a total joke; very few of these bums truly get chased off the internet.

That being said – 

Corporations, naturally, dread the thought of a cultural backlash. Recall Pepsi’s infamous wreck of the Kendall Jenner ad? It is a prime example of an advertising derailment. Traditionally, brands have employed PR firms armed with psychological and sociological tools to forecast and avoid such disastrous public reactions to their campaigns. Before now, that PR machine was cranked by hand. Now, we have AI.

Radical Customer Experience (RCX) is an example of one of these new AI PR firms. RCX swoops in like an AI hero, rescuing companies from potential PR train wrecks before they happen.

RCX touts that its AI-powered tool, called Radical Human Intelligence or RadicalHI, can predict where a brand’s message might derail, generating a “sensitivity score” to help them avoid fiery crashes of public discontent. (Curious minds can examine their patent-pending methods on their website, which essentially updates traditional methods like focus groups with a sleek, AI-driven analysis.)

This of course is a good idea. Avoiding PR train wrecks is generally a good thing. And RadicalHI seems a few steps ahead of the AI-in-PR game. But, I have a question for RadicalHI and any other firm moving toward AI analysis:

What about LLMs tendency to Pollyanna everything? What do I mean by “pollyanna?” It’s evident that LLMs, although they claim to be trained (legally or not) on novels, or poetry, or the most experimental fiction of our time, the product LLM offers tends to only sound like long-form corporate content. 

Let’s ask Chat-GPT4 to edit some examples written by humans to demonstrate what I mean.


Please rewrite this sentence “18-year NBA veteran Lowry got yeeted by Hartenstein well into next week during the slow-as-a-snail 3rd quarter of the game, after Embiid limped to the locker room minutes earlier.”



please rewrite this sentence: “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”


Chat-GPT4 by OpenAi

Let’s do another type of test. Right now, construct a sentence with these 3 words from Random Word Generator.com:




Ok, got your sentence?

Let’s see what ChatGPT writes.


please write a sentence containing these three words: pile eavesdrop grandfather


Curious about the tales being told, I decided to eavesdrop on my grandfather as he sat by the pile of old family albums, recounting stories from his youth.

Did your sentence contained the concept of eavesdropping on the grandfather? I pictured a pile of leaves, but I definitely used the same concept of eavesdropping on the grandfather, as opposed to the grandfather being the one easedropping. It’s the most common scenario our brains would come up with. And that’s how LLMs work, too. They predict the most common outputs.

In another example, let’s ask Chat-GPT to write a tweet like this one from the Steak-Umm account:

“why are so many young people flocking to brands on social media for love, guidance, and attention? I’ll tell you why. they’re isolated from real communities, working service jobs they hate while barely making ends meat, and are living w/ unchecked personal/mental health problems”


please write a tweet about why so many young people flock to brands on social media for love, guidance and attention


We’ve lost the sincerity and the sense of a real human voice. (We’re also missing the quirky fun of Steak-Umms tendency to put in “meat” for any of that word’s homophones, but LLM fans say with a proper prompt we may be able to coax similar quirkiness.) 

LLMs love to hover around this common output. It’s as if the LLM train stops only in Pleasantville, a mythical place of overly sanitized, idyllic commercial content. Any content writer on the interwebz can spot the watered-down corporate-speak. Do we want the ads that drive the web to steer clear of the gritty realities of the human experience? What kind of social engineering are we willing to let pass? My concern is it may sculpt us all into the ideal Live, Love, Laugh consumers corporations crave.

Consider the aftermath of Pepsi’s misstep. It likely made many reconsider their brand loyalty—a healthy outcome for consumer consciousness. RadicalHI is a dream tool for brands wanting to avoid such blunders, and indeed there is a real need for it. We would rather have woke brands than, well, what we currently have. 

But looking ahead I can’t help but wonder if PR companies’ reliance on algorithms might in the end derail brands, keeping them from real human interaction with consumers. Indeed it is possible to take a stand and still keep your customers. The SteakUmmms account is a brilliant example of how brands can still show their quirky human side without losing connection with their fans. That account is far more engaging than any algorithmically generated, Norman Rockwell-esque automated mouthpiece could ever be.

We’re all aboard this AI train, whether or not we bought tickets. But – we don’t have to ride silently along. We can expect brands to be creatively bold *and* considerate. We can expect them to respect our vibrant, chaotic human lives. Viva la mess.