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Artificial Intelligence Web3 Technology

Take a step back creatives. No more fear-mongering over AI


By Tim Ringel, Global CEO

July 8, 2024 | 8 min read

Meet The People’s Tim Ringel thinks the AI concerns among creatives may not be as bad as we all think.

Hands against glass, abstract, fearful

Recent AI news seems dire for advertising creatives.

In the wake of Open AI CEO Sam Altman’s recent prediction that 95% of creative marketing work will be replaced by AI, many agency and in-house marketing professionals are beginning to panic.

But before we go too far down that road, we might want to step back for some perspective. After all, our industry is not the first to tackle the issue of machine v man, nor will it be the last. And perhaps we can learn a thing or two from similar struggles within other industries.

The fear of robots replacing workers

First, let’s all agree that workers have always feared being replaced by machines. So, it’s not surprising that robots in factories would be met with similar resistance.

But still, let’s not underestimate the challenge here.

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A 2017 National Bureau of Economic Research study (NBER) found that every new robot added to a local economic market correlated to the loss of 5.6 jobs. A 2023 MIT published paper came to similar conclusions, putting the job losses at 6 per robot. Taking all of this at face value, one could easily conclude that robots are bad for keeping the labor force employed, and possibly even hurtful to the economy as a whole.

But here’s the thing with that: all these well-researched papers still hedge a bit on what the actual danger is.

For example, the book Shifting Paradigms, though concerned about the impact of robotics, still admits: “Workers who can work with machines are more productive than those without them; this reduces both the costs and prices of goods and services and makes consumers feel richer. As a result, consumers spend more, which leads to the creation of new jobs.”

The International Federation of Robotics goes one step further, claiming robots complement and augment labor rather than replace workers. It also makes the fascinating claim that when it comes to loss of jobs and wage inequality, the culprit is more likely systematic problems with specific employers that would have become an issue even if robots were not introduced.

Applying these learnings to AI in advertising

So, what does all this mean for creatives in the marketing world?

Given the obvious analogies with factory workers, we can’t sugarcoat things. It’s going to be a rough go for a few years, as creatives are now forced to face many of the same issues blue-collar workers have faced for decades.

However, we must balance this somber news with the fact that, just like factory workers facing replacement by machines, creatives who embrace AI tools the quickest are the employees who will remain the most relevant in the marketplace.

Think of it like this – jobs in the marketing field have always evolved. Producers specializing in TV thirty years ago had to re-learn their entire profession for the digital age. Whole new positions, like creative technologists, had to be created and incorporated into the creative workflow.

Consider also the advantages we have over other professions, like software engineers. An entire generation or two was convinced that programming offered a stable, well-paying career, while creative fields were for dreamers. Now, we find out that programming is the easiest thing for AI to replace, while creative work is still something AI finds difficult to master.

But all that aside, to avoid becoming a victim of the immediate crisis, creative professionals need to develop personal use cases for AI tools in their daily activities.

According to another NBER study from 2019, technology over the past century has always created new employment opportunities to offset displacement by machines. And although the current tech revolution in automation has not yet achieved this equilibrium, we need to take matters into our own hands to find how AI can empower us in our performance and in our careers.

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Roles like “prompt writers,” where a writer specializes in developing the instructions for AI to produce more complete and accurate work, are already being created. There’s also an opportunity for people to become “creative editors,” who fine-tune and humanize the work being developed by our virtual assistants.

But where the real opportunities lie are in the positions we can’t even begin to imagine at this stage. Roles like AI psychologists who can diagnose creative stagnation loops and help the AI find new inspiration. It may seem far-fetched now, but these are the kinds of roles we need to invent and develop sooner rather than later.

The point is, though, that businesses will always find ways to operate at the lowest costs possible while producing the highest volume of work. AI is simply the latest way our industry is moving to achieve these aims. The quicker we accept this and create a seat for ourselves at the table, the faster we can balance the forces of displacement with increased profit and new role creation.

Machines aren’t the enemy. Procrastination and fear are. It’s time to learn that lesson.

Tim Ringel is the founder and group CEO of the next-generation international advertising group Meet The People.

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