Does the chatbot dream of a black t-shirt and dry martinis?

Chris Pash
By Chris Pash | 27 March 2023
Credit: Stanislav Ivanitskiy via Unsplash.jpg

Do we become less human by using artificial intelligence (AI) to enhance creativity?

The latest research shows we are awash with AI written content already but we don't realise it. A University of Kansas study of more than 1,000 AI-generated ads from across the web found they are only labelled as such about half the time.

The hype suggests that soon chatbots will be wearing black t-shirts, mixing a mean martini and creating commercials displaying achingly beautiful creativity.

Possibly an exaggeration. But there is something there. Perhaps it’s the promise of taking the hack work out of the advertising creative departments, coming up with ideas and format that can be enhanced by human intervention?

And if the AI comes up with an outline for a novel, or an award-winning commercial, who owns the copyright? Is it the instructions composed by people or the output from machine?

Media players are taking this seriously. Robert Thomson, CEO of News Corp, says someone should be paying for the content being fed into AIs.

“Clearly, they are using proprietary content, there should obviously be some compensation for that,” he told Morgan Stanley analysts.

“A lot of these engines are focused on synthesising aggregated content, often our content. And they would argue that by synthesising it and extracting the essence of the content, they're providing a transformational service, we would argue that they wouldn't be able to provide any service without our content.”

Richard Parker, executive planning director, Edge: “The rise of AI and our fascination with Midjourney and Chat GPT is provoking a slightly hysterical conversation around ‘the machines taking our jobs’.

“And a slew of (slightly nervous and needlessly defensive) LinkedIn posts negatively comparing AI’s frankly-quite-impressive-for-a-technology-in-its-infancy attempts to create ads with those created by the best humans in the business.

“But (again, think about those shrinking budgets!) it must be very tempting for clients to at least entertain the idea of ditching agencies for the machines – if not now, then maybe in the future – and further dumbing down creative in response to
commercial pressure.

Alex Derwin, chief creative officer at BMF, the AdNews Agency of the Year: “When you start digging into it, the whole world of creativity and AI it’s fascinating, and scary.

“AI generated photography won an Australian art prize recently, there’s a Beatle’s song and a Nirvana song composed and ‘performed’ entirely by AI which sound (to the untrained ear) almost indistinguishable from the original artist. What AI is doing for film and video game production is incredible and that’s trickling into what we do too.”

Independent creative Adrian Elton: “I read an alarming account of a senior writer I know who had just been 'let go' from his agency on the basis that ChatGPT can now 'allegedly' do his job.

“I also read last night that Buzzfeed has let 12% of their workforce go as they can now use ChatGPT to freely crank out content-by-the-metre. How long before they start avidly chipping away at the remaining 88%?

“Sorry to get all philosophical on ya, but I'm not too sure what the endgame of all this is, if before too long huge swathes of the working population are suddenly deemed surplus to requirements. If and when that happens, then I suspect it might be a colossal 'own goal' for the titans of industry who will be left with consumers who can no longer afford to consume.

‘Dystopian naval gazing aside though, ChatGPT is amazing as a Google-on-steroids for nutting through the background stuff that can be a springboard for the far more valuable human generated creative. From instant insights into why people may do this or that, to lists or examples of things that might flesh out a campaign, it's an amazing tool for drawing that information together in a seamless fashion.

“But as the generator of the creative solution itself? Well that's just a sad dereliction of duty for those who hope to offload the most exciting part of the work. And while that may suit those without the sufficient talent or creative wherewithal, it would be a disaster for those of us who love the process and who know that we can go places that AI would never think of.

“After all, AI can't connect disparate points of relevance in the way that talented, switched-on humans can. To that end I think it's highly unlikely to replace the best creative thinkers - well at least for another 3 months (irony/terror).
Independent creative director Jess Wheeler: “The conversation around AI is as fascinating as it is tedious.

“The technology is nothing short of mind-blowing, and will unquestionably change the world, and with it, commercial creativity. But for the better? Well, that all depends on how we use it.

“At present, its ability to conjure ideas and lateral thinking is atrocious. It spits out below-par first thoughts. It writes like a mediocre middle manager. It designs without clarity. This isn’t unexpected, but what scares me is the number of people in suits all over the world losing their minds over the output. One thing it has exposed is just how low the bar is for some.

“Artificial Intelligence is not Artificial Creativity. It scrapes and aggregates data and regurgitates it. So this is what we should be using it for. It already annihilates Google for research and insights. It’s great for finding jump off points for ideation. Or quickly pulling together style references, or mood boards.

“Its power is in taking over the mechanical parts of the creative process and opening up more time for the human bit – the actual creativity. But for some reason, we seem obsessed with using it to make us less human, rather than more. And that’s where the danger lies.”

Micah Walker, CCPO and cofounder at Bear Meets Eagle On Fire: “Predictions aren’t really a strength of mine, but I’d be willing to bet we’ll continue to see endless articles pondering if AI will be the end of creative departments and fewer questioning a financial model that might just make it inevitable.”

Andy Fergusson, Leo Burnett national executive creative director: “There is a thought experiment called ‘Roko’s Basilisk’, which proposes that once an AI becomes all-powerful in the future, it will retroactively punish anyone who was against it in the past. So with that in mind, I’m a huge fan of AI!

“But in truth, I’m both optimistic and terrified about AI. In the short term I think it’s an incredible tool that will help us concept faster and reduce some of the more mundane and repetitive tasks.

“However, I think some people are underplaying its future potential for ‘creativity’. It may not be there yet, but the rate at which AI has evolved in just a few months is unbelievable, and I don’t really see a limit. We all need to embrace it and learn how to use it to our advantage, or be left behind.

Chris Dodds, cofounder and managing director, growth & innovation at Icon Agency: “Get ready. AI will fundamentally change the what, how and why of work faster than almost anyone predicted.

"There are 100s of AIs hitting the market which heats up competition and accelerates change. And by change, I mean Gutenberg Press and the Digital Revolution on steroids kind of disruption.”

Luke Simkins, group creative director, Mediabrands Content Studio: “I’m a huge Terminator 2 fan so AI scares me to the core! Seriously though, AI has the ability to take the grunt work out of the asset roll out but does it have the ability to think critically and creatively, I’d say not.

“However, if AI can free up creative people to do more creative work, the business can only profit. If it makes me obsolete, I’ll be pretty bummed as I’m not quite at the finish line of my mortgage. I will say this, the day AI writes, presents and sells ‘Carlton Big ad’ or the new ‘NRMA Help campaign’ or ‘Meet Graham’ I’ll pack up my things and meet you all at the Cricketers.”

Creative consultant Michael Skarbek: “Soon, the ad industry – in fact, all industries – will look back and divide things into two eras: pre-AI and post-AI.

“I’m not saying AI will change everything overnight. The truth is, even the biggest innovations in history – electricity, cars, the internet – changed the world slowly. But AI will change things, a lot.

“In advertising, we’ll start using it incrementally. Art directors will start using it instead of Photoshop, to create mockups and moodboards. Film directors will use it for treatment references. Copywriters will use it to write eDMs, brochures and content pieces. Nothing ‘idea based’ just yet.

“But over time, AI will become the norm, and it won’t just be used for the smaller stuff. As it evolves, it will become as good as an employee – starting off as an intern, then with each new update, becoming a junior and so on, until it becomes smart enough to be really, really useful.

“For planners, it will provide useful research, and then offer conclusions that help planners find an insight. For creatives, while it might not be able to make an original creative leap (yet), it will get pretty good at rolling out ideas once they’ve been cracked.

“We’ll probably even see a new line on agency rate cards for AI ‘employees’ and the prompt writing that creates their work.

“Of course, as this saves us time, deadlines will get then shorter. And in doing so, i a lot of mediocre work will be created. The less time we have, the more we’ll fall back on AI and the more familiar and unoriginal ideas become. In the short term at least, AI will create work based on previous work. And for brands wanting to stand out, and agencies wanting their work to do the same, that’s never a good thing.”

Irene Joshy, Kantar Australia’s head of creative: “Innovation and curiosity has fueled progress in the world.

“AI is part of our evolution and while humans are experimenting with its application across industries, we will witness a series of trials and errors. In the world of creativity, the application of AI is a great step to providing access to content development, content curation, content optimisation.

"In that context, Chat GPT is a great innovation. The technology behind the machine is cutting edge and I have read a couple of scripts generated. However, it is still too early for me to comment on its levels of creativity but it is promising and exciting.

“But, what I do know with a high degree of confidence is that AI has immense potential when it comes to predictive analytics as its greatest strength is in identifying patterns from historical data to predict responses. Therefore, the greatest use of AI today according to me is in the area of curation and content optimisation.”

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