Nightmare on Creative Street

April 10, 2024

“Today, we attend the funeral of creative agencies.

They may be gone, but their creative spirit will live on in the hearts and minds of all who had the privilege of experiencing its magic…”

Okay, WTF?!

Immerse yourself in the latest creative headlines and you’ll likely be faced with more articles that you can read talking about the monumental impact of Generative AI (Gen AI) on agencies.

Yet, these articles speak more truth than many of us wish to believe.

We’ve become accustomed to fast-paced creativity and expected cheap wins that many in the industry have begun to forget the iconic and at times generation-defining role that creativity can play.

Despite being more than a decade old, I’ll bet you remember or have heard of these classics:

Not Happy Jan - Telstra

The Great Wall of China - Telstra

It’s a Big Ad - Carlton Draught

The days when brands would brief a single creative agency on a project due in 9+ months with a budget twice that of modern-day agencies’ annual revenues are now few and far between.

Today, brands have the choice of over 9,500 creative agencies in Australia alone. While timelines have shrunk, production budgets have vanished in favour of digital media and martech investment while expectations have skyrocketed due to the rise of short-term sales cycles.

So how do we reignite our creativity and escape the ‘blandemic’ that’s taking over?

Believe it or not, the answer is to embrace Gen AI.

While Gen AI can automate certain tasks, creativity remains a uniquely human trait that cannot be fully replicated by machines.

In its most basic form, tasks like brainstorming, prototyping and iteration can be accelerated, allowing more headspace to unleash creativity, while still delivering projects more efficiently.

Gen AI is, after all, a master at being able to distil existing information into whatever new form we ask of it. However, there is a distinct limit to its creativity because the AI’s imagination is limited to what has already been done.

In fact, we use Chat-GPT for this, to weed out the obvious, expected and average ideas.

While this creates an even battleground, with everyone having access to the same tools and opportunities, the ability for creatives to observe and identify what’s happening in/to culture and to manifest ways to communicate this with the world is a unique talent that can’t be replicated.

Take for instance our recent work for Adobe, establishing the Takeover Tomorrow brand platform.

While tools such as Chat-GPT, Adobe Firefly and Runway were used to amplify the creative outputs, the AI couldn't fathom and create the unique platform that came to be for this piece of work.

Merely it could assist in streamlining the process, but it wasn’t a replacement for the Hopeful Monsters’ creativity in any shape or form yet it helped amplify it.

As a result, creative agencies must embrace Gen AI as a tool to augment and enhance human creativity. It is this symbiotic relationship between man and machine that will shape the future of the industry.

Now you may be asking, but Blair, this completely contradicts your clickbait headline?!

You're right, but you’re also wrong.

Creativity is arguably going through one of its most contentious periods.

Many of the iconic and legacy-making ideas have lost their way, overwhelmed by the sea of sameness that is being created from the unimaginative use of Gen AI tools.

Unfortunately, this churn-and-burn mentality of creativity has only been made worse by the adoption of AI in many areas of the creative process.

As an industry, we must hold ourselves accountable for changing the narrative and continuing to pursue the creation of unique work that is supported by AI but not led by it.

There is no greater force than culture and it’s our responsibility to positively influence it.

Otherwise, we risk digging our own creative graves.

Words by Blair Ellis.