In a world of AI-generated marketing, where’s the Creative Director?

creative director and team

As a budding young copywriter in the early 1980s, I worked with an art director as my partner, and our work was overseen by the agency’s creative director.

Creative directors were at the top of the pile in Creative Departments. They were the best of the best, and inspired the work of everyone. They shaped the overall creative output of the agency. They also used their experience and judgement to decide whether any particular piece of work was good enough.

In my early days, the creative director would look over my shoulder and sometimes say something like, “Interesting idea, but I don’t think it’s working”. Or, “Bit of a second rate headline, Usborne. Try again.”

The point being, nothing left the creative department without the creative director’s approval.

Five years later I was a creative director myself, with three creative teams in my department. Now I was the one responsible for inspiring, shaping and then reviewing the agency’s creative output.

How does this work in the world of AI automation?

There are now numerous service tools and agencies out there that use AI to generate a company’s creative output.

As much as possible is automated. Data analysis, persona development, text and image development, deployment of creative, and so on.

I see the attraction. These AI models can create work at incredible speed.

But… where’s the creative director?

Who judges the AI’s work and decides whether it’s good enough?

Who gets to say, “Bit of a second-rate headline, GPT4. Try again”?

Simply having a human in the loop isn’t always enough.

I know. There is often a human or two reviewing the output of these tools and services.

But – and no disrespect intended – what are the creative credentials of the people who do the reviewing?

Could they stand side-by-side with Bill Bernbach of DDB in New York? Collin Millward of Collett Dickenson Pearce in London? Hal Riney of Ogilvy & Mather in LA?

Or even to a lesser-known, but qualified creative director at a mid-range agency?

A good creative director holds everyone to a high standard. And to do that, they have to be the best of the best themselves.

The role of creative directors has diminished in the agency world over the last couple of decades. But it appears to be altogether absent in the world of AI-automated marketing.

The inevitable result is that mediocre work slips through, all the time.

This is not a good look for companies, large or small.

While companies may love the speed and economy of using AI to generate their marketing materials, are they prepared to accept the damage done to their brands by mediocre creative?

In the near term, I think we’ll see a surge in the automation of marketing, followed by a pull-back as companies see the damage being done to their brands.

Volume isn’t enough. You need quality.

That means hiring people who have the experience to tell the difference between average creative and outstanding creative.

And if you want to follow in the path of great creative directors, you also want to hire people who have a high level of emotional intelligence… creatives who know how to listen, and have empathy for their audiences.

The winning companies of the future will hire for creativity plus emotional intelligence.

If you’re a creative yourself, and want to put yourself in the position to be one of those hires, a good first step is to check out my course, Futureproof Copywriting.

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