Why Generative AI will not take advertising's dinner away

AI is never going to replace human creativity and ingenuity. Magic happens when we can marry our creative prowess and insights with the power of technology

Updated: Apr 21, 2023 03:23:29 PM UTC
Image: Shutterstock

Last year, we saw the industry working itself into a frenzy around the possibilities of web3, NFTs, and the metaverse. This year, generative AI such as ChatGPT, Midjourney, and others have become buzzwords. While the industry is polarised on generative AI’s potential threats to creative businesses, with several conversations underlining the threat to creative jobs, I believe there is much to be excited about when it comes to generative AI.

Contrary to the conversations about generative AI, such as ChatGPT and Midjourney, making advertising defunct, it could prove to be a useful and empowering tool for savvy marketers. While I believe that AI is never going to replace human creativity and ingenuity, magic happens when we can marry our creative prowess and insights with the power of technology. The business of advertising is about solving problems, and platforms such as ChatGPT will help boost efficiency, leaving us with mental and monetary resources to supercharge our creativity. It’s like how the entire print and television production process got a lift with the advent of computers. This phase of technology infusion in creativity bodes even better.

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We might have forgotten, for a second, that our job is to deploy creativity to solve business problems, not just orchestrate the everyday execution of social posts and tactical campaigns. To that end, platforms born out of generative AI help us deliver efficiency by streamlining repetitive and generated-by-prompts tasks. Once the longtail of tasks—say 100 social media posts in a week—can be taken care of with greater efficiency and better quality, we would be left with more bandwidth to do the real job—solve problems by making creative connections. If at all, this help from technology will push us up the value chain—the real place that the creative business should be occupying—of solving complex problems by lessening the daily effort.

The question isn’t whether AI and automation will replace creatives but rather how we’ll adapt to make the most of these tools. If anything, with these tools at everyone’s disposal, creativity will become even more important to help a brand stand out from cookie-cutter solutions and executions. Generative AI has the potential to transform creativity by raising the bar on mediocracy, we will be pushed to go beyond what prompts can easily generate.

Every new technology brings with it endless possibilities. For example, in the pre-Adobe Illustrator age, graphic design was a tedious, meticulous analogue process until this revolutionary software transformed the industry. However, even with all its potential, Adobe Illustrator was not universally embraced from the beginning. Some industry practitioners resisted the idea of drawing digitally as it required professionals to abandon their formal training and embrace an entirely new way of working. Similarly, there may be some resistance in the creative community to the use of generative AI. But this future is inevitable. Think computer-aided graphics, think Avatar—the spectacular movie—one could have only imagined this in the pre-computer era. Just as computer-aided graphics and technology in print production transformed what the industry could potentially create, generative AI will do that and more.

The startling argument around generative AI is that it not only makes sense of all that is fed into it but also generates new ideas based on what it understands. It’s this generative capability that’s throwing everyone in a tizzy. In the context of marketing and advertising, where so much effort goes into bringing alive a thought concept—anyone who’s ever done a pitch would know what I am talking about—it would be a dream come true to have technology render multiple executions based on our prompts. Our business is all about painting a vision. We can never have enough technological help to bring this vision alive. Just that the vision now needs to be delivered through the prompts.

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For the longest time, the creative business of marketing and advertising has resisted productisation. Most of the current marketing technology is at the long tail of creativity—more around executing at scale and automation. Finally, it might be possible to productise some levels of our delivery by coding the known rules of success. This means that the power of great marketing and advertising can be democratised. Small companies or startups who cannot afford to hire expensive professionals or agencies can get their hands on content that’s generated around professionally tailored prompts.

To conclude, generative AI is set to transform the creative business for good. While it has the potential to endlessly expand our creative horizons, in reality, meaningful solutions will continue to need human instinct and empathy. The key to the future will be in making this work to our advantage. Currently, I am working on getting my prompts more effective!

The writer is CEO of Leo Burnett – South Asia and Chairman, BBH - India.

The thoughts and opinions shared here are of the author.

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