Harnessing Generative AI Without Losing Our Creative Soul

Let’s make sure we don’t ruin the potential of genAI by taking away the humanity necessary for good marketing.

Every industry on this planet (I haven’t looked into what’s up on the other planets) has been significantly impacted by generative AI bursting onto the scene and latching onto us like some sort of unstoppable force. Thankfully, within this onslaught, there are so many genuinely amazing applications for it (and other LLMs), and we should all be grateful for the nerds that make this possible.

GenAI’s place in creative fields is a little murkier but filled with potential.

Without even touching the complex ethical questions that surround everything with genAI, the buzz around this stuff in creative often sits way too close to the dreaded “S word” (I’m talking shortcut), and that approach is often very attractive to those who don’t have the requisite chops or motivation to understand this tech or how it can best be utilized.

The thing is, creativity and all the tentacles it’s comprised of (writing, design, being weird, etc.,) is hard. Just like so many other professions, you can’t shortcut your way to great creative output.

The problem isn’t generative AI’s mere existence, but rather some common positioning of the tech. You’ll hear certain people talk about straight-up replacement, and the sneakier ones may use cover words and phrases like “efficiency gains” and “doing more with less.”

Those mindsets come from a variety of places ranging from ill-intent to pure ignorance but in my experience, they often come from a place I’d describe as this – over-excitement mixed with a lack of understanding.

We must focus, slow down, and not exaggerate to get the most out of this transformative technology.


What works and what still needs work

In creative applications for marketing, here’s what genAI is already good at:

  1. Early ideation: Not only can generative AI produce dozens of raw starting points, but it also does it FAST. The proverbial blank canvas can be terrifying for writers and designers alike and there has never been anything more amazing at helping you through this potential slog. The more sparks you can produce, the better chance you’ve got a shot at ending up in a great place.
  2. Structure: Outlines and organization can be tough for certain people. And even if it isn’t tough for you, sometimes this is work that can be taxing and leaves you beat up for other parts of the creative process. Tools like ChatGPT bring sound structure to the early stages of content creation, especially when you’re dipping your toes into longer-form content water. Leveraging it can help make sure the sequence of your storytelling is interesting and easy to follow.
  3. Information aggregation and summarizing: Like search engines forever changing how we access information, ChatGPT and Google’s Gemini have transformed how that information can be aggregated and summarized. Getting up to speed on concepts important to your work has never been easier to sift through. I never want to go back to heuristic research that has 56 tabs open at once with a SERP in each one, and now I don’t have to (but please remember to check sources!).

If you are interested in how to use platforms like ChatGPT effectively, our own Bob Stevens recently authored a great guide.

As significant as those benefits are, genAI is not a cure-all, and trying to use it to produce any sort of final output could leave things feeling a little…off.

Here are some things genAI still struggles with:

  1. Text rendering: In text-to-image generative AI, especially as the expected output gets more complex, most tools will struggle to render text effectively. So, if you are conceptualizing a typography-intensive design, you won’t get super far.
  2. Avoiding the uncanny valley: While this is improving, there is a certain element of uneasiness with the realistic photos produced by AI. Whether that’s some sort of shine or gloss that’s present, faces having that subconscious “something is off feeling,” or the continued struggle to render hands when producing photos, making human beings is still a work in progress.
  3. Unique style: When trying to create wholly finished things in genAI tools, you’ll probably notice that elements of style, the nuanced layers that make great writing great, and make striking design able to pull on your feel strings are not fully realized yet, and there’s a case to made that we won’t get there any time soon. Remember that genAI is fundamentally creating things based solely on prior input. Humans do that too, but how our prior work or our inspirations contribute to new, unique output is very different when fueled by the human brain.

Knowing all that, what should guide us? I like to think about it like this.


You can’t “prompt” your way to great marketing

The idea that any of this could replace humans as the creative force behind compelling marketing is misleading. In addition, making genAI a part of your workflow that saves people time and augments creative teams is undoubtedly a bigger investment than you’re being led to believe. Training models on your data, QA processes for poor-quality output, and mitigating bias that can become present in these systems will add up.

Philosophically speaking, artistic expression is a cultural foundation for any functioning society. That’s a very existential statement, but it trickles down.

Within marketing, the idea that everyone possesses creativity is true but is being distorted into the idea that anyone can be a writer or designer—not by exploring those disciplines and learning, but via layered prompts, training data, and magic.

That part is total baloney, and it insults the very bedrock of what makes us human and unique.

Lastly, it fails to recognize the undeniable truth that great marketing throughout history and right now is/was born from oodles of creativity straight from the human brain.

If the ideas above burrow too deeply, the entire space of marketing is going to be disrupted, and not in that cool way “business” folks talk about disruption (something new and innovative), but in a way that no one is going to like. As consumers, we’ll undoubtedly push back, hopefully with our wallets.


Homogenization and devaluing human creativity

Simply put, the speed and scale at which genAI can churn out content is like nothing we’ve ever seen. That should be incredibly exciting and as I described a few paragraphs ago, should supercharge the ideation phase within the creative process.

If the worst parts of this capability become realized, unfortunate mindsets like “taking shortcuts” and “replacing creative professionals” with these tools are going to lead to outcomes that bore everyone to sleep.

We need to lean into the amazing capability of creatives to set the standard for how we leverage tech like this, or it’s going to get used to create heaps of “blah that at best, blends in, and at worst makes you wonder why any company expected you’d be compelled to give an email address, let alone buy their products.

You can’t shortcut your way to success, same as it ever was – even with generative AI.

We market to real people with real feelings who need real help and so we need to create clear, energizing, compelling stuff that proves we can solve their problems and map to their motivations.

We don’t have to look back very far to see where deemphasizing creativity can take us. Throughout the 2010s as inbound and content marketing took off, a similar approach got a foothold and before you knew it, everyone was making the same white paper because “they just needed to make content and content was king” (ugh I feel icky even saying it). There was a “volume over originality play,” and ultimately, it didn’t work. Frighteningly, the speed at which AI can generate content would make the flood of the 2010s look like dribbles out of a faucet.

This will not get better if we take the creative human away from the creative tools.

If homogenization takes hold, and AI-generated content becomes more commonplace, it’s easy to see a reality in which the originality and effort behind human-led creations become undervalued. We will have fully pushed marketing into “box to check mode.”

Discouraging creators to enter marketing not only limits the value placed on artistic expression, but it’s a space where the very best brands, campaigns, ads, websites, etc. that stick with us all exist because of the very same human creativity that’s being pushed out.


Regaining our composure

At its core, generative AI is amazing, it’s a breakthrough that has a far more compelling story than some other booms that turned out to be bubbles.

As I once read, (and I’m paraphrasing someone) “If your cat looked up and started talking to you, you wouldn’t lament how bad of a speaker they were, you’d say ‘holy shit, my cat is talking’.”

Generative AI got to scale faster than any technology I can think of and in the blink of an eye changed the creative process forever. It’s sometimes hard to remember that we’re still in the infant stage and have so much ability to shape how we use this for the benefit of businesses and creative professionals.

At Liquid, we use genAI to help, to increase quality, and explore new paths. We don’t use it for magic shortcuts, simply to get something “done,” or for anyone to work irrationally fast. Ultimately, integrated correctly, we think genAI can significantly enhance one of the most uniquely human things we have – our creativity.