Creative Disruption – How AI will change the way agencies work with data and creative in 2023
The buzz and promise of Artificial Intelligence (AI) has never been stronger. We’re hearing about technology from OpenAI’s ChatGPT that performs complex tasks like writing a research paper or building a business plan that would take a human hours – if not days – to mere seconds. If I were a smarter… errr more efficient… worker, I would have had one of the platforms write this blog post for me.
Given these significant advancements in AI, what does this mean for marketers, creators and agencies? Will we be replaced by robots? In short, no – but humans that leverage available creative data to make meaningful insights to positively impact performance will.
At the 4As’s Decisions event in New York City, marketers and agencies discussed questions like this. In a panel discussion focused on Creative Disruption, leaders in brand strategy, creative direction, agency, and technology space including, Jennifer Clarke – Brand Strategy Director, Maytag and JennAir @ Whirlpool, Jill Gray – EVP, Global Client Solutions @ VidMob, David Dweck – Senior Vice President of Paid Media @ Wpromote, and Juan C. Suarez – SVP, Strategic Partnerships @ 4A’s sat down to tackle the burning question: How will AI change the way agencies work with data and creative in 2023?
AI makes creative data better
For the last century, creative decisions and analysis have been largely based on opinions, then trial and error. An extremely laborious process, analyzing creative data took a team of experts manually plugging data points together and relying on intuition to make the right decisions. AI is disrupting this process by streamlining the manual nature of data analysis into a more automated process by outputting better creative data. Data and intuition can now work together. Technology from companies like VidMob, which helps companies and brands use AI to make creative decisions about their business, makes this possible.
“AI has unlocked the ability to break down creative, to understand which creative decisions are truly tied to performance…Especially in a world where the media has been so fragmented and it’s really hard to know what works, where.” – Jill Gray, EVP Marketing VidMob
Agencies, like Wpromote, are investing in AI so that they can more effectively analyze creative data. With AI, every component of video creative, and how that creative is performing, is unlocked so that agencies can optimize their decision making.
“These are insights we’ve never had before, so it gives us the ability to be very nimble and act very quickly. Everything we do is, and should be, accountable. Without these metrics, we’re flying blindly. So, from creative testing all the way to optimization, we are able to see the life cycle of the campaign and actually measure brand burnout, not only at a frequency basis but also of time duration spent in front of an asset.” – David Dweck, Senior Vice President of Paid Media @ Wpromote
With better creative data, marketers and agencies can make decisions faster
AI unlocks the creative data, but that doesn’t finish the job. Humans still need to make sense of the information and take action based on the insights presented by the technology. Creative directors are now armed with more than their intuition to help make creative decisions faster.
This automation throughout the advertising industry has given agencies the ability to rethink how they deliver for their clients. They have gotten immense time back, allowing them to be more strategic, creative and pass that value on to clients. Better creative data through AI has allowed agencies to be smarter with the time they’re spending.
“It takes a lot of the guesswork out. It’s time savings and more strategic thinking that we can bring to the table that we didn’t have time for otherwise.” – David Dweck, Wpromote
Smarter, faster decision making stems from investing in creative as a metric of effectiveness, not just efficiency.
In the past, brands and agencies had found a lot of success connecting with customers by gaining a shared voice. “It was really easy to have an outside shared voice because the barrier to entry was so high for many media platforms. Now that the democratization of these platforms has happened, how are you going to win? It has to be with creativity.” – Jennifer Clarke, Whirlpool
However, creativity alone is far from the full picture. In recent years, ad effectiveness has declined. A large driver of this is likely that brands and agencies have been lacking AI and other tools to effectively manage their creative content. This results in creative being assigned as an expense in the cost center and conversations around creative are about how to make it cheaper. Without the right tools, this is an endless cycle that often leads to reductions in creative and marketing budgets.
“With tech, you now have tools that can show you the effectiveness of an ad. Not the cost of an ad. And so you can refocus your teams on creative that is effective instead of creative that is cheap. That ability to shift for marketers and agencies from an efficiency conversation to an effectiveness conversation will only increase the quality and engagement of creative.” – Jill Gray, VidMob
Jennifer Clarke at Whirlpool takes this one step further – attributing some of the industry’s decline to thinking of creativity as a commodity. “Over time we have seen creative become less and less effective because we have seen the erosion of brand in preference for short term gains.” AI gives brands the data needed to save themselves, putting them back on the right path.
AI is transforming the way agencies and brands work together on creative by providing data and insights that result in effective, smarter, faster decision making. It’s a powerful tool for both research and creative measurement and for the first time enables marketers to focus on creative effectiveness instead of the efficiencies of “fast and cheap.” Agencies like Wpromote are placing big bets on creative effectiveness technology like VidMob, and they’re seeing big returns for their clients by leveraging AI-driven insights. AI’s biggest disruption in 2023 will be transforming agencies’ confidence in their decision making, from “I think,” to “I know.”
We have all been hearing about how AI is going to change everything that we do but few have experienced those types of changes first hand. How is AI actually going to change the way we do things, how is AI changing how we think about creativity and even art? What can it bring and where do humans bring the feelings and emotions and creative thinking to go beyond the data and into the realm of creating better experiences for consumers. It’s time to demystify AI.
Jennifer Clarke – Brand Strategy Director, Maytag and JennAir, Whirlpool
Jill Gray, EVP, Global Client Solutions, VidMob
David Dweck – Senior Vice President of Paid Media, Wpromote
Moderated by Juan C. Suarez – SVP, Strategic Partnerships, 4A’s
VidMob helps companies and brands use AI to make creative decisions about their business.
Juan C. Suarez
Let’s talk about AI – there’s lot’s of oohs and aahs about ChatGPT and OpenAI. What is real? What is actionable today? What is the path we’re heading down in the next few years? What excited you about AI?
What’s exciting about AI to me is its ability to accelerate any kind of creativity. I’m both a writer and an artist outside of my day job, and I’m already using it in my artwork. I’ve trained several models and have modified several images – there are things that are possible that were never possible. If you apply the same lens to the work we do, that opportunity is already there. I’ve been experimenting with ChatGPT in my work, as have other strategists. We work very often with niche audiences and we only do research periodically on those audiences. You can ask it ‘where do designers get inspiration?,’ and it’ll give you 30 or 40 ideas that you can validate without having to start from scratch. So, talking about the speed that we can do our day to day work – copywriting applications, visual applications like dreaming new worlds and landscapes. There are so many new tools, and I encourage people to play with them and have fun.
Juan C. Suarez
Jill, you have a very interesting background because you are now running a creative AI tech company but you have a creative director background. Your perspective will be interesting in what is truly disruptive today from a creative standpoint?
I was on the account and strategy side at an agency, and then more in a creative role at Facebook, and I remember being at Leo Burnett at the time and there was a whole floor of people who would translate the storyboard – that was a skill that was needed. And now you have a whole suite of software that makes that process faster. It’s no loss of creativity, it allows us to focus more on the creative parts that require the human brain. I see a lot of these advancements with AI and the world of creative as tools to help us focus on the stuff we need to do better. The disruptive part for me and the reason why I came to vidmob was the lack of creative data was so hard. Not being able to actually learn quickly and on things that were really tied to creative decisions not after the fact, media results that then said this ad was good or bad but you don’t know why. Or very long pre-campaign testing opportunities that would tell you something but you didn’t know if it was tied to performance. So what I ended up having to do was manually look through lots and lots of creative and try to come up with some best practices. And that was just with my manual eye – I was doing that at the agency and at Facebook. Trying to find what helps drive performance marketing goals. Now with AI, the disruptive thing is you don’t have to do that kind of thing manually and you don’t have to pit intuition against data. Those two things can actually work together. And they just haven’t been able to in the past because the options for creative data have been lacking. (6:53 – 7:13)
Juan C. Suarez
So, as a marketer, if I’m thinking about the levers I have at my disposal to improve metrics – whatever we are measuring. Does this give me a new dimension?
100%. How many times have all of you probably been in a room and have been told that creative is the biggest driver of your performance? You know that that’s the biggest lever that you have on your performance, but it’s very difficult to actually maneuver that lever. It’s much easier to maneuver media levers. We have lots of tools to help us do that. The subjectivity and complexity of creativity have made it really hard for marketers to use that lever. Even though we all know that it’s a massive driver of performance. AI has unlocked the ability to break down creative, to understand which creative decisions are truly tied to performance – especially in a world where the media has been so fragmented and it’s really hard to know what works where. (8:07 – 8:25)
We talked about this alot earlier, but brute work and work that takes a long time, and I remember maybe 5-6 years ago having worked with a data strategist to put together regression models with all the creative and having to tag it all by hand with what was in the image to see what came out as being effective. Now nobody has to do that, which is wonderful. And you’re going to be able to drive more value and add more value much more quickly.
Juan C. Suarez
I want to go to the point of view of the agency. Tell us about some of the work that you guys have done through creative intelligence with Whirlpool.
In terms of levers we now have, Vidmob and other tools give us the ability to see every aspect of the video, every aspect of how it’s performing. It allows us to optimize every aspect of those things. (9:12 – 9:21) So from a testing perspective, we can now take every asset we’ve run historically, look at them and understand things like for example, now at second 3 there is drop off because there aren’t people in the video. Let’s say I had people in the video, it might be different for people aged 18-24 who don’t want to see human beings in the video. These are insights we’ve never had before, so it gives us the ability to be very nimble and act very quickly. Everything we do is and should be accountable. Without these metrics, we’re flying blindly. So, from creative testing all the way to optimization, being able to see the life cycle of the campaign actually measure brand burnout not only at a frequency basis but also of time duration spent in front of an asset. (9:37 – 10:01) We can now see when people’s attention is dropping off across CCTV, social, banners, etc. There’s elements of data that give back insights we’ve never had before that allows us to drive optimal performance and then act on it. We have nimble creative teams that within days shoot out notes to influencers, tell them to make assets that give off certain lifestyles, outdoors, things of that nature. There’s a ton of insights we’ve never had before that give us the ability to analyze every aspect of the campaign versus just guessing.
Juan C. Suarez
Let me go a bit deeper into that piece. Again, this all sounds really good. How hard is it to do it? Because if I’m an agency in the room and I haven’t really gone down the path of creative intelligence and working with a platform like VidMob. Does it takes years in the making? Did you have to hire new skill sets? Give me a little insight into the process.
No, thankfully their tool is great. The setup is very simple. It’s integrating and logging into our accounts. All our ads will populate in. There’s some manual work that has to get done, but ultimately the harder part is working around brand guidelines and making sure the assets we’re creating really rapidly fit those needs and that we have approval to move forward. From a tech perspective, it’s very straightforward. What Vidmob and others bring to the table is really augmenting what we do and allow us to take accountability for every aspect of the campaign. We can’t sit back as media practitioners and say, ‘the creative sucked!’ That doesn’t work. And also we’d have no idea if the creative was good or bad without tools like this. It gives us a bunch of insights and allows us to act quickly and there isn’t a ton of downtime to get things live and get them integrated into the platforms.
I think it also brings creative teams and measurement teams a lot closer together. One of the things I have experienced and have heard from tons of both agencies and brands is that there’s no shortage of data. But data that is actually meaningful that you can act on and get into the creative and see the impact of it – that’s the hard part. The tech that we’re building makes it easier to connect the ‘here’s the data, let’s contextualize that into an insight, make a recommendation of what to do to the creative, and then make it happen.’ It’s shortening the friction that often comes in that moment.
Juan C. Suarez
You mention friction. That’s a good segway into the next question I have. You talk to creative directors and we do a bit of that at 4A’s. Everyone we talk to tells us that in order for really great creative to emerge, you need friction of ideas and you need to understand a brand’s identity. It is this rigorous process, there’s a lot of elements involved. Are we getting away from all that? Does this supplement it? I’m a creative director in the room and I’m listening to all this, I’m thinking, ‘will my team scale down, will it be all AI and chatbots?’
It allows teams to do more value-added work. To your point that creative friction is very important, those discussions take time, resources, energy. And that time to spend with the creative has been cut down because we have to spend so much time producing and doing all these other parts of the job. I want to go back to the comment earlier about joy in the work. That is where the joy is. So many of us come from art and literature backgrounds. Now we get to immerse ourselves in that part of the work – do the part that the human brain does.
Jill Gray (14:18 time stamp)
One of my favorite memories was a huge debate on whether a character in an animated commercial that we were making should wear a skirt or not. And this was a debate of epic proportion. How aspirational should this mom be vs. How she should reflect the reality that a mom is not wearing a skirt when she gets ready in the morning. So many debates. Data can answer a lot of thos types of debates. Now is AI going to all of a sudden crack the big idea that unlocks the next massive brand campaign for the next 20 years? I don’t know that it’s there yet, but it’s certainly a tool to help reduce the friction on some of those parts of decision making. Arm creative directors with more than their intuition, and help make creative decisions faster.(15:16 – 15:23)
Even things like brainstorming, it’s great for that. Something like ChatGPT, rather than sitting in a room with 5 people, it’s like can we think about songs that have to do with elevating one’s life. You don’t have to do that with ChatGPT – it will do it for you and come up with 40 songs instantly. It’s like magic.
A lot of this industry has gotten more and more automated, and have given the ability for agencies to rethink how they deliver for clients. This innovation on the creative side gives us immense time back, but also allows us to pass the value on to clients. In a world where we are constantly being procured, the reality is if we can’t be smarter with the time we’re spending, we’re going to lose out to agencies that undercut and under deliver. These sort of tools mirror the same shifts Meta has made, CBG space in making, Google has made to really reduce the time spent for human capital to make campaigns work because it gives the ability for things to work that much better on the creative side. It takes a lot of the guesswork out. It’s time savings and more strategic thinking that we can bring to the table that we didn’t have time for otherwise. (15:50 – 16:39)
The value is not the upper part of the funnell, but the upper part of the process where we’re doing creativity.
That has been lost in the last decade. 10 Years ago, the way we went was by gaining a shared voice. It was really easy to have an outside shared voice because the barrier to entry was so high for many media platforms. Now that the democratization of these platforms has happened, how are you going to win? It has to be with creativity. (16:40 – 17:18)
Juan C. Suarez
I’m hearing a lot of topics or terms that relate to the efficiency of doing something like this – it reduces waste, we can put more time into things that add more value. One thing we know for sure, and something that accelerated during the pandemic, is we know ad effectiveness is in decline in recent years. Some might argue that in part, this is happening because creative has become less engaging. If I want to play devil’s advocate, do you feel that AI could take us further into this decline? Or is it really the opposite and all of our creative is going to be great?
I think it’s the opposite. Because of a lack of tools on the creative side of things, what ends up happening is creative becomes a cost column. So the only conversation you can have for your business is how you can get it cheaper. So you negotiate the cost of that creative cheaper. With tech, you now have tools that can show you the effectiveness of an ad. Not the cost of an ad. And so you can refocus your teams on creative that is effective instead of creative that is cheap. That ability to shift for marketers and agencies from an efficiency conversation to an effectiveness conversation will only increase the quality and engagement of creative. (17:32 – 19:07)
One thing I’ll add is efficacy may be declining, but a lot of that has to do with fragmentation in the platforms that aren’t very brand, lifestyle, storytelling focus. Certain stories can’t even come to life in Meta, Facebook, or Snap where you have two seconds sound off to capture people’s attention. What these platforms give us are insights to go back and make sure we have the right kind of cut downs, make sure we have the brand and image upfront. Not focus on the lifestyle story that nots going to pay off. The data we get back makes things more effective because you can set things up for success. Rather than just throwing a campaign against the wall and seeing how it will do.
I think that some of the things that have happened over the years is that we have thought of creativity more of a commodity, not the creative itself. To answer the question of brand and demand – over time we have seen creative become less and less effective because we have seen the erosion of brand in preference for short term gains, and that is the death of this industry. This gives us the data we need to pull us back from the brink, which is kind of where we are, let’s be honest. (20:13 – 20:55)
Juan C. Suarez
You made a comment earlier that I’m going to ask you to bring back – this notion of consumer experience design from a brand’s perspective with the consumer in mind, as opposed to the tech or the device in mind. That’s a very Whirlpool focus way of doing this. Give us a little more on that.
10 years ago, there was this idea that we could stuff technology into anything and everything was going to be iot connected, and then everything would be better. Obviously that’s not true because now we’re 10 years in the future and that is not here. One of the reasons that’s not true is because its hard to connect all of these different disparate pieces of data, and there’s no incentive for individual suppliers to connect that data. So, if you start with tech first, like some of our competitors, that is what you get. If you start with the person first and the use of that technology in their lives, it allows them to use an assistive technology, like AI, in ways that are thoughtful and that actually drive value and meaning in people’s lives. That depth of relationship with the extra product when it’s in your home is important. That’s what we spend a lot of time thinking about.
Juan C. Suarez
Are there any global learnings that are coming out of some of the testing that can be applied universally to creative, versus everyone having to go through all the different layers of testing?
One of the values that VidMob brings forward, and I don’t even work there, is that it’ll give you insights into what has worked across every platform at both a global level and an industry level so you can start with a very high baseline and grade everything based on those baselines. Things like having sound on and a message in the first three seconds. They give you insights into upleveling and starting with a much higher baseline. Kind of a ‘rising tide lifts all boats’ approach. There are a ton of learnings infused in the insights section of the platform that give you the ability to start with a leg up when it comes to best practices so you don;t just spend a lot of money needlessly.
Juan C. Suarez
What are each of your creative disruption predictions for 2023?
Creator-led content will be used as an effective medium. We’re experimenting and seeing the results are extremely strong. It allows brands to break through on mediums where a highly produced brand message wouldn’t. Highly iterative creator led content at scale – we’re getting thousands of assets for $100 a piece rather than tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands on production. It’s across all mediums and platforms.
Intelligent creative will be a word that all marketers are thinking about and investing in creative data as a part of their tech stack
As a strategist, if we think back to the movie, Her, we are there already. Being able to have a creative partner that is always on and has access to all of the world’s information – you have that at your disposal, so use it.