Marketing and the machine: Can artificial intelligence replace human creativity?

Marketing and the machine: Can artificial intelligence replace human creativity?

Are we being replaced? It’s a question on many a mind as new advancements in artificial intelligence burst onto the scene every day. And, perhaps for the first time in history, people may be justified in asking.

As most of us know, AI has been in use for a number of years, starting as somewhat of a gimmick and, over time, becoming a tool many of us rely on daily. In marketing, brands have been using it to sharpen their effectiveness, accelerate the pace of their operations and broaden their reach. The most common applications of AI within marketing thus far include:

  1. Customer insights: AI algorithms analyse vast amounts of customer data to provide insights into customer behaviour, preferences, and demographics. This enables brands to create more personalised and effective marketing campaigns.
  2. Predictive analytics: AI can aid marketers in making data-driven predictions about how customers might behave, helping them to make more informed strategic decisions.
  3. Chatbots and virtual assistants: AI-powered chatbots and virtual assistants can provide 24/7 customer service, answer common customer questions, and guide customers through the buying process.
  4. Ad targeting: AI can help brands with ad targeting by analysing vast amounts of data in order to determine the best audience to target for a campaign.

As these products evolve and become more accessible, their use in marketing is becoming increasingly widespread. In fact, according to a survey by Salesforce, 58% of marketers are already using AI in some capacity, and a further 69% of marketers believe it will revolutionise the industry.

Crucially, this revolution seems as though it’s already underway. That’s because a new breed of artificial intelligence has emerged, and it looks likely to alter the marketing landscape yet again. This series of programmes can move beyond processing and prediction to offer users something distinctly human: the idea. Namely, creative AI.

What is Creative AI?

So, what exactly is creative AI, and how ‘creative’ can it actually be? Well, at this very moment, there are a number of such products making waves across multiple sectors of the creative industry and proving just how far technology has come.

Just as it’s difficult to explicitly pin down what ‘creativity’ actually is, it can be fairly difficult to close in on a definition for creative AI. In the context of marketing, however, we’re defining creativity as a human force through which messages and ideas are made to stand out. Therefore, as this piece from Medium rather succinctly puts it, “whereas AI is the simulation of intelligence in machines, Creative AI is the simulation of creativity in machines.”

So, perhaps not creative thinking, per se, but certainly an assimilation of creative thought, emulated rather accurately by a very advanced piece of software.

What is creative AI capable of?

At this point, you may be wondering, ‘what can this kind of software do?’ Well, you’re likely to have already heard of Open AI’s ChatGPT, the language-based AI model capable of writing bespoke, original copy and content based on short, text-based user briefs. Lauded for the apparent authenticity of each unique attempt at every new piece of writing, ChatGPT quickly attracted over one-hundred million users in its first two months since launch.

ChatGPT combines the ability to process vast amounts of data with an understanding of context in order to deliver meaningful sentences backed by knowledge from across the internet. In some cases, the simulation of human thought is so effective using this platform that university professors claim essays written with it would pass at a degree level.

In a similar fashion, AI capable of creating custom visuals based on a text cue have also been flooding the marketplace. Also created by Elon Musk founded Open AI, DALLE.2 can create bespoke images in seconds based on a short prompt. Again, with access to an enormous amount of data and artistic styles as context to draw from, this software can produce eerily accurate results.

These products have also piqued the interest of major players in the digital space. Microsoft has already announced a new search engine, powered by ChatGPT’s technology. In response, Google has announced its own AI powered platform, Google Bard, making it clear that this space is only going to become more advanced, and more widespread as time goes on.

How can brands make use of creative AI?

Unsurprisingly, brands are excited about the potential applications of such products. Indeed, they show great promise in terms of accelerating time intensive creative tasks such as generating graphics or writing swathes of content in order to meet increasing demand.

For those brands with limited creative resources and budget, freeing up your team members to generate big ideas whilst AI takes care of the lengthy creative grunt work is an attractive prospect.

Furthermore, creative AI has the potential to democratise creativity, meaning people who aren’t traditionally creative thinkers can quickly generate ideas for advertising, social media content and more.

There are even AI platforms, such as AdCreative, which are purpose built to create and post social media content autonomously. This software can effectively take on the role of content creator and social media manager, severely limiting the time a team member might need to commit to socials in general.

But what about the shortcomings of such software? Earlier in this piece, we spoke about the presence of context as a defining feature of this new wave of creative AI. But how robust is that context, and how does it compare to the connectedness of the human brain? Well, whilst the answer isn’t particularly straightforward, it lies, ultimately, in a discrepancy between the types of contexts each is tapping into.

As a rule, creative AI is accessing a plethora of data from across the breadth of the internet. Whilst this is a task no human brain would be capable of, even within a lifetime, it is, for now, far too indiscriminate to apply nuance. Worryingly, this can lead, and indeed already has, to misinformation and even harmful information being generated by the AI. As stated in the Washington Post, “At its heart, ChatGPT generates chains of words, but has no understanding of their significance. It might not pick up on gender and racial biases that a human would notice in books and other texts.”

What’s more, such data falls entirely short of the countless oratorial, localised human experiences that people can only become attuned to by immersing themselves in a particular location or field of expertise. Whilst AI is connected to data from across the web, human beings are interconnected with one another, both locally and around the globe, giving a human context to ideation and creativity that AI is simply unable to come close to.

There is also the question of originality. Firstly, this point raises questions about the quality of ideas. If creative AI is drawing from information that exists across the internet, the chance of something derivative being produced is surely greater.

Secondly, if a machine has learned its behaviours based on information on the web, then copyright laws become problematic. Should a brand choose to generate their content through the use of AI, does that content then belong to the human creator, or the machine that has generated it? This is a question that will likely continue to gain nuance as these software models are monetised.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, are the ideas these AI can generate actually right for marketing your brand? Can you trust an AI to understand you and your audience better than a team of human creatives, backed by experience and a network of talents?

Human networks over neural networks

In short, the answer to that question is no. But, also, maybe.

In truth, human creativity isn’t going to be replaced any time soon. As Wired rather eloquently put it, ‘AI is still a human endeavour, and although it is starting to develop creative characteristics, its lacks the complex link between imagination, abstract thinking and episodic memory which scientists believe makes up creativity.’

If you’re planning any creative marketing output, using creative AI can certainly be a help. Whether it’s advertising, content creation or social management, AI can take the strain off your human creatives. And let’s not forget the value AI is already providing marketers in terms of the in-depth insights mentioned at the front of this piece.

However, ultimately, nothing can replace human connectivity, creativity and innovation. Instead, we believe the revolutionary power of creative AI is not to replace creatives, but to support and supplement their innovative ideas.

Powered by the creative mind, AI might have the power to stretch what our imaginations can achieve, enabling your creative team to present your brand to audiences in a light unlike anything they might have seen before.

But, in the end, the presence of a network of talented creatives, supported by experts across the marketing funnel who can deliver their visions, is still the most effective way of generating and marketing engaging ideas, whether that’s within your own organisation, or through an interdisciplinary agency network. So, for now, let’s let the machine work with us, rather than instead of us.

To find out how mci group’s network of creatives and omni-channel experts can help your brand to stand out, call +41 22 33 99 500 or Email:

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Marketing and the machine: Can artificial intelligence replace human creativity?

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