Woolley Marketing: The rise of the creative machines

In his regular column for Mumbrella, Trinity P3 founder and global CEO Darren Woolley argues the use of technology for the creative production process is not a binary decision.

Copywriters beware. Your worst nightmare is coming. For all those long-suffering agency writers, with clients who all believe they can write just as well as you can, the fact is they now have technology on their side. It has come in the form of AI – artificial intelligence.

Simply type into Google, “AI copywriters” and you will see the rise of the machines – with names like CopyAI, Copysmith, Anyword and Jasper. All proclaiming their ability to create copywriting that gets results. They will write your hundreds of Facebook ads, your thousands of Instagram Ads, and they will write your website and paid search and display ads without complaining about your copy changes.

Okay, so there still may be some errors for the pedants out there that cherish grammar, and the AI will often struggle with colloquialisms and jargon in ‘crafting’ the copy that sells your product. But imagine – an unlimited source of copywriting without ego, complaint, or contrary opinion?

It doesn’t stop there either. Technology is not only streamlining copywriting. It is also impacting art direction, editing, layout, design, and production. Instead of discussing SAAS, it is being called CAAS – creative as a service. The ability to scale the volumes of creative materials needed through technology platforms that can deliver virtually unlimited customised versions in real time.

Of course, the agency will tell you that you will need to compromise on the quality of the executions. This is because of the industry adage of Quality, Cost or Time – and you can only have two of these. But because technology is now offering lower cost and faster delivery, that only leaves quality as the compromise. But what is the compromise?

Considering that unlike the traditional advertising campaign, where the delivered elements were required to exist in market for weeks or months or even a year, the vast increase in creative volume is lucky to survive 24 hours in the social media world. Marketing has become a game of producing enough relevant and compelling content to feed the insatiable appetite of these digital channels.

The traditional agency production pathway, from brief to delivery, with stages and gates along the way, struggles to produce the volume required within the limitations of the marketing budget. No wonder marketers are increasingly looking for alternatives, often turning to production specialists and in-housing to increase the volume and speed of delivery.

Here is where technology is coming to the forefront. But the use of technology for the creative production process, be it CAAS or automation, is not a binary decision. Almost ten years ago we could see this coming and used the automotive industry as a prime example of the changes the industry would be facing.

Instead of driving down overall cost, the automotive industry invests heavily in research and design to develop the best possible prototype for their market. Think of this as the research and design leading to a communications brief for the agency and the development of the solution. But then, once the prototype is made and agreed, it goes into the most efficient production line possible.

This production line is designed to produce automobiles quickly and in as many different customized combinations as required, without compromising on quality. You want a red one with white interior? Or a blue one with yellow? Just wait a minute and it rolls off the production line.

But because we still think of go-to-market process for marketing communications as end-to-end, much like a craft industry, when cost savings are required they are applied across the board. Agency fees for both the prototype development and the production line are squeezed. The consequence is that if you don’t get that prototype right up front, then no amount of production efficiency will make it work.

Instead, let’s hope that the rise of the creative production machines will be embraced by the industry. That both clients and their agencies and suppliers will be looking for ways to embrace technology to meet the demands of our always fragmented media world.

Rather than thinking of the AI creative machines as killing the art director and copywriter, they will instead allow advertisers to invest in better brand prototypes and then allow the machines to do their thing. Particularly at a time when we are facing increased inflationary pressure, all marketers should be looking for ways to be not just more cost efficient, but more productive as well.

Cartoon by Dennis Flad, with permission (2022)

Darren Woolley, Trinity P3 founder and global CEO


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