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How Will ‘Creative Automation’ Affect Industry Talent in 2023 and Beyond


Prominent industry leaders from ReMake, Publicis Groupe, WPP Hogarth, CYLNDR and The Poolhouse predict the role AI will play in the future of creative talent

How Will ‘Creative Automation’ Affect Industry Talent in 2023 and Beyond

Image by OpenArt.AI

Technology has revolutionised the way we create, develop and transform. For some time, creative jobs were considered protected from automation, but recent developments revealing the speed of progress in AI, machine learning, deep learning and data have seen ‘creative automation’ come flying into relevance. Two of the biggest AI programs to gain notoriety last year were Midjourney, the AI art generator that translates text-based prompts into image, and Chat GPT, the viral AI-powered chatbot – both of which demonstrate creative capabilities as yet unseen. The industry now has the ability to generate original, high quality content - text, video, images, music, art - by leveraging data and technology. 

Research conducted by Gartner reports that 90% of large global enterprises are embracing RPA (robot process automation) to some degree, and those same companies will triple their RPA portfolios by 2024. This, and further reports that 77% of marketers could benefit from an automated digital advertising strategy, has resulted in the subject of ‘creative automation’ becoming an increasingly more popular prospect. Given the long-standing talent shortage facing the industry, many high level heads across brands, agencies, production companies and post houses are deliberating whether some areas of the production pipeline would benefit from automated processes, while others argue certain tech threatens to overcomplicate existing jobs.

This begs the question, how does production fit into this brave new world and what do these technological advancements spell for the future of our industry and the people working in it? 

The Era of Creative Automation

“Automation is as broad of a term as ‘digital’ or ‘content’ – it covers a lot of different elements in production. As such, it can be an exceptionally great tool or, in the wrong hands, a creative killer,” says Sergio Lopez-Ferrero, global head of production at Publicis Groupe. Known for embracing developing technologies in his role at the global ad agency, Sergio is optimistic about how advancements in AI are facilitating new ways of working. “Automation gives us scale and agility without compromising quality, which allows more iterations of work done faster and for cheaper. At the same time, it helps us focus our talent on the right areas,” he explains. “Agility is not just about delivering faster, it’s also about freeing up time for creative tasks.” 

Dave Rolfe, global head of production for WPP Hogarth, shares a similar viewpoint. “Obsessed” with the growing sense that artificial intelligence powers efficiency, Dave is eager to cultivate space for the appropriate AI, utilising automation tools to reduce time spent on repetitive tasks and giving talent the time needed to do what they do best – be creative. “AI and automation equips marketers with agility, insights and addressability into segmented audiences,” he says. “Couple that with impactful creative and storytelling, and you’ve got a very future-facing, uniquely captivating formula. All of this will serve intelligence in ways previously unimaginable, including more rote tools in the RPA space.” 

This view that technology can be used to conserve time and enable creative teams, leaving the menial tasks to the robots, is echoed across the industry. As head of operations and technology at CYLNDR, Rich Mason works closely with evolving technology and believes it is important to give careful consideration to the appropriate creative automation when building a tech stack. “When investing in automation, it’s important to take time to weigh up what business problems you are looking to solve. Choosing a platform that can provide a collaborative marketing ecosystem that unites all of the teams in the process will significantly improve speed to market, consistency, reduced feedback loops, along with increased ability to respond to market dynamics and competitors.”

Further wisdom is provided by Veronica Beach, producer and co-founder of The Poolhouse. With 20 years of experience staffing production workflows and processes, Veronica has some practical advice for business leaders seeking consistency through automation: “AI can help to transform the dreadful deliverables lists that have grown into mountains from flatlands, by taking pieces of it into automation. If clients are looking for ‘that thing’ they will always need a human touch, but looking at the bigger picture, taking pieces of a larger production and automating it saves time and money in the larger pipeline.”

Hearing first hand from those at the top, it becomes clear that the main appeal of creative automation - where production is concerned - is to make use of the tools that redirect the heavy lifting required to deliver content at scale. “Automation in its current state is a phenomenal way to remove dreadfully mechanical tasks in production such as versioning, resizing, customising, tagging and so on,” says Sergio. Underlining the value of smart tech, there is a clear call for AI and automation to coexist alongside creative talent.

A technical task like versioning has proven to benefit greatly from automation and one tool that continues to impress brand and agency execs and producers alike due to its speed and simplicity, is ReMake. The versioning software feeds directly into the pipeline by integrating seamlessly with existing production workflows, making it possible for talent to focus on their craft, tying in with CEO Daniel Robey's intention of building a platform that would be powered by and empower people: “It is not about replacing teams or changing workflow, it’s about making repetitive tasks easier, simpler – that’s our goal and that’s how we see ourselves fitting into the workflow.” 

Having devised a tool that simplifies and streamlines a historically tedious and time consuming aspect of production, Daniel says the people-enabling product leverages and enhances the capabilities of existing industry talent, as opposed to eliminating them. “Creative automation is taking away a lot of the heavy lifting on users and teams, thus allowing brands and companies to create content more aligned with the user and targeted demographic,” explains Daniel. “ReMake works fast: a thousand ads can be created and rendered in under an hour, the ability to demonstrate that sort of speed is nuts.”

The main appeal of creative automation tools like ReMake is the inherent understanding that simplification - which lies at the heart of all the most successful tech ventures - is valued. “We don’t have long complicated onboarding processes and guides, our instructions are very simple and consist of very few steps,” says Daniel, “The danger of too many types of software lies in the onboarding, as they work in different ways, have different UX and needs, which means they essentially overcomplicate jobs for the people who have to learn how to use it all.” 

Rich is in agreement, knowing that the less time spent on repetitive tasks and admin, the more spent on the work: “The tools need to be an extension of our teams. It's no good using platforms that drastically change how we work in the short term. They need to fit seamlessly into the business operations, enhancing the efficiencies of existing workflows. Great technology has the ability to rebuild and re-engage all the layers in a fragmented marketing ecosystem, where inefficiencies have perhaps crept in over time.” 

With intelligent automated tools like ReMake launching in the market, it remains down to leaders of industry to responsibly pair talent with tech in order to maximise the effectiveness of creative automation, while still benefiting from the irreplaceable input of human imagination. Veronica believes the most effective way to do this is to focus on the development and training of talent, “I will always lean towards the human touch, so first and foremost we need to not just invest and attract talent but train people too,” she says. “Training is something I believe is lacking right now, ever since the pandemic started and we became more remote. AI is an ideal option when you don’t have to create something unique but instead need to replicate deliverables that adhere to the endless requirements clients want these days in the output.” 

“What scares me is the idea of becoming reliant on or viewing technology as the silver bullet – it’s not!” warns Rich, “There is no replacement for well-run marketing and production functions and, above all, great creative ideas.” While simplified automated solutions may prove to be the key to integrated workflows, leaders of industry like Rich, Veronica, Sergio and Dave believe that software should strive to enable industry talent, not limit their output. 

Daniel, emphasising the people-first element of ReMake, echoes this sentiment. “Although automation removes timely processes and lets clients be more nimble, it is by no means replacing the invaluable contribution of human creativity.” 

As exciting as these developments in RPA and AI are, collectively building an organic and sustainable path towards the future of creative automation means working with technology, rather than going up against it. Equilibrium can only be achieved through an industry-wide agreement that automation serves as a favourable side dish to compliment the highly sought-after main entree, human insight. 

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LBB Uploads, Thu, 02 Feb 2023 09:00:20 GMT