Inhousing The Future of Work ChatGPT

How is tech changing creative industry standards – now and for future generations?

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By Laura Blackwell, Content Executive

March 21, 2023 | 8 min read

We've seen plenty of recent takes on creativity versus artificial intelligence (AI). But how is evolving tech changing the landscape for creatives? Leaders from The Drum Network came together to discuss.

3D render of white geometrical objects in abstract light

How is generative AI already shaping industry standards for creatives? / Shubham Dhage

What the industry doesn’t need is more takes on the automation v creativity debate. There has been enough discourse pointing to the question, should creatives be scared or excited about generative AI?

At a recent panel of leaders from the New York chapter of The Drum Network, we took a different tack. We tasked our panel with nailing down the specifics of what this all really means for creatives.

Not a replacement for thought

Tools like ChatGPT and Midjourney can help creatives to “drill for oil” as creative director at Brave Bison Matt Garbutt puts it. They can provide rich ground for generating seed ideas for headlines, visual concepts or mood boards. “We find that they throw unexpected results at us, time and time again”, he says. But there is still fear among designers.

Suzanne Fritz-Hanson, vice-president of West Coast Creative at George P Johnson, reminds us that innovation is not always initially well-received. “Back in the day, photographers thought, ‘this will take our jobs, no one will take real pictures anymore’”, she says about Photoshop when it first came onto the scene.

“People are nervous because, quite frankly, we don't know how to use these tools effectively yet and so, the first reaction is fear,” Fritz-Hanson goes on. “But it’s a stepping stool that will help us to see from a higher vantage point”.

One view is that this new wave of tech could help more junior creatives to “be active at a higher level in an organization earlier than they would have [without it]”, says Known’s head of brand social, Jordan Schultz. But Fritz-Hanson pushes back: “It’s not to say they don’t need to do the groundwork. I think what we have to be careful of is making sure that technology is not a replacement for thought”.

Recruitment and the talent pipeline: ‘picking the magic from the mess’

All of this begs the question of whether recruiters will struggle. Nucco’s creative partner Alistair Robertson has been wondering, “do I need to hire more junior teams at the moment, or should I be looking at more experienced people who can do more with the tools attached to them?” From there, he says, “it’s about creative direction and being able to pick the magic out of the mess”.

There's also a fear that university courses and the leads coming into the industry are lagging behind, with tutors failing to teach students about these new technologies.

“It worries me because then you have a misalignment between talent and actual usability”, says Robertson. “The broader that stretch becomes, the harder it will be for those people to get into the industry. We all know how hard it was to get that first gig”.

Search Laboratory’s executive vice-president Laci Wiggins has a different stance: “I always joke that I learned more about my career from waiting tables and bartending than I did at school”, she says. “I think they’ll be fine; kids who come into the industry straight out of college, they’re the ones that are still in that thinking and learning phase”.

While accepting that they may well lose some projects to AI, agencies should also see this as a call for them to, as Fritz-Hanson puts it, “continue to elevate and raise the bar” in terms of the kinds of clients they aspire to work with.

“As much as we always pretend that we’re all about excellence as an industry, there are some clients whereby just good enough is enough,” says Robertson. “Let’s not pretend that that doesn’t exist”. In their departure, he suggests, agencies should be upping the ante.

Creative direction will be key

It’s clear what our panel thinks about the landscape for creative graduates trying to get through the door: you can’t cop out on creativity. Strategy is also a huge piece of the puzzle. Jovan Dupor has seen this as Merkle’s vice-president of creative solutions, describing their team of creative strategists as “a blend of traditional strategists and creatives coming together to think about the practical application of how you activate all these pieces of content you’re creating”.

But what about designers who are self-taught? For Known, recruiting the right person comes down to portfolio. Schultz says, “the work speaks for itself”.

It throws the value of a college degree into question, although Garbutt maintains that more theoretical experience is necessary to be able to prompt AI well: “it might be art history, it might be knowledge of photography, it might be knowing how to set up a studio, or color theory”. Robertson chimes in: “I think that is 100% true because I come from a copy background and I am really shit on Midjourney, because I just don’t have the artistic background to understand it”.

Agencies will thrive

Many see digital transformation altering the trajectory of creative industries, while others are taking it with a pinch of salt. “Whether it’s the technology, whether it’s creative, whether it’s the prompt architects – you’re always going to have that outside resource that can filter through 20, 30 people that are doing that same thing”, says The MX Group’s senior vice-president of digital experience, Brendan Turner. “So, this might change the game a little bit. But it’s probably not going to change the cycles that we’re used to”.

On the question of whether brands will break up with their agency partners in the wake of the in-house adoption of AI, Turner says the job of agencies is “to hire the people our clients would never hire”. In other words, agencies can add more value than brands that go it alone.

As more agencies embrace generative AI, it could even create more opportunities for creatives who, as Robertson says, “don’t hang around or want to necessarily do the same thing for 10 years”.

Inhousing The Future of Work ChatGPT

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