AI is challenging us to become better creatives


Simon Richings, Executive Creative Director at We Are Social, explores the rise of AI and its capabilities, the implications on creatives and what it means for working in the industry.

It’s no surprise that Microsoft is betting big on ChatGPT.

New applications for AI surface every day. It can pick stocks. It can write code. It can even pass an MBA.

But it can’t write a Nick Cave song. Or at least one that is up to Nick Cave’s standards. In his latest blog, the Australian lyricist refuted an attempt by the algorithm to write a song in his style. “The apocalypse is well on its way,” he remarked. “This song sucks”.

But even if ChatGPT can’t write like Cave, there’s growing unease in creative circles about AI’s apparent surge in capabilities.

The mastermind behind ChatGPT, OpenAI Chief Executive Sam Altman, discussed this in a recent interview: “If you asked people 10 years ago, what they thought the main application of AI would be – they likely would have told you that it would be coming for the blue collar jobs first. Factories, self-driving cars, deliveries. Then it would come for ‘low-skilled’ white collar work. Then programming. Then finally – creative work. But the inverse of this has happened.”

The AI revolution has hit creatives first. Tools like DALL-E and Midjourney are capturing attention and imagination in equal measure. With a few short keywords, creatives can snap ideas from brain-to-screen at synaptic speeds. We can immediately visually imagine what a Star Wars film in the style of Wes Anderson would look like.

And that’s pretty cool.

ChatGPT imagines the Star Wars universe through the lens of Wes Anderson

So, are we all out of a job?

The A stands for average

ChatGPT and AI tools are changing the creative process. But they aren’t changing the creative output.

Ultimately the work it produces is – by its very nature – as average as you can get. As Sam Altman notes, the “AGI is essentially the equivalent of a median human”. Using unimaginably huge swathes of data from the internet, the language processing model builds up words and sentences based on statistical probability.

As Nick Cave said: “What ChatGPT is, in this instance, is replication as travesty. ChatGPT may be able to write a speech or an essay or a sermon or an obituary but it cannot create a genuine song.”

ChatGPT doesn’t know what to say. It just knows what we are most likely to say.

Really that is the opposite of creativity. But it still has significant implications for creatives. With these tools, anybody with a pulse and a WiFi connection can easily and instantly create average work. For the first time, mediocrity has become virtually costless.

This raises the bar for creatives. When five out of 10 work is abundantly available for free, six out of 10 work is probably not worth paying for. But the really good stuff becomes even more valuable –because that’s what’s now required to be distinctive, engaging and memorable.

Computer says ‘go’

The relationship between creatives and technology is entering a new era through AI. These tools are changing what is possible. But they are a powerful extension of our human capabilities, not a cheap replacement.

And that’s why I’m optimistic about the future of AI and creativity. These tools will help us achieve big things as a species. In the long run, AI will transform society on an unprecedented scale.

But in the short term, it’s doing much smaller things. Like penning knock-off Nick Cave songs, or revealing how much marketing work is inherently average.

So for now, we’re keeping our use of ChatGPT playful at We Are Social. In our reception we’ve installed an AI idea generator, in the form of a skeuomorphic big red phone. So, literally chat to ChatGPT for a few thought starters.

We’ve also baked a ChatGPT-powered dynamic field into our briefing docs. Every time we get a brief, the AI immediately generates a handful of ideas. They’re not great – but that’s the point. The job of our creative team is to then make sure they “beat the bot”.

AI technology enhances what we are capable of. It’s raising the creative benchmark and giving great ideas more room to shine; and average ideas fewer places to hide.

It’s challenging us to become better. Because when mediocre becomes costless, brilliant becomes priceless.

This article originally appeared in Campaign.