February 4, 2023

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With the advent of AI-generated art and the proliferation of tools such as Midjourney, Stable Diffusion and DALL-E, there are questions in creative industry circles.

Is this a temporary trend? Or a so-called essential tool in creative communication?

A quick glance in a magazine gives an eerie glimpse of a capitalist conformity. Advertising might have gotten a comfortable riff of its own. For an industry always looking for new ideas, the ability to look beyond itself could use some sharpening. AI art engines and their ability to draw from visual data far beyond the walled Jericho garden of ad equality could well provide the guidance creatives need to spark new ideas, new ways of thinking, and new connections and ways to tell stories.

Creative communication can be complex. It can also be extremely monotonous, often performed for targeted consumer profiles who live life as linear phases. But it can also be inspiring and evocative: made for emotional, feisty people who care about real, messy lives, far beyond neatly defined psychographic patterns of behavior.

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Combine that with the idea that we’re all used to shortcuts. It seems like everything has an auto-correct, auto-order, auto-all these days. So, could it be possible that we’re looking at AI art engines in much the same vein? Like a strange ‘creative autofill’.

Get generative AI inspired

In an industry that radiates passion and original thinking, automatically generated images in the service of automatically defined psychographic profiles can be alarming.

However, looking at these AI art tools more as “visual search engines” and “concept connectors” can sharpen the debate. Unlike the almost mathematical mapping of a programmed media purchase, there is no prediction of what an AI art engine will produce. Taking advantage of this unpredictability and the surprising connections that AI art engines can draw from creative sources far beyond the familiar, self-referential advertising game cheat codes, AI art can find its target for advertisers.

American philosopher John Dewey writes: “Science establishes meanings; art expresses them.” In addition, Dewey prescribes clear roles for the two in the creation process. But can the tables be turned in the ongoing debate over the place of generative AI art? Can human art give meanings and then allow science to express them, creating something entirely new and thoughtful?

Campaigns have been launched and art prizes handed out – all too much outrage and discussion. But until now, the focus has been on what AI art engines can produce as output. Not much research has been done on what it can inspire. And therein lies the next stage of evolution for using AI art – from creative auto-fill to the entirety of inspiration on tap.

Taraka “TK” Tennakoon is an associate creative director at AKQA.

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