Digital agency Dept has launched an artificial intelligence (AI) practice that it expects to drive 10% of its revenue by 2025.
The AI practice will be staffed by 40 data scientists and engineers and draw on the expertise of 400 of Dept’s existing creative, media, engineering and design staff across the world. Dept employs roughly 4,000 staff worldwide.
The agency said it has been integrating AI technology into its internal practices and client work for the past six years.
It claims that AI enabled 30% of its revenue in 2022, which it calculated based on the revenue that came from work which is reliant on AI tools that it has developed or integrated.
Dept said the majority of the AI-oriented work it has done for clients thus far has formed part of a larger brief. For example, it developed an AR experience for EBay’s MCM Comic Con campaign that included generative AI collectible cards. It used AI to deliver personalisation at scale for Just Eat Takeaway and to analyze data more effectively for Philips.
A small number of clients have engaged Dept solely for machine learning operations (ML Ops) or AI experiences, including MindValley, Seacor and Hume. Dept also created a ML hand tracking system to teach the American sign language alphabet for client American Society for Deaf Children.
“Our deep experience and expertise over the past years is what sets us apart from the competition, who are by and large in an experimentation phase,” Dimi Albers, global CEO of Dept, told Campaign US.
Albers said the launch of a dedicated AI practice comes at a pivotal time for the technology following the rollout of OpenAI’s ChatGPT in November and subsequent chatbot investments from Microsoft and Google.
“This is now more relevant than ever as with the launch of ChatGPT, AI has nestled itself onto the board agenda of every brand or organization,” he said.
The company expects its AI practice to drive 10% of its revenue and power 80% of its work by 2025.
Isabel Perry, VP of emerging technology at Dept, said clients are “eager to leverage AI but are often daunted by the complex questions surrounding design, ethics and operations.”
Clients are specifically asking for help using AI to drive efficiencies amid a challenging macroeconomic environment, Albers said. Other common requests include using AI to surface customer experience insights or to increase the life-time value of a customer by anticipating their next purchase.
While major tech and advertising firms have laid out plans to use AI to reduce costs in recent weeks, Albers said he expects Dept’s AI bet to “create more jobs rather than reduce them.”
“AI will impact the jobs that we do and how we do them, but we are confident it will help our company continue growing incredibly quickly,” he said. “In the long-term, AI won’t replace people, but people who use AI will.”
He said the new AI practice will offer training and skills development so the full breadth of the agency can tap into the opportunities of AI, not just its data scientists and engineers.
“We believe AI should not be seen as a thing in itself but always as an integral part of how to improve part of the customer and company journey,” said Albers.
“The inflection point we’re seeing at this moment in time is largely being driven by the fact that the power of AI is no longer exclusively within the hands of data scientists and engineers, but anyone with a sense of curiosity and creativity.”