Part 2: Pragmatic AI for Right Here, Right Now

May 17, 2024—Marketing leaders Tommi Marsans of Verizon Business Group and John McElhenney of shared an even deeper view of the latest ways companies are using AI to supercharge their marketing. 


February 23, 2024This informal Martech Chat covered the very timely topic of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in marketing with practical advice from two of today’s leading experts. Rich Herbst of Ascend Marketing moderated the session, which featured insights from Tommi Marsans, Associate Director Business Transformation, Marketing Decisioning Science for Verizon Business Group, and John McElhenney, Chief Marketing Officer,

Setting the Stage 

Although the long-term view of AI is packed with fascinating developments and potential, this session focused on the practical use of the tools that exist today and can be leveraged by businesses of all sizes, from large corporations to small and medium businesses, and even independent contractors. Our experts shared their experiences and views on use cases, applications and tools that marketers can and should use right now.

Featured Experts

Tommi Marsans headshot

Tommi Marsans

Associate Director Business Transformation

Verizon Business Group

John McElhenney headshot

John McElhenney

Chief Marketing Officer

Meet the Experts

Tommi Marsans

Associate Director Business Transformation, Marketing Decisioning Science, Verizon Business Group

Tommi has more than 30 years of experience in marketing technology, which she has focused on blending technology with strategic goals. As the leader of AI Decisioning at Verizon Business Group, she has led the way in creating innovative solutions that adapt to customer needs across different channels. Tommi’s creative use of technology has earned her several prestigious awards. Outside of work, she enjoys Sci-Fi, especially Marvel and Star Wars, and has a large collection of movie memorabilia. 

John McElhenney

Chief Marketing Officer,

John is a marketing technology expert and writer and brings a wealth of experience, including leading the first launch of, which quickly became the world’s biggest ecommerce business. He is Chief Marketing Officer of, which funds various startups in the AI and entertainment spaces. Their initial project,, is a dedicated team focused on enabling AI for marketing and sales using currently available tools. Outside of work, John’s band, Buzzie, is gearing up to release their fifth album in March. 

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Hitting the High Points: Key Expert Takeaways

What AI Is…and Is Not 

Tommi explains that at its core, AI is an approach to solving a problem rather than a specific tool. It all starts with the problem statement. A problem can have thousands, if not more, outcomes, and the key is finding the best one for the goal. For example, there are a huge number of ways that could lead to a goal of delivering a personalized, 1:1 marketing experience to drive a customer to take an action. The first step is to determine where the AI should be applied, which can be any point along the journey, from a microjourney to nurturing, awareness, and renewal. The application then determines which toolset is best.  

Getting Started with AI 

If you’re new to AI, Tommi recommends starting with ChatGPT. Despite constraints on using certain AI tools at Verizon, she shared her experience with using ChatGPT for tasks such as creating personal social media content, which is a simple way for anyone to learn how to use AI. It might take a couple of prompts to get what you want, but the more you explore it, the faster you’ll learn.  

Open AI and ChatGPT is where John started interacting with AI. A great first use of ChatGPT is to rewrite your resume, such as pasting bullets or other parts of your resume along with the direction to rewrite them using industry terms or any other variation. By doing this a few times, you’ll learn its capabilities and get better at creating prompts that get good results.  

John encourages people to start using several of his favorite tools, engage in conversations to learn what their strengths and weakness are and how they might be useful for you: 

  • Perplexity 
  • ChatGPT and all of the GPTs 
  • Gemini, which has the entire internet as its Large Language Model (LLM) 

Prompts are Everything 

Regardless of the tool, both experts agree that it’s all about having the right prompt. The challenge for beginners is figuring out the right prompt to ask ChatGPT. Expect it to take two or three or more tries to get the results you’re after. There’s a learning curve, but the more you practice and explore different variations of writing a prompt, the faster you’ll learn the tricks.  

Practical Applications of AI in Marketing 

Our experts shared their views on the value and versatility of AI tools like ChatGPT for a wide range of business needs. AI generative text and image have powerful capabilities for marketing, including creating content and messaging that reflects brand and voice, as the tool continually learns more about the business.  

In terms of marketing, John shared his opinion on the three biggest areas that AI is most useful:  

  1. Demand Generation. How do I get people to my website? How do I get people to know my business?  
  2. Engagement. What kinds of content and AI functions—a chat bot, for example—will engage customers once they are on my website? 
  3. Nurture and Closing. How do I nurture those customers and move them towards conversions?  

He expanded on the role of AI in creating personalized experiences for customers that lead them through the sales funnel and in driving desired outcomes or conversions, such as a sale, a download, and the right to contact by email to start a conversation.  

Key Insights Included:

Real-World Examples of AI Implementation

Tommi explained Verizon’s use of AI for next-best-action recommendations and next-best-experience, enabling personalized 1:1 marketing through micro-segmentation. She described it in terms of a conversation between the customer and the AI tool, which has access to the customer’s profile, account, and everything that it has learned from actions or purchases to lead them further along in the journey.

John highlighted the versatility and potential of AI in creative applications—uses that go beyond demand generation and may come as a surprise to many people. While ChatGPT does have limitations, users are constantly coming up with new ways to push its “thinking” abilities and discovering tasks that it can do faster, and often better, than a human. He shared several examples of this, such as refining resumes, generating messaging tailored to a Meyers Briggs personality type, writing in a specific author’s style and even writing original limericks and comedy scripts. As with any of the AI tools, he encourages users to experiment with them and explore their capabilities.

Training AI for Desired Outcomes

Both Tommi and John spoke about the importance of training the AI model by continually asking it something and rewarding it when it delivers good outcomes, watching the tool improve and evolve over time.  

However, Tommi cautions about “baked in” bias towards an outcome, inadvertently influencing the AI behavior and encouraging it to repeat the same approach each time, rather than innovating a new approach to a problem. The solution is to build in some novelty to push the tool to provide completely different ways to reach an outcome. John suggests asking it a question—something really crazy that the tool won’t be able to answer—forcing the AI to think outside the box. Prepare to be surprised at what it comes up with! 

Before wrapping up the session, John and Tommi answered several questions from the audience, covering several compelling topics that included the effects of AI tools on the need for human creative talent; the importance of keeping human oversight for the use of any tool; the role of AI in optimizing marketing strategies; and their predictions for big advances in AI over the next six months.  

Be sure to watch the video replay to see the entire session, including the audience Q and A portion, to get the most out of the insights Tommi and John shared with our Martechify audience. 

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