While artificial intelligence (AI) has been a preoccupation for science fiction writers and game designers for decades, it only recently became a concern for those of us working in creative fields. Over the past 12 months, new generative AI tools for creativity have hit the market in a big way, with record adoption speeds, and it’s left professionals across any number of disciplines—writers, digital artists, marketers, and more—wondering exactly what it all means for their career outlooks and content-related businesses.

Generative AI tools like DALL·E 2, Stable Diffusion, Midjourney and conversational tools like ChatGPT or jasper.ai are capable of creating visual and written artistic content, are accessible to the general public, and offer higher quality results than, say, WordArt in its time. So what does that mean for creativity? Better yet, what does it mean for creatives? Are we on the verge of becoming disposable? From a marketing perspective, this sudden tidal wave of new, accessible AI tools poses both challenges and opportunities in building value. So let’s examine both sides of the coin.

How Is Generative AI Being Used in Marketing?

Suffice it to say, we’re in the early days of figuring out exactly how generative AI tools can best be incorporated into our marketing workflows to get the most out of them in terms of productivity and quality, while maintaining respect for legal and ethical boundaries. But the test-and-learn period is well underway—and being enthusiastically pursued. Marketers are testing AI capabilities for producing blog posts, social media content, web copy, ad creative, and much more. AI-generated imagery is being brought into creative brainstorming sessions, delivering surprisingly good prompts and expanding our vision. Predictive modeling is helping us understand which content will perform best in which environments by acknowledging certain human behavior patterns. These are all real-life applications that are changing our jobs and customer experiences today.

But what about tomorrow?

The Promise of AI

AI offers a tremendous number of benefits for marketers, with perhaps the most significant one being its time-saving potential. The simple fact is that production—from copywriting to design to ad iterations—slows marketers down and often limits the time they can dedicate to higher-level strategy and creativity discussions. In this regard, AI is a true creative partner, freeing up much-needed resources. Furthermore, from a creative generation standpoint, properly trained AI models have the capability of producing thousands of iterations of ad creative for a given campaign, getting advertisers closer to the true personalization in real-time that they’ve been pursuing for years.

Generative AI, particularly on the visual side, is also proving invaluable within the brainstorming process, helping marketers to easily mockup concepts with little time invested. Again, this saves time and resources that can be dedicated to higher-level creative functions and allows us to count on a much wider input not limited to the collective knowledge of the people in the room. Rather, the output is powered by a much broader library of training materials. The stock image market is clearly going to be up-ended by the reinvention of creative work.

And as creatives, we’ve always dreamed of having magic tools to allow us to turn even the most impossible ideas into a reality in a blink of an eye. Well, here it is. In Arthur C. Clarke’s words, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

Finally, behind the scenes, AI and predictive modeling is going to continue to become more effective in helping marketers increase ROI with their ad placements. The capacity of these tools to identify patterns in terms of how and where people respond best to messaging and creative is going to cause a huge shift in how content is produced, planned, and placed.

The bumps on the Web3 road

Of course, as with any nascent technology, generative AI has a long way to go before it’s a well-accepted, well-understood, well-managed, and seamless extension of marketing capabilities. At present, there’s a real concern in the market as it relates to the ownership of the vast libraries of content and imagery that are being used to train and fuel these AI engines, and it’s going to take time for issues like plagiarism, copyright, and royalties to be sorted out to the degree that marketers can understand and trust their usage rights surrounding AI-generated assets. Unlike previous technological innovations, we are clearly too slow in catching up with the speed of development, opportunity, and the possible backlash.

On a purely technical level, AI tools still have a long way to go in order to cover all the needs human creators and audiences might have. Midjourney is struggling to recreate some visual elements in the way the human eye and imagination see them, and ChatGPT can not yet be taught to generate text triggering specific emotional stimuli.

So, is AI the end of human creativity in marketing?

At a higher level, many creatives are inclined to dig in their heels regarding AI tools, based on the concern that these engines could supplant human artists and designers. But even though AI might simulate human creativity, it will always be bound by rules that humans are not. Creative directors, designers, and marketers will not lose their jobs, but will learn to speak “machine” to be the catalysts of what AI can deliver. We already learned to speak to Siri and Alexa. Now, it’s time to make friends with Dall-E, Claude, Bart, and others to come.

This is clearly not the end. It’s a common refrain when AI enters a new realm of utility, and it’s one we must resist indulging. It is the gift of constant discovery, to expand our creative capacity and (why not?) to reinvent our jobs. Our emotional boundlessness is what makes our imaginative, chaotic minds so beautiful, and it’s also essential for human-focused marketing to persist. Our job descriptions will change, and the ability to communicate with and train our AI creative partners will become a priority. So let us welcome these tools as that: partners, not replacements.