The AI Wave Has Creatives Drowning in “What Now?” | Industry Insights | All MKC Content | ANA

The AI Wave Has Creatives Drowning in “What Now?”

By Nora Oliver Bafus

The question of where AI fits in the creative world has spiked a fever – a frenzy of curiosity for performance marketers everywhere. But this open question chews at the professional mind geared for performance, especially when it comes to imagining the future of jobs and how people actually work.

On top of it all, there's one especially weedy concern – the current landscape of AI remains mostly open source. There are inherent risks to training the bots for free because that involves incorporating significant aspects of the brand. Just as marketers grapple and attempt to mitigate these risks, major platforms are introducing new features tied to this technology, positioning themselves as tools for creatives to enhance their workflows. It's a lot to process.

Yes, marketers absolutely should seize this opportunity to be agile and strategically chase efforts to allocate their attention, tapping AI for certain tasks. We've got to reserve our teams' natural born ideation and strategic thinking for the more complex challenges. Even so, the art and work of it all cannot stop at iteration.

Iteration Is Dead - Sort Of

The key pillars for performance marketing always have been and always will be testing, volume and variety. These attributes allow teams to effectively activate that engine. Iteration used to be a popular term among marketers at large and the tactic of choice for performance marketers around creative testing.

Today, volume is easier than ever to source and generate, so iteration alone is not enough to move the needle quickly and drive impact. In some ways, traditional iteration is simply adding to the noise and clutter, especially in paid social.

We need bigger bets today – not mass volume micro iterations with tiny variants. The attention and recall aren't there for most consumers, so getting or waiting on a data signal on a pile of creative volume with small changes does not provide an agile approach. We need bigger swings, and to land our hits quickly.

The AI solutions today appear to offer a jet engine for volume, but let's ask ourselves: Is that good? Do we even need that much fuel to make a good use of your media budget? It's equal to mass printing flyers and tossing confetti through the streets. Sure, we've blanketed the space, it's out there, but it's essentially just litter.

Teams can still deploy AI tools for content, particularly SEO and SEM, where the volume capture and variety is helpful. But the plan needs a human to touch, edit as well as apply a value filter to what's being produced. This allows marketers to take bolder approaches to make campaigns stand out. Ultimately, AI provides a means to conserve energy for the "critical human touch."

A Smarter Way for the Day to Day

There's a very real-life example of where one might start to practice this sort of automation/human balance. The importance of knowing what exactly to leave to the bots versus save for your living, breathing talent comes up in our daily dealings with the platforms, their AI driven ad products feeding off volume, such as Meta Dynamic or ASC, producing hyper targeted experiences.

AI driven creative tools can certainly offer a fast-pass to volume so you can quickly feed the algo-based ad products of now. However, left unchecked you might end up with models sporting six rows of shark teeth or hands with 18 fingers.

Amid the bright shiny AI wave, it's vital to own and take your position as the curator – or better yet: the mixologist, who just happens to have a robot at the bar learning the ropes. You've got six juices, 15 liquors and 18 garnishes, and you're going to set the robot loose to conjure the cocktails. But you set the creative rules and inputs – the recipes. You drive context and taste. You set the variants so that all the combos make sense, and they land with your customers. Vodka cranberry, no problem. Vodka lemonade plus rosemary, how fun! But what you're not doing is Bailey's and tequila plus chocolate milk and blue cheese. Truly demonic.

When engaging with the platforms and their ad solutions today, the AI tools are very much in your daily life, as your bartender sidekick. However, don't let go of the steering wheel, because your curation and taste, your setting of variants, is everything. And for hyper speed, data driven creativity to truly thrive and scale, that human oversight is required.

The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the ANA or imply endorsement from the ANA.

Nora Oliver Bafus is VP of creative services at New Engen.