The Future of Creative Services in the Age of AI

For marketing managers, strategists, business owners – and anyone who uses digital marketing, really (so, everyone) – understanding how AI is transforming digital creative content like design, video, and copywriting is crucial. 

Is AI the self-driving car (the type that doesn’t crash) that boots the humans out because they’re just dead weight? Or is AI more like GPS – it makes the journey hassle-free and more efficient, but it still needs an adaptable brain to spot possible memory-making detours and choose which tunes to road-trip to?

When content still needs to feel human and be unique and engaging, how do we use these AI tools to improve our work and get the results the client wants?

Let’s delve into how design, video and animation, and copy are being transformed by AI tools.  We’ll explore what’s  already happening and what we think we can expect in future. 

The Future of AI & Design

AI is already a reputable and accepted go-to GPS for many big brands. 

Take Nike, for example. When it’s not using AI for interactive marketing, such as its software that lets users customise products’ colours, designs, and sizes digitally before buying (a very smart move, seeing as Nike then uses this data as research and development for new products), it’s using it for actual marketing content. AI powered Nike’s “Never Done Evolving” ad campaign, where it generated a match between Serena Williams’s younger self and a “present-day” virtual Serena. Um. Very cool.

But you can bet Nike’s people still dictated a lot of that road trip. The future of AI design tools is uncertain. They may improve to the point where humans aren’t needed, but for now, our creative input and spontaneous decision-making are still major factors in creating content that engages with the audience. 

“As it stands today, content should be predominantly AI-inspired rather than AI-generated. However, the trajectory of advancement in processing power means that we could very well see AI models replicating as yet unimagined levels of creative nuance and beauty in the near future.”–Mike Stopforth, Managing Director

Perhaps AI will eventually become the never-malfunctioning self-driving car and we’ll be more like cup-holders than drivers… still useful but a small part of the ride. 

Bite-Size Flume Takeaways

Our designers have their personal favourites like Midjourney, Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Firefly.

“Adobe’s Firefly allows you to generate any photo from any prompt you give it. It is surprisingly effective at generating realistic images, but what is amazing about it is the level of customisation you have at your disposal. You can choose the lighting conditions, visual intensity, effects, colour and tone, camera angles, and you can even give it an existing image to use as reference so you can guide it more closely to what you need it to generate.”–Tshepo Nxasana, Senior Digital Designer

Customisation and consistency – two incredibly valuable benefits we can get from AI tools. But, as we’ve pointed out, these tools do have their flaws. Ironically, it’s AI’s lack of flaws that make it a dead giveaway – and a dead piece of content. Skin that looks too perfect is weird, and the user switches off before they can even get to your messaging. 

“Due to how impressive these new technologies are, there are a lot of people that see them as superhero-like products that can save you from actually working. They are not that advanced,” says Tshepo.

He goes on to say: 

“AI has a problem with a lot of things, most notably it lacks a human element. They are famous for being incredibly bad at generating fingers. But, most notably, human images generated by AI tend to be perfect – and clean. Human beings have imperfections, freckles, scars, pimples, etc. Human faces generated by AI are always smooth and perfect and flawless. So it is still missing a lot of things and isn’t yet in a position where you can just generate something and then you’re done for the day. And we might actually never reach that point.”

Who’s up for a bet?

The Future of AI & Video

“Anything that can speed up or simplify the animation process excites me… it’s just not quite stable enough to depend upon yet.”–Ashton Freeman, Lead of Motion/Animation 

You probably already know this (and if you didn’t, omiword, get out from under your rock), but video is king in digital marketing. And while AI tools have been mastering copy and design for a while, AI-generated video content tools are a more recent technology that’s steadily becoming publicly available and markedly refined.

Blender 3D has an AI render plugin that uses StableDiffusion or StabilityAI that I experimented with when it came out. It basically takes a simple 3D scene and renders it in a style using both text prompting the image prompting. The problem is that it’s not quite geared yet for animation and so each animation frame gets rendered differently even though it’s in the ‘same style’ – and so it looks very AI.”–Ashton

But we’re already seeing dramatic improvements in this technology and it’s looking like AI tools might reign in this domain too – and very soon. 


A famous example of successful and lucrative AI-generated video content is  Cyber Inc.’s training material. Cyber Inc. used AI-powered video editing software to turn raw footage into professional training videos – all with minimal human intervention. The Synthesia AI software created entirely new videos from scratch. It also designed and employed an avatar in the course materials, which eliminated the need for (costly!) actors. By going the AI route, Cyber Inc. was able to scale in half the time. And because the AI tool created the videos in multiple languages, Cyber Inc. also expanded its global reach practically overnight.

BUT “it’s safe to say that AI video generators haven’t yet reached the point where they can take over our jobs as cinematographers or 2D/3D animators. The frame-to-frame consistency is not there, the results often have a lot of weird artifacts, and the motion of the characters (be it human or animal) does not feel even remotely realistic”, says Mascha Deikova of CineD

“At the moment, the general process requires way too much effort to get a decent generated video that’s close to your initial vision,” she goes on to say; “it seems easier to take a camera and get the shot that you want ‘the ordinary way’.”

PS What about Music and AI?

While we’re not a music production company, our team knows just how impactful music is in digital creatives, which is why many of them dabble in the latest AI-powered music tools. 

Output Co-Producer: This tool is in second beta, but allows you to use prompts to generate music stems (from vocals, percussion, bassline, etc.) in four totally cohesive samples. Once you download them, you can use the full sample or any stem separately to add to any music production. The prompts can be so specific like ‘An energetic funk electro beat, in B sharp key, 112 BPM (beats per minute), dancing the night away’ and it will do something amazing.”–Daniel Moyane, Digital Designer, aka “Daniel, The First”

The Future of AI & Copywriting

Copywriting is another area where AI is making significant strides. Tools like OpenAI’s ChatGPT can generate compelling copy for ads, social media posts, blogs and more. These AI models can mimic the brand’s voice, ensuring consistency across all written materials.

However, AI-generated copy isn’t just about saving time. It’s about optimizing content for better engagement and conversion rates. By analyzing vast amounts of data, AI can predict which headlines will attract the most clicks or which call-to-action will drive the most conversions. This allows marketing managers to fine-tune their campaigns for maximum effectiveness.

(That was all AI-generated, by the way. Quick? Yes. Accurate? Yes. Boring? Yes.)

Look, we’re probably biased, so take it from an outside source: “AI is a powerful tool, but it’s a tool nonetheless. Human copywriters bring creativity, emotional intelligence, and deep audience understanding to the table.”–emd:digital

AI-powered Creative Tools Are Popular, Accessible & Usually Cheap

One of the reasons AI in creative content is such a hot topic is because it’s relatively accessible to everyone, and so just about everyone has tried using it and has an opinion on it. 

Let’s dive into the pros and cons of using AI tools to create digital marketing content, and let’s also consider whether the future will be self-driving cars with human bums kicked out onto pavements. 

1. Democratisation of Creative Services

 Affordable AI tools have made making creative content more easily accessible. Whether you’re an entrepreneur, a designer, or someone who just enjoys learning new skills, most of the tools we mention here are affordable. Small businesses and startups that couldn’t afford high-quality design or copywriting services before can now compete with larger companies. This democratisation of technology and skills is levelling the playing field, which, generally speaking, is a good and just thing. 

“AI allows us to take some risks with our work.”–Bianca Vermeulen, 2D/3D Animator 

What it means for digital marketing agencies like Flume is that our creatives (those in our creative team) need to up their game and make sure our clients’ output is clearly not just “Thabo mucking about” and making Photoshop posters.  

Luckily our team loves to muck about and make seriously high-quality stuff. We’ve embraced AI tools in the ideation and brainstorming phase of any project. This is partly because they help us push our own boundaries. We get to try out new ideas much more quickly and easily. 

  

“Midjourney is awesome for image generation if you have good prompts. Adobe Photoshop’s AI generation tool is also amazing and very useful. Both help us to sell concepts to clients and work faster because we can get our point across and help clients visualise what we’re thinking.”–Craig Herzberg, Creative Director

For digital marketing clients, the democratisation of technology that creates AI-powered assets means they have more options and should theoretically get better value for money. 

We asked our Boss Dad and co-CEO Jacques Du Bruyn for his thoughts on how this availability and affordability might affect Flume, what we produce, and the future of AI in content creation, and he had this to say:

“I see AI as a pocket calculator – it does not replace the accountant, but it allows the accountant to work faster and more accurately. If we view AI in the same way for creative services we shouldn’t have to see a high cost for high-quality, we might see more high-quality pieces for the same cost because we’re able to work faster.”

When it comes to small businesses being able to access quality AI-powered content, Mike says, “I think AI is an absolute gift to SMMEs who traditionally struggle to afford top-end creative capability. Perhaps the emphasis for these businesses will shift to contracting the very best creative prompt engineers to configure their AI tool investments for them (not unlike what happens now in performance marketing).”

Mike’s point leads us to another consideration for the future of AI and creative digital content – shifting roles.

Shifting Roles in the Industry

 As AI takes over the repetitive, tedious or straightforward tasks in content creation, the roles of the human creatives will necessarily change. But instead of being kicked out the car completely (or becoming sticky, plastic cup-holders), we’ll learn how to work with the AI to make the ride more memorable, more engaging, and more targetted (think Kendrick Lamar instead of Shania Twain for a road trip with Gen Zs). 

Designers may start focussing more on a campaign’s marketing strategy and concepts while using AI to handle the execution. Copywriters could become more like editors and strategists who guide the tools to produce the content, which they then refine into something valuable. 

“If nothing else, I hope AI tools teach us to think better – more strategically – about creative outputs, and to brief better, whether we’re briefing human or machine creatives. So, the human touch will always be there; it’s just that its ‘place’ in the production of content might shift.”–Mike

This shift means that the creative industry is likely to become more fluid and place an even higher premium on being innovative and, well, creative. Which means us creatives need to strengthen our strategic thinking, grow our growth mindset and crank up our creativity skills. (Good thing we’re doing all those things already.) 

Side-note on the dangers of over-reliance on AI: 

Jacques and Mike both emphasise that AI should be used to inspire and enhance – not replace – human creativity in digital marketing.  As Jacques notes, “AI should assist in ideation, quality control, and speed/accuracy of delivery.” Both Flumers warn against marketing agencies, brands or individuals developing an over-reliance on AI. 

Generic content that has lost all human creativity is not the goal. 

“AI relies on predictable outcomes sourced on terabytes and terabytes of data based on reliable human cognitive processes, thoughts and actions. But sometimes, the greatest creative ideas come from the abnormal, the anomalous, the unpredictable. An over-reliance on prediction engines could mean missing the unpredictable.”–Mike

Ethical Considerations and Authenticity

AI offers numerous benefits – but it also raises ethical considerations. 

Marketing managers and strategists need to develop guidelines for using AI ethically and responsibly. This could include everything from ensuring AI-generated content respects copyright laws and cultural sensitivities to being upfront with their clients about how involved AI tools are in the creation process of their marketing assets. 

Transparency, a healthy respect for how technology can go wrong and a socially conscious approach are all key to using AI responsibly. 

“Ai is exciting and can be extremely powerful when used correctly. I recently saw this Dove ad, and I found it interesting how even big brands are approaching the conversation of AI-generated images. AI needs to be used with caution.”–Bianca 

While we’re excited about all the ways AI can help us push the boundaries and stretch our skills, we’re also cognisant of how dangerous AI technology could be if we don’t take it seriously. 

“I like that these tools streamline processes and push creative boundaries. But, yes, it can be scary – because this is only the start to something much bigger, and the possibilities of what AI can do are literally endless (imagine AI doctors LOL just kidding… I hope.)”–Chérie van der Westhuizen, Senior Digital Designer

Forever Learning, Always Evolving

Clearly, the future of AI in the creative industry is not a static transformation. As AI technology continues to evolve, so will how we as creatives in digital marketing choose to use it. Luckily, Flume has always had a strong push for upskilling, growth and resilience – and this priority has never been more important. In order to stay in the driver’s seat and continue to make excellent work that Makes It Matter, we make the effort to continually learn about new technology and how to effectively leverage it.

Conclusion

So, is AI the self-sufficient car or the GPS? For our creatives in the know, it’s neither. AI may become our Maps one day, but for now, it’s a tool we love to play with, learn about, and invite on occasional road trips.

Bite-size Flume Takeaways

“I think, for now at least, the start of this road trip is very much aimed at you being in control – you give the prompts and AI magically delivers what you need, right? There’s a few bumps in the road – trial and error is where we’re at and I think this is something that will continue for quite some time. We’ll continue to learn with AI.”–Chérie

“AI can never replace ingenuity and physical ability. It is great for assistance and opinion, but not for a complete takeover of all functions. Plus, what happens if the AI car feature requires perfect internet..? I’m not sure how good it will be everywhere considering our #infrastructuremanagement.”–Daniel, The First

“Sometimes AI takes a detour, but you can always steer it back on track with better prompts and by fact-checking important facts. It might not always be correct or produce the images I want, but there are plenty of times where it goes above and beyond what I ask for.”–Oregolele Finger, Junior Digital Designer

AI-generated digital creative work will likely continue to improve – dramatically. What it will look like in 10 years (or 10 months, or 10 days at this rate) is uncertain, but there’s one thing we’re willing to bet on: 

“AI won’t replace creatives. It will replace creatives who refuse to integrate themselves with AI.”–Tshepo quoting someone (“It’s from some reel on Insta or YouTube but I can’t for the life of me remember who said it 😂.”)

Flume is an independent, full-service digital marketing agency providing services that include SEO, web design and development, public relations, media buying, client service, UX/UI, and creative production. For more information visit www.flume.co.za or email us  to say, well, “hello”.

  • Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is the significance of a digital marketing strategy in the context of surfing social media trends?

    A digital marketing strategy is compared to a surfboard that surfers rely on to ride waves. In digital marketing, this strategy encompasses various channels like social media, email marketing, and text messaging to achieve marketing goals. Skilled strategists, like those at Flume, craft tailored strategies based on a deep understanding of clients' products, services, and target audiences.

  • How did Flume help a client restructure their digital media budget for better results?

    Flume analyzed the client's digital media budget allocation and found an overspend on online conversions, which only contributed to 7% of sales. They recommended shifting 70% of the budget towards Awareness and Consideration to build brand recognition, 20% towards digital engagement ecosystems, and 10% to defend and grow e-commerce capabilities. This restructuring led to the client's best campaign performance for two consecutive years.

  • How can identifying social media trends benefit a brand's marketing strategy?

    Identifying social media trends allows strategists to leverage viral challenges, hashtags, and new content types to keep a brand relevant and engaging. For example, Zara successfully used micro-influencers and the hashtag #DearSouthAfrica to boost their online store campaign, resulting in significant social reach and engagement.

  • What role does content creation play in capitalizing on social media trends?

    Creating content that effectively rides social media trends is crucial. Digital marketing strategists must be creative and quick-thinking to produce quality content that aligns with current trends. This involves monitoring performance metrics and adjusting strategies as needed to maintain balance and achieve marketing goals

  • Why is it important to balance trend-hopping with maintaining a brand's core values?

    While staying on top of trends is important, it is equally crucial to follow golden rules that ensure brand consistency. Strategists should focus on long-term customer behaviors and preferences, as emphasized by Jeff Bezos' approach to identifying what won't change over the next decade. This helps avoid losing the brand's personality and voice in the rush to capitalize on trends, ultimately supporting a brand's larger marketing goals.

     
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