A Path Forward for the Creative Evolution of Generative AI

Highlights from Clio's 2023 Creative Summit

Some industry professionals fear that generative AI—capable of creating text, images, audio and other content—could replace them.

But panelists taking part in a discussion moderated by Meg Moss, director of strategic business content and digital media at Adobe, aren't overly wary of such technology. In fact, they embrace these innovations as the wave of the future.

"It's not anything that you should fear," says Shannon Washington, U.S. chief creative officer at R/GA. "It's a tool to express what's in your head."

The panel, "The Creative Use of AI—The Path Forward," took place on Monday during the 2023 Clio Creative Summit at Powerhouse Arts in Brooklyn.

Both Washington and Nick Law, creative chairperson, Accenture Song, reflected on how they began their careers decades ago, when artists used T-squares and drafting paper. 

Then came Adobe Photoshop, which was a game changer, but hardly a career ender for either of them.

"It improved my process. It just augmented what I was doing," Washington says of the graphics editing software use practically everywhere these days.

While AI has played a role in adland for several years, we're only now beginning to see generative applications employed to fashion creative assets, Law says.

"Make no mistake, you have to work differently with this technology, just like Shannon and I had to work differently when we got off manual tools onto desktop computing. And it'll be a different discipline," Law muses. "But most of the good stuff is going to come from people with taste."

Elav Horwitz, EVP, global head of applied innovation, McCann Worldgroup, and her team have experimented with generative AI, using it to accelerate the ideation process. 

"This tool, for the first time, is helping us to not start from scratch anymore," Horwitz says. She notes that after feeding AI various prompts, concepts quickly take shape, and the technology is particularly useful in devising storyboards. 

"It's faster. It's more efficient," Horwitz says. Still, she does not see AI replacing humans when it comes to crafting campaigns. Neither do Law or Washington.

All three panelists note that the tech, which must be trained using digitized content, has a long way to go.

"We have to be adding to it—and going against it sometimes—to create new things," Law says.

To get the most out of generative AI, creatives can't simply rely on algorithms, Washington adds.

"When people ask me, what's the one thing I need to learn to learn AI, I always tell them: invest in art history," she says. "It's an incredibly analog thing, but invest in knowing the history of what it is you are doing, of the schools of thought, of the people who are breaking systems. Because that's how you're not only going to get to a better output, but you'll know if something is wrong. You have to have a frame of reference."

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