Creator or destroyer? How can creatives capitalise on the impending AI tsunami?

Destroyer of worlds or creator of new ones? The advent of AI is set to become one of the defining threads of 21st century culture, but for many the question remains – should it be exalted, or feared?

Nowhere it seems is this dichotomy felt more than the creative sector, for whom at times, the implementation of AI technology has felt like a sword of Damocles that could at any moment wipe out entire departments of marketers and creatives.

The reality of course is much more nuanced than this black-and-white take, with AI set to offer revolutionised ways of working that will supercharge productivity.

As with any great technological shift however, some jobs and livelihoods will inevitably fall by the wayside only for others to appear in their wake.

The future might be scary – but it really isn’t as bleak as some are making it out to be and if the industry is to survive, it must embrace these new ways of working.

AI supercharging efficiency

This is precisely where agencies such as Rehab come into play. The London-based firm has been working with generative AI for several years, developing a range of tools that supercharge the creative process.

Far from replacing creatives, these tools serve primarily as aids to help free up more time for ideas, allowing people to spend less on mundane tasks as result.

This is AI in its most benevolent form, in which it is essentially a means to automatise administrative and repetitive drudgery – driving up efficiency in the areas that really matter; such as the final creative product.

When you put it like that, why on Earth wouldn’t you integrate AI into your daily working? Days of information gathering compressed into just a few hours sounds like a dream for any agency – especially those without the manpower of the big players.

Tim Rodgers

Speaking exclusively to Marketing Beat, Rehab’s founder and chairman Tim Rodgers explains: “We’ve done measurements across various parts of the creative process, and in terms of the upfront research, strategy and gathering insights – we’ve now seen that being done about 40% faster than before.”

Laying bare how Rehab themselves use AI tools, lead strategist Callum Gill adds: “We’ve had three pitches in three weeks, and we’ve got another one later this week.

“Working as a strategist with creatives to get the stuff ready in time, we’ve been able to do what would usually have taken us a week in just a couple of days.”

“If we’ve done the strategy and the research and insights in two days, then the rest of the time can be spent on creative. We’re in such a stronger place than we would be if it’s taking four or five days out of that week and a half that we’ve got, which at the end of you’re usually scrambling to get the assets together.”

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Is AI audience testing the future?

Another area where AI has the potential to be a complete gamechanger is audience testing – something which is of paramount importance if brands are looking to avoid the recent backlashes faced by both Apple and Bumble in recent weeks.

A simple audience screening might have avoided significant embarrassment for Apple, with its ‘Crush’ ad widely seen as a slap in the face for human creativity – even prompting strong criticism from Hollywood star Hugh Grant.

The same could be said for dating app Bumble, whose recent out-of-home campaign discouraging women from celibacy was widely perceived to alienate the very audience it was targeting.

What was the issue? According to Gill: time, money and a lack of both. This is where AI comes in handy.

Using machine learning, agencies are able to synthesise a range of different audiences gathered from myriad sets of data to help brands test out campaigns at the push of a button.

With budgets stretched thinner and thinner every year, innovative solutions like this allow AI to really come into its own.

“It’s not the fault of the creatives, it’s not the fault of the agencies, or the brands. It’s not like people have made an active choice to ignore what was a really important part of the process.

“We’ve just moved into a space now where the audience is demanding things so much faster, that something had to give, so if you’ve got quick way to test in that space then you’re in a good position.”

Arms wide open, or eyes wide shut?

Despite all these undoubted positives, the elephant in the room remains. There is an abiding fear from much of the marketing and creative industries that AI will end up making entire careers redundant simply won’t go away – no matter which way you spin its benefits.

Callum Gill

And for some perhaps, this is with good reason, after all 63% of creatives still currently believe that AI will take their jobs, and for some of them this will sadly be the truth.

But as Rodgers and Gill are at pains to point out, AI is nowhere close to matching pure, human creativity.

The X factor that only human touch can bring simply cannot be replicated by machines, and as such creatives will always remain integral to the process.

“[Truly creative work] won’t be able to be created by an AI, machine, or whatever you want to call it, because it doesn’t have emotion,” Rodgers explains.

But we do see the kind of roles that creatives have changing; for example if you’re a copywriter only doing banner ads then you might want to think hard about your current career progression and maybe move into a different path.”

Gill adds: “If you point an AI in a direction, you’ll get stuff back, images, content etc. But everybody who looks at and engages with it can see that it’s not anywhere near the level of human creativity right now.

“If you give the AI a brief and say, “output the entirety of my campaign”, you’re not going to get anywhere near the quality or the rigour that you require from true creative work, you still need someone there with that creative mindset pointing it in the right direction at every stage.

Essentially, creatives will inevitably need to adapt to and adopt AI if they wish to remain ahead of the curve and succeed in a future which is rapidly closing in.

Gill continues: “The creatives who are armed with AI are going to be the best placed to work in the type of environment that we are in right now and moving ever more towards.”

So, should creatives be fearing some sort of apocalyptic doomsday a quarter-century on from Y2K?

Probably not, but ways of working and even some careers will be changed indefinitely – that we can be sure of – but as Gill so aptly summarises: those creatives and marketeers who embraces AI and learn to work with it, not in spite of it will be in pole position to harness its undoubtedly immense potential.

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