AI – just because we can, does it mean we should?

  • Published: 17 May 2023,
  • Say Technology Team

The roles and definitions of ‘creative’ and ‘creativity’ in marketing and communications are varied, and their importance is often misunderstood – particularly in B2B marcomms.

At a fundamental level, creativity is an integral part of the human experience. Its importance to our sense of self sets us apart from almost every other species on Earth. Let’s suppose, for the purposes of this article, that we characterise artificial intelligence (AI) as a species too, if only to be able to compare it to humans in respect to creativity.

The reason we’re singling out creativity in this comparison is because of the debate around AI’s impact on the marketing industry: what and who it might replace; what it can improve or make more economical; and how it might transform our experience of marketing as consumers.

But it is in that one respect – creativity – that we believe AI is being overestimated, and probably always will be.

“We are a long way from machines being truly creative. Humans have aesthetic judgement.” – Demis Hassabis, Co-Founder and CEO of Google DeepMind

In marketing, creativity goes beyond just aesthetics; it encompasses innovation through design, storytelling in all its forms, and experimentation – but above all it is a process of origination, contextualisation and problem-solving.

Too often ‘creative’ – when used as a noun – focuses on an output, such as an asset. But really, to be creative is to find a solution to a problem that might be full of nuance, context and intangibles; a task that is perfectly suited to the abilities of the human mind.

We’re making this distinction because it’s important in understanding AI’s potential to augment and improve marketing in the long term, but also to assess where and how to deploy it in the short term.

Where AI should be making a positive difference

AI is of course making huge strides in augmenting marketing, as we explored in our previous blog. Marketing professionals are using AI to automate manual and administrative tasks, which in theory should be freeing up time to focus on more creative and original tasks. But is it?

Currently, a lot of the focus for AI has been on producing assets (images and copy, principally), rather than the administrative stuff. After all, who wouldn’t love for AI to ease the burden of brainstorming, insight finding, and copywriting? Apparently a lot of us, given how often it’s being used for these, particularly the latter.

Whilst the most widely-used AI tool ChatGPT is helpful for drafting basic copy, or rewording sentences, it still lacks the inventiveness of a human writer. It could not, for example, include an implicit reference to the Eurovision Song Contest in a social media headline without being prompted. The understanding of context, timeliness, current affairs and the zeitgeist in which something is being created is completely lacking with AI-created copywriting (currently). It would take just as long to brief, edit and finalise a ChatGPT piece of copy that required a Eurovision pun as it would to write it yourself, if not longer.

There is of course the argument that AI needs to be trained and prompted, and that over time it will be able to do this. But therein lies the question – should that be our short-term use for it, or even our long term one?

AI and the human brain don’t think, reason or approach a problem in the same way. Nor do they need to. In fact, both are at their most effective when allowed to play to their respective strengths. Why not let AI tools do something else entirely, to allow more time for people to work on creative work – with better output and outcomes?

Here are lots of other ways AI can help augment marketing teams, that might make a lot more sense in the short and long term. The overriding feeling of our team on the subject is: just because we can, doesn’t mean we should.

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