Creativity and tech: Bridging or widening the gap?

By Ruby Derrick | 25 March 2024
Jono Casley and Chad Mackenzie.

There’s a narrowing gap between technical expertise and artistic vision, says creative technology agency whiteGREY’s chief technology officer Jono Casley.

This gap has narrowed as a result of tech, but there are industry implications in ensuring the work is ethical and maintaining that output is difficult for any business to take on, he says.  

Some emerging trends and advancements in technology are transforming the industry, and possibly shaping the future of it. Automation, AR and AI, among others, are all marking big shifts in advertising, which is already in flux. 

“These tools, like AI, enable us to narrow that gap. The difficulty in achieving something might be narrowed, but the difficulty in getting something out and making sure it's ethical and making sure that we're not treading on toes and breaking things is widening, because we've got more to put in different baskets,” says Casley.

There’s always been hurdles in merging different disciplines together, says whiteGREY chief creative officer Chad Mackenzie. Rather than forcing technology and creativity together, the pair are on a mission to seek ideas that use tech in an interesting way, he says.

If agencies start forcing work for the sake of getting it in and saying they’ve used that new product, that’s the wrong way about it, Mackenzie believes. At the end of the day, technology is there to serve brands and clients. 

“Does the idea even need technology for a start? Does the idea use technology in a fresh and interesting way?” he says. 

“The technology sparks a fresh perspective on the idea and that's the way we look at it. That wasn’t possible a few years ago; maybe we could make it, but how could it work and be useful?”

For Casley, agencies need to foster a curious culture within the business in order to leverage AI for creativity. 

“It's not just for technologists. Obviously technologists are inherently more interested in the latest and greatest and the breadth of different technologies coming to the forefront, but it's being able to communicate that effectively with other departments and teams,” he says.

“It's not about putting a technology bandaid over a problem or a solution, it’s saying ‘here's the technology, how can we turn it on its head? How can we use it in a different way and innovate with it?’. I don't expect creatives to have PhDs in computer science. We'll do the legwork, but here's here's the proposition. We need to use it innovatively and then just iterate that idea around.”

The conversations the team are having look quite differently now, says Mackenzie, but there's always been things that creatives have got to keep up with. 

“We're starting to go from tech being a separate thing over in the corner, to now where it’s completely integrated into our world. So it should be integrated into the way we think,” he says.

With AI and human creativity, Casley says threat’s a strong word. 

With any change comes the natural shifting of what goes into the day-to-day world of a creative output of something, he says.

“That might be leveraging AI to take the sting out of less interesting work that we all have to produce. And then you can reappropriate that time into things that computers, machine learning and AI are just not that adept at,” says Casley.

Human creativity is something that has not been solved by AI, he says. And he’s confident it won't be solved for at least another five or six years. 

“But never say never. There will be a threat to changing how someone approaches a problem or approaches technology or creativity. But I don't think it's a threat to the job, so much as the daily execution and how we wait for those in different areas,” he says.

Mackenzie says this rapid rate of change and acceleration is scary. Suddenly everyone is seeing these incredible videos and bits of footage and even filmically now as well, he says.

“Will we be shooting in five or six years time? I don't know. If you look at it with this positive lens, rather than jumping into everything and using it for the sake of using it, you’ve got to realise the exciting part that there's these incredible things that are coming out the back end that you can do with it,” says Mackenzie. 

“The application of it might seem scary. Suddenly there's video footage of horses running along the beaches completely computer generated and you think filmmakers are going to be out of a job. No, not necessarily. Where could it be used in parts that we actually don't need the filmmakers to be shooting certain pieces? We're going to start to see shapes of roles change in the near term, but we try and take the positive lens on it because it's a bit of an unknown.”

As CTO, Casley is helping whiteGREY leverage AI to elevate its craft. The agency is freeing up its time by using tools that increase efficiency, so it can then increase its output in terms of accessibility, he says.

“Being a part of WPP, which is heavily invested into AI, they’ve got a lot of people around the world thinking about those ethical and philosophical implications, human displacement and how to avoid that,” says Casley.

It’s the unintended consequences the agency is watching out for, he says. 

“The behemoths like Google recently, which has been in the press, obviously for trying to do something that's ethically admirable. But the negative consequences were there for everyone to see,” he says.

“They say the path to hell is paved with good intentions. We don't want to go down that road, so we’ve got to make sure we’re thinking about the future, ethics, implications and where we’re getting data from in everything we do. I know we're in the advertising space, but we do inform culture and we are a part of that.”

Mackenzie says the word ‘responsible’ really holds true in this case. 

“Our industry influences culture. We’ve got to be very aware and take a pause because it’s going so fast. Are we using it just for the sake of it or is there going to be a really positive application out the other end?” he says.

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