Can generative AI usher us into the gilded age of ad creativity?

Let us put this debate to rest – creativity and technology are not enemies; they are partners. In the recent SXSW Australia, ad veteran David Droga says that he did not want to “have to choose between the march of technology and the purity of creativity, and only one of them can survive. Creativity needs technology to be real; technology needs creativity to be more relatable and human.”

Generative AI has swept the world by storm.

Love it or hate it, it is probably going to change the world. But creatives all over the world have been at loggerheads with generative AI—and for good reason. Lawsuits abound, alleging companies stealing writers’ copyrighted work without consent or compensation, musicians worry about AI taking their voice, and artists are filing class-action lawsuits against AI imagery generators.

The symbiosis of technology and art

It is not a good look for generative AI. But historically, technology stimulates creativity – just like how art imitates life.

In 2013, Pew Research Center found that most art organisations tend to agree that the internet and social media have “increased engagement”, and made art a more participatory experience, and that they have helped make “arts audiences more diverse.”  They also tend to agree that the internet has “played a major role in broadening the boundaries of what is considered art.”

A lot of things have changed since 2013, but the fact of the matter is that technology is simply a tool that people use for creativity. Technology has democratised creativity—where one had to have a book publisher, manager or go to expensive art schools to become a professional author, singer or artist, now one can carve out a space for themselves on the internet.

Using a plethora of writing tools, music software, and art platforms — all made possible by the growth of technology. Video games, an explosion of creativity and art, are tech itself. It is built upon code, typed out on machines, and consumed almost solely via the internet. The truth is that technology can, and usually, begets creativity.

If the internet and social media increased engagement in 2013, that engagement is only going to skyrocket now.

Also Read: Is AI the end of originality or a new dawn for creativity?

According to Accenture’s Life Trends 2024, 42 per cent are already comfortable using conversational AI to find product recommendations, and 39 per cent are excited about conversational answers instead of standard internet searches. Generative AI could potentially give businesses an opportunity to shape a “more relatable, human-like representation of the brand.”

Every good partnership has boundaries

However, the relationship between technology and creativity, or art, must have boundaries in order to succeed. We have seen this before: a new technology comes about, complicates things, and then creativity thrives. For instance, when drawing tablets emerged, people claimed that digital art wasn’t real art.

In June of this year, DBS ignited a fervent debate by harnessing the power of AI art tools during an internal event. This sparked a dichotomy of perspectives: on one side, graphic designers voiced apprehensions, particularly about tools like Midjourney potentially utilising artists’ works without consent, raising concerns about ethical practices and the potential negative impact of AI-generated art on human artists’ livelihoods and urban culture. Conversely, DBS defended the internal event, underscoring its commitment to familiarising employees with cutting-edge AI technology.

At the end of the day, generative AI is just another tool. But for this certain tool to work, we need to make sure boundaries are in place. Legal experts have noted potential copyright infringement issues and the lack of disclosure of datasets used by generative AI systems. We need to make sure that generative AI doesn’t steal artists’ work or diminish the job of an artist. This can be done through regulation.

For instance, the EU proposes that generative AI should have to comply with transparency requirements, such as disclosing that the content was generated by AI, designing the model to prevent it from generating illegal content, and publishing summaries of copyrighted data used for training.

Also Read: Creativity at the heart of business growth

Closer to home, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is in the process of formulating governance and ethics guidelines for AI. Analysts anticipate that these guidelines will propose “safeguards” aimed at minimising recognised risks associated with artificial intelligence.

Gen AI in the ad space

Generative AI could make ads fun again.

How many mediocre ads have you seen this week? A hundred? A good ad is so hard to come by these days, that on the rare occasion that one does emerge, articles get written by it. The ads for mobile games, for some fitness app, for an investment course—these ads contain zero creativity whatsoever.

The small businesses making these ads aren’t hiring artists and creatives to boost downloads or sales; they’re using whatever resources they have, ill-equipped with creativity, just to push something out onto the internet to get themselves heard. All that results in are people staring insolently at the countdown before they can skip the ad.

Generative AI could potentially change all of that.

As Droga said, we could cut out the mediocrity. The ad space is the perfect medium for this. In a world full of half-baked, low budget ads, campaigns for arbitrary marketing’s sake, generative AI could come in and rid us of the vapid ads that plague us. It’s a win-win for everyone involved: better ads for small companies and better ads for consumers.

The Accenture Life Trends report agrees—while the mediocrity challenge might even get worse as generative AI becomes a bigger player, investing in human creative talent who are keen to break the tried and tested technology templates is imperative. “Skilled creatives must be involved in the use of generative AI”; because at the end of the day, humanity, creativity and tech don’t exist in separate vacuums.

Ultimately, creativity will always involve humans. What we need to do is to create a fair future where the creativity of humans can work together with the transformative nature of tech. What we need to focus on right now, above all, is regulation, regulation, and regulation. Only when we have set just boundaries around this partnership can we flourish from it.

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Image courtesy: Canva

This article was first published on April 12, 2024

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