Instead of replacing us, can AI enhance our creativity?
With the rise of AI and machine learning should creative people be concerned for their jobs? Not according to Alex Collmer, CEO and Founder of VidMob, who believes that, without humans, AI could not be creatively effective. But, by embracing AI, humans creativity could increase.
When attending a recent tech conference, an investor expressed the opinion that, in five years' time, all creative jobs will have vanished.
They predicted that advances in AI and machine learning would lead to the invention of tools that could do creative jobs better than any human. This is not a limited viewpoint. In fact, it’s increasingly prevalent throughout the advertising industry and beyond.
A [tech] investor expressed the opinion that, in five years' time, all creative jobs will have vanished.
In December 2022, The Atlantic’s Derek Thompson wrote an article entitled Your Creativity Won’t Save Your Job From AI; arguing that with AI already capable of certain cognitive tasks, there was potential that, in the near future, it could “master the art of generating high-quality advertising concepts”.
It’s an interesting perspective, but there is an equally engaging counterargument — that AI and creativity are not fundamentally at odds and, in fact, AI can actually enhance human creativity. However, that statement should be caveated with a word or two of warning.
Above: Some have predicted that AI and machine learning will lead to the invention of tools that could do creative jobs better than any human.
While AI itself isn’t what marketers and creators need to fear, it's other companies employing staff with the ability to leverage AI-generated data and use it cleverly that they should be worried about. Brands who fail to embrace the technology should be looking over their shoulders, as businesses that do leverage AI will achieve stand-out content and establish their competitive advantage.
Responding to increasing content consumption
In an age where we spend more and more of our time looking at a screen, our digital content consumption has risen dramatically, especially when it comes to video. It’s little wonder, given the growing number of devices and platforms we have to choose from, and with each platform having its own creative nuances, marketers are under pressure to create more content to meet this demand.
AI can be extremely helpful to under-pressure marketers tasked to create an increasing amount of content.
AI can be extremely helpful to under-pressure marketers tasked to create an increasing amount of content. But it is a misguided belief that algorithms can be deployed to simply solve all challenges faced by brands looking to scale their content production. When considering the ultimate goal of marketing success, volume should not be judged as the pinnacle. Rather, creative effectiveness is what matters and brands should be aiming to foster genuine, unique emotional connections with audiences — and AI can’t do this on its own.
While AI can accurately measure the impact of multiple creative elements in a video ad — emotions portrayed by a model, the audio accompanying imagery, the logo placement, and so on — it’s not until humans analyse this data that meaningful strategic insights are derived to help fully understand audience reactions and the context around them. Once a deeper level of understanding is established, these insights can help optimise current campaign creative for success and assist with efficient planning. Without a human eye, the data itself carries limited value.
Above: We're living in an age in which people spend more and more time looking at screens and, therefore, the need for more and more content has arisen.
Augmenting creative with AI
Before AI-driven creative data, the production conversation has been primarily a conversation about building faster and cheaper creative. The first step towards scaling meaningful creative content must be to understand it.
Once marketers grasp which creative elements work well and why, and on which platforms, they can ramp up their content production while continuing to make the appropriate adjustments for each unique audience in every channel where they will be met. Every frame of an ad contains a myriad of creative decisions. AI-powered tools have the capacity to capture all of these data points in real-time – not just of a single ad, or whole campaign, but from all of the video content a brand has ever created. And while marketers may have a reasonable understanding of which of their ads worked and to what extent, AI provides an answer to the million-dollar question: Why?
AI was used to draw insights from a luxury cruise liner’s campaign which revealed that under-30s responded positively to waterfalls, horses and beards.
By tracking all the behavioural signals from audience reaction to each creative element, AI collates the data that marketers require to build learning models to fully inform and enhance their future creative decisions.
Why AI needs creatives
The AI-powered creative platforms used in the business world all require an element of human input. Runway ML, Craiyon, Midjourney - and so on - need human prompts and direction to be useful. Similarly, when applied to marketing, human intervention can help ensure brand safety when using AI. For example, AI was used to draw insights from a luxury cruise liner’s campaign which revealed that under-30s responded positively to waterfalls, horses and beards.
Above: AI was used to draw insights from a luxury cruise liner’s campaign which revealed that under-30s responded positively to waterfalls, horses and beards... but were those insights accurate?
If we assume all creativity is going to be replaced by AI systems, we could simply input all of this data into a generative AI tool and expect it to produce an effective ad. However, based on data alone, the output could end up being the above image. On paper it ticks all the boxes; it depicts a waterfall, there's a horse (OK, the bearded man is for show), but, in reality the ad just doesn’t make sense. Bottom line, the outputs are only going to be as good as the prompts that an educated human can provide.
However, with a human perspective and the context in mind, it enables the analyst to understand that the cruise line is viewed by under-30s as a mode of transportation to explore the world. They are more interested in getting off the boat. Waterfalls and horseback riding are merely examples of adventures that can be experienced when they are off the ship. When this strategic insight was applied to the campaign, the resultant creative was able to nearly triple the creative effectiveness. Insights are valuable to creative teams producing new ads, but without human interpretation the data alone fails to achieve this strategic impact and often leads to little sustainable performance improvement.
The real threat posed by AI is to those who fail to embrace a human and AI partnership.
AI tools open up a host of creative learnings to marketers and brands who have the ability and expertise to use the data. These teams will still need to maintain control of design oversight and ensure findings are considered in context with AI capabilities guiding their decisions. Where AI really shines and supports the human team beyond their own capacity is in efficiently generating a higher volume and variety of content to meet audience needs and platform requirements. The time saved by AI solutions affords creators space to indulge their creativity further and apply their expertise in different ways.
Fears that AI is here to replace creators are ill-founded: the real threat posed by AI is to those who fail to embrace a human and AI partnership. Rather than reducing the creative roles available to humans, brands that embrace data and technology will require an expertly-trained workforce to interpret findings and apply insights creatively, eliminating guesswork and optimising creative content.
As a result, the next generation of marketers will evolve alongside AI capabilities and will require data analytics skills to enable a new level of creative efficiency based on data-driven decisions. Brands that embrace this new reality will find that they have a significant competitive advantage over those that continue operating the same way they have been for decades.