How is automation liberating creativity in media?

We spoke to media agencies to find out what role automation plays in activating creativity

By Olivia Atkins

As marketing becomes increasingly automated, what is the role of creativity within that?

Creativity requires sparks of human genius and artistic flair to exist, while automation relies heavily on technology, processes and data.

As technology and automation continues to evolve at an ever-increasingly rapid pace, we ask whether it can have a space and purpose with the work and strategy of media agencies. Can automation free up creativity? Can creativity and creatives benefit from logistical processes?

We spoke to three industry insiders from media agencies to find out how they saw it and figure out the future of creativity in an automated world.

Nadine Young, chief executive officer at Starcom

For some years now, the advertising industry has wrestled with whether automation and creativity can co-exist, or whether the former will inevitably kill the latter. There always seems to be a slight fear when discussing automation – will it mean we’re all out of a job soon, as insight generation and design will be handed over to the robots? But this fear mistakes automation’s purpose, which should be to relieve the burden of routine or repetitive tasks, to liberate more creativity, not to stifle it.

The more we can automate such tasks in our industry – booking campaigns, competitive reporting, resolving finance queries – the more our teams can focus on understanding clients’ challenges and produce brilliant, creative work to overcome them.

At Starcom we have put a major focus on automation, learning from consultancy models to ensure we work more like a tech company than a typical media agency. Whether through booking bots, Workflow systems or data fuelled planning systems, our whole automation work stream is geared towards freeing up countless hours of time, and eliminating human error, to allow teams to focus on the most valuable output – creating growth driving work for our clients.

Creativity needs space, focus and time free from distractions. But it does so against a furious backdrop of business evolution. The only way advertisers can deliver both the space for deep thinking and rich conversations that creativity thrives in is to work and trust in automation.

Simeon Adams, creative partner at Goodstuff

The current reality of ad automation doesn’t deliver on a promise of liberating creativity. In fact, I’d argue, disappointingly, that the opposite is true at present.

I preface this view by saying I’m not being a luddite or cynic, I just feel that the targeting efficiencies, time saving and creative opportunities that automation WILL bring, aren’t fully being delivered, yet. Additionally, the relatively infancy and exponential growth of the technology coupled with fragmentation of the capability mean automation is probably causing more teething pains than creative liberation.

Broadly, for creative agencies, having to resource the creation of countless versions of ads based on a multitude of different platforms, messages, formats, demographic and purchasing signals is a royal pain in the neck.

Being closer to the plan and the signals, it is a greater opportunity for media agencies, but not without challenges. Creative resource (to feed the machine), finding platforms that can deliver across more than one medium or platform – let alone creating the Holy Grail of a truly trans-media programmatic platform – and making sure the output, as well as outcomes, are brilliant are all new essentials for media agencies.

In short, when we remove the algorithmic biases of machines, feed them well, and see them performing perfectly, we’ll start to see inventive uses and creative potential unleashed routinely, not rarely.

Mike Florence, global head of planning at Gravity Road

If you believe creative genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration, think again.

Automation is rapidly removing friction, making it a lot easier to create amazing experiences.

You know the friction I’m talking about; the 1000hrs of Zoom! plus the blood, sweat and tears.

Great ideas are hard work. That’s why I look for perspiration when judging the quality. Typically a team has gone above and beyond to make something amazing - but is automation the future hero? For instance, when Coca-Cola teamed up with Channel4 in 2014 to ‘Share a personalised Coke’, automation did all the heavy lifting1

Fast forward to Dall-E-2, the AI system that can automate realistic images from a description in natural language2. Jaw-dropping stuff.

If genius is 99% perspiration, automation is the workhorse. Meaning we can stop sweating about the right message, time and place - that will be taken care of.

Instead we should put creative energies into inspirational thoughts like “Dalle-E- 2 x the virtual playground”. WOAH… right?

It's the dawn of Web3, we have a map to the Metaverse and automation can liberate us.

Rise up creative geniuses, embrace automation and be inspirational.


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