Why You Can’t Automate Creativity

Automating the creative process in your business is the fastest way to get to 2nd place in your industry. Love Canva? Congrats! You’re halfway there.

The Creative Benefits of AI

As organisations grow, the perceived need for efficiency and automation grows. This comes from a top-down focus on cost minimisation. The menial, repetitive tasks are the first to go and for good reason. This leads to a spark of internal efficiency that has the big-wigs patting themselves on the back for no longer having to hire that new intern to run data entry. But then they get cocky, wondering, “What comes next on this automation train?”.

The rise of AI technology has done wonders in the world of business. Facebook and Google lead the way in the digital marketing industry thanks to us mindlessly feeding their all-knowing algorithms. Stay hungry, team!

The learning and insights these platforms provide us have made the path to marketing success much smoother. BUT, leaning too heavily on machine learning and automation within the creative realm can actually prevent businesses from growing. And not by a small amount either.

The Creative Downfall of AI

Computers cannot think, they can only simulate how thinking processes work. Being rule-based, a machine’s answers can only be as good as the questions it’s asked. But what happens when the rules change? It can’t predict it at all, and has to begin the learning process all over again.

The creative process requires constant change in the status quo. There is no room for repetition. Unless that multi-coloured participation ribbon sounds just peachy to you?

As Steve Jobs famously quoted, “Consumers don’t know what they want until we show them what it looks like.” This fundamental human truth perfectly captures where machines will always fail in the creative process. They simply can’t imagine a world that does not yet exist… but we can.

“Can’t you just use a template?”

Back to Canva, and any other design template platform or DIY video editing apps. I’m not going to name names… but here’s a list of examples.

Businesses are attempting to automate the irreplaceable role of designers by using this cut-copy software that hooks businesses in with statements like this; “Between these 16 tools, you’ll be able to create every video you’ve ever dreamed of, even if you have little to no experience.”

As a designer, videographer, agency creative and previous business owner… I call BS! Todd from Accounting up there might think he’s a creative genius, but let’s be real, yeah?

Look, I get it. “Hiring a designer is expensive”, “I get good ad results with templates”, “I can make something like that in half the time!”. All very good points, but here’s why none of them matter when you’re looking for long-term business growth from paid advertising:

  1. Ad creative is always the first touchpoint for potential customers. If it falls short, no one will ever see your pretty little landing page.
  2. Hiring an agency or designer will give you an asset that ONLY YOU own.
  3. Creative design directly influences your ad costs – Facebook & Google penalise unoriginal and poorly executed designs with higher CPMs.
  4. Rule-based platforms are designed to be broken – winning ad campaigns have to break rules in order to be noticed.
  5. Machine learning is a tool that enables humans to be more creative, it cannot be creative for them. 

How To Reclaim Your Originality

Fernando Machado is the current Global CMO for Burger King. When asked to define creativity he replied; “Creativity is a shortcut. Without creativity, it would be a race with everyone driving at the same speed.”

We are constantly seeking shortcuts to greater profits and faster scale in business. Unfortunately, somewhere along the way we’ve confused the shortcut to be bypassing the creative process, rather than harnessing it.

But how do we do that exactly? “I’m already losing money on my ad spend, so I can’t possibly afford to bring a creative onboard… right?” WRONG!

The Bottom Line

If you’re still doing your own ad creative on Canva or the like, the money you’re supposedly “saving” on design costs will catch up to you with a lack in advertising performance. Any brand, in any industry, will always pay more for poor creative. No matter how good you think Lobster font looks in your email header.

Harnessing truly creative people by outsourcing ad creative or using an agency with an in-house creative team who make data-lead creative decisions will be the difference between paying upfront or paying forever.

I know which one I’d choose.


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