AI – threat or ally?

By Ruby Derrick | 2 November 2023
Credit: Cash Macanaya via Unsplash.

Harnessing artificial intelligence (AI) has been met with both resistance and acceptance across the advertising industry.  

Perceptions of AI sparking both fear and opportunity have been debated, with its ability to transform the advertising landscape as many agencies prepare to integrate it within their business.  

Industry insiders say it’s got the power to add value to clients. Others fear it has the potential to eliminate the need for agencies as we know them now. 

According to David Droga, CEO of Accenture Song and one of Australia's best known and most awarded creative exports, creatives need to stop fighting the fear of technology and continue to remain distinctive.

95% of global leaders believe their customers are changing faster than their businesses but Droga said he's never seen creative people be more valuable. 

“Stop crying over the fact that we're going to have less TV commercials or the traditional team structure and be blown away by the fact that you can have a technology person sit at the table with you,” the Advertising Hall of Fame inductee said in an interview with Industry leader and commentator Sunita Gloster. 

Whether AI is fundamentally a threat or ally to creativity and agencies themselves is an opinion that's dividing the industry. Australian creatives share their thoughts on what the world of creativity might just look like as these tools continue to mature.

Gavin McLeod: chief creative officer at CHEP Network

From my perspective, Artificial Intelligence has already become a massive creative ally. I use it in my own work processes regularly, and have come to think of it as a creative partner, all the way through from concepting to execution in copy and visual imagery. 

There’s a lot that’s been made about it taking our jobs, but I think in reality it’s just an evolution of the process. It’s another tool that can help us unlock our potential and enhance our abilities, if we take the time to learn how to use it so that it’s more help than hindrance. 

I’ve found that when I use it to help me concept, it’s really acting like a true partner that I bounce stuff off, and the most fun I’ve had with it is when I’m really intentional about prompting it and taking it into weird places to get something unexpected out of it, which is really what the creative process is all about. 

If you’re looking to find ways to use AI in your work as a creative, there’s the obvious tools in ChatGPT and Midjourney that are great starting points, but I really think the game changers are going to be Getty AI and Adobe’s Firefly, solely because they're solving the looming intellectual property issue that’s ahead of us. 

And of course, our lives are going to change (for the better – I hope!) as soon as prompt to video AI tools get to a level where they’re useful rather than fun to play with. 

The world of creativity is going to continue to get weirder and more wonderful as these tools mature, so my parting recommendation for any creatives out there would be to start building your muscle memory now, figure out how to make them work for you and you’ll be able to take your creativity to new and exciting places as a result. 

Adam Ferrier: founder and consumer psychologist at Thinkerbell

It’s a complete threat. 

If you’re using AI for insights, for strategy for ideation or even production chances are you’re making your work that little bit more shit, just a bit more average, a bit more derivative and a bit more like everyone else.  

For anyone saying otherwise I worry about their judgement.   

AI (at the moment) can be efficient tool to help do the basics quicker and more efficiently. But without a sense of utter distain for its seductively simple outputs you’ll being doing increasingly shit work.  

We need to embrace AI but as a threat, without a healthy disregard to its lowest common denominator approach to everything we’ll have the creative juices sucked out of our industry. 

It makes insights, ideas, and execution faster and easier but at what cost? We need to focus on and improve Constitutional AI before we can use these programs more creatively. 

Richard Berney: executive creative director at Berlin  

It's a threat. 

Like so much of what big tech has gifted us recently, it is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. The sheep’s clothing is convenience, the wolf is our democracy going cross-eyed. And worse. 

I mean, of course it depends on how AI is applied - but so far I’m seeing a lot of red flags. This question is so enormous that I think I’m just going to jump all the way to the bottom of the well to answer it. 

The point of human existence is to flourish. To have freedom, to connect, to be universally groovy. You know? 

So will AI empower us to avoid the menial, and get on with creating the world we truly want to live in? I hope so, but some of it’s recent applications are putting grooviness in serious jeopardy. 

AI was applied to devastating effect in the Brexit campaign, then Trump’s first election, and in our very own Voice Referendum. It can perfect & extrapolate fear-driven messaging that feed our prejudices like nothing else I’ve seen in my lifetime, and I’m yet to see an answer to it. 

On the other hand, apps like Chat GPT & Midjourney are fabulous. Fun. Creative. Black swan, game-changing unicorns etc. Personally, I tend to use Chat GPT to kickstart arduous copy, or even quick desktop research - and Midjourney to test visual concepts. Soooowhat’s the downside there? I’m a creative director hell-bent on delightful ideas, and AI doesn’t think creatively, so I’m not feeling threatened. Not yet, anyway. 

But! I’m also a big brother. Literally. My little sister is a wonderful illustrator, and has been perfecting her craft for at least the last twenty years. That’s twenty years of R&D, and she’s managed to build a skill that is unique, very beautiful, and needed in our world. Sadly, anyone can now punch her name into a Midjourney prompt, and spit out a custom high-res version in a split-second. This isn’t progress, it’s just theft. It's immoral. The artists will always lose because the hustlers know they’ll keep doing it for free. Sing it, Gillian Welch. 

The other threat to grooviness that AI poses, is the big one. A loss of self. 

Machine learning apps mean we don’t have to think as much. And when you don’t think up your own email, or CV, or report – you will slowly lose the ability. This ability to think critically is a defining human trait. In fact, Descartes thought it was so important that it made him real: ‘I think therefore I am’. 

Descartes aside, the next time I’m asked to rewrite my bio – you know I’m going to run it through a bot. I mean, thinking. It’s the worst, right?! And that’s the sheep’s clothing right there. Thinking is tough, and the chance to do less of it seems absolutely wonderful 

"Thinking is to humans as swimming is to cats; they can do it but they’d prefer not to" – Professor Daniel Kahneman.

That’s the chink in our armour, right there. We’ll be killed by convenience if we’re not careful, and nobody has their eyes more widely open to this than the Writers Guild of America. On strike since May, one of the trends that is most disturbing to their creative industry is the establishment of in-house artificial intelligence divisions in many studios and streamers. Think Netflix/Amazon being able to bypass months in writer’s rooms for the convenience of an app. 

And so the strike continues: I believe this is the last time any labour actions will be effective in our business. If we don’t make strong rules now, they simply won’t notice if we strike in three years, because at that point they won’t need us" – actor & writer Justine Batemen on Twitter. 

Ellena Mills: head of craft at Howatson+Co 

As creatives we are always looking for new and interesting forms of expression. As AI evolves it is giving us fresh and exciting ways to experiment and implement into our ways of working.

Through our recent projects with Maurice Blackburn for EXHIBIT A-iand Belong for Book of Limbo we have shown that we are embracing AI at Howatson+Company, seeing it as a powerful ally to our creative and production processes. 

Adrian Elton: independent creative 

As someone who has always loved the thrill of being able to produce complete projects, single handedly, AI has added a whole new dimension to the scope, scale and speed with which I can develop creative materials, particularly in situations where there’s limited budget. 

So from the perspective of a creative professional, it’s an incredibly powerful tool that takes its place alongside all of the other existing tools and skillsets that each have their place and purpose.  

But while I’m unambiguously leaning into it, I don’t use it for any of the ideation side of proceedings as that’s the thing, above all, that I enjoy doing most . Significantly - from my perspective - I also don’t think it’s got anywhere close to emulating or approximating my curveball thinking on the occasions where I have furtively tested it out. 

And yet it’s a razor sharp, double-edged sword. Because in the same way that my adoption of AI might reasonably strike existential fear into photographers, illustrators, animators and filmmakers; I guess I’m similarly threatened by any client who might decide that they can now develop their concepts and scripts in-house, and furthermore execute them by using many of the same AI tools that are otherwise empowering me. 

I guess the competitive advantage will be for those who can not only use the tools, but for those original and precocious thinkers who also have the experience to understand how to assess and refine the output, as well as the ability to curate and seamlessly pulling together all of the moving parts of complex, multi-phased projects. 

I use MidJourney on an almost daily basis and most recently was a finalist in the inaugural Ballarat International Foto Biennale ‘Prompted Perculiar’ AI PrizeAnd whereas one year ago I was using Dalle to create the most rudimentary conceptual images that were barely useable or presentable, one year later I’m now able to produce highly detailed, finished art grade imagery with MidJourney that can be used for full-res print applications via upscalers like Topaz Gigapixel. 

I’ve also been experimenting with bringing MidJourney generated imagery to life using Runway ML (Gen 2) which now features image to video capabilities. Together with the text to video functionality, we are suddenly able to generate footage that can be cut into longer form sequences. These are perfectly suited for applications like music film clips, or potentially TVCs. And with sync-d voice animators like ID-D and face swapping, characters that were never filmed can suddenly perform in ways that are only limited by our /imaginations. Once again, this potential is further amplified when these new capabilities are combined with the existing tools, skillsets and experience of those already working in the realm.  

The final AI area that I’ve been experimenting with quite avidly is from an audio production perspective. Notwithstanding new AI driven mix automation plugins, I have also been experimenting with various AI voice models (Uberduck, Voicify, etc...) which allow for the substitution of sung guide vocals with the AI modelled voices of stars like Bowie, Mercury and McCartney. From an advertising perspective, the value of being able to use spoken voice models for voice over and script performance is also self evident. Even royalty free voice models can ‘sing’ jingles ‘perfectly’ based on less than perfect input. So in the same way that the popularisation of the PC was not great news for anyone manufacturing typewriters, none of this good news for talented session singers, particularly when it comes to the development of works in progress. 

On a far more practical level, I also have a ChatGPT4 subscription which is a formidable tool that I use as a technical co-pilot. So from troubleshooting coding, to on-point advice about how to resolve almost any conceivable software issue, it is a powerhouse. Or put in the most simple of terms, it's like a Google that responds to a specific request with a specific recommendation. The benefit being that we no longer need to doom scroll through multiple links, crossing our fingers that one of them contains the oracle. 

Shea Bennett: director of video & Charlie Roberts: senior copywriter at Chello 

Yes, AI has the potential to eliminate the need for agencies as we know them. It’s going to keep learning. And people are going to keep finding new and better ways to employ it for many of the tasks and services we currently offer.  

But it’s not all doom and gloom. It’s on us as the workforce not just to work with AI, but to envision our roles in an AI-powered world.It starts with writers becoming editors. Video editors becoming Directors, but it’s bigger than that. It’s how we reorganise ourselves — the human component—  in this new reality. And that’s actually quite exciting.  

We get to play our part in creating what the future of work becomes, with the new arrangement of tools available to us; which is what Independent agencies have always done, and are great at. Actually, it’s one of the ways we really add value to our clients. 

We've integrated tools like Midjourney and Runway to help create more cohesive storyboards, and use Chat GPT to give us rich stimulus to facilitate more focused conversations and idea generation in workshops. It's exciting to see how powerful these tools are, and we're continuing to understand their role and potential.  

So to the question, threat or ally? The answer is both. A threat to how we operate today, just as much as other seismic changes to the workforce from the past. But also an ally if we accept this threat and respond in a meaningful way. 

Have something to say on this? Share your views in the comments section below. Or if you have a news story or tip-off, drop us a line at

Sign up to the AdNews newsletter, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter for breaking stories and campaigns throughout the day.

comments powered by Disqus