Our new Creative Partner, Rob Steeles (humanoid), puts his thoughts down on some of the issues AI poses both client and agency side. (7 min read).

Creative Partner
21 Nov


“It’s just a fad”, said William Orton, the President of Western Union in 1876 when he was offered to buy the patent to a new piece of technology for $100,000 from some guy named Alexander Graham Bell.

The telegram was where it was at back in the day and WU’s entire business was set up to continue its domination of the communications industry. But this ‘fad’ proved to be a huge success and it took another nine years before Western Union were able to enter the telephone market, by which time Bell’s American Telephone and Telegraph business (AT&T) owned the market.

This is just one of many cautionary tales around indecision when it comes to moving with the times and being open to new technologies.

You can probably guess where this post is going. And before you roll your eyes and mutter something about “Not another f***ing AI article”, hear me out. We can’t ignore what’s already happening and you can bet your bottom dollar your competitors are already tinkering with AI.

But there’s hesitation and some fogginess from a lot of businesses. Let’s look at some of that.


The list is long, as with any new tech that we need to wrap our heads around and make work. But most marketers and communications directors are probably struggling with what it means for their people and themselves. AI is perceived by many to be after their jobs.

There’s also a worry around how AI is making decisions, and which decisions should we defer to them, or ignore? If you’re in charge of a brand’s reputation, the information collated by AI, and how it’s aggregated, should quite rightly be questioned before anything reaches your audiences.And this draws us into another concern.

Where is all this data coming from? Should your data add to the minestrone soup of knowledge? Do you have permission to use it, and is the data you hold on your customers safe from all the AIs mycelium-like algorithms? So if you think you're alone in having a bit of a furrowed brow when it comes to this topic, rest assured, EVERYONE is feeling it, except for a few who are at the bleeding edge of tech.

As a further anecdote to back this up, I attended an agency / client event and the number one question most communications directors were asking for help with was around Artificial Intelligence. So let’s look at some of the big questions on the minds of most marketers at the moment.


This is the biggie. The one everyone is scared of. And the answer is Yes* (but with a caveat).*

*Your job is at risk  if you do not make the effort to dive into AI and what it can do in order to discover how it can help you and your business find efficiencies and embrace them. If you try to fight against it and the changes that, let’s be honest, are already here and have been for some time, you will find yourself replaced by a human who does know how to use AI.

That’s right, a person with more knowledge and get up and go when it comes to AI will be more attractive and bring new and emerging skills.

This evolution has been happening for years and will continue to do so. It makes those who are comfortable with how things are, uncomfortable and naturally fearful for their livelihoods. The solution is to dabble. Once you’ve started having a bit of a play, you’ll realise that for all the wizardry and wonder, the threat is not from AI but your lack of trust in tech and your shortened foresight to see how it could be used to help you solve lots of tasks.


AI uses data in many different ways. Broadly speaking AI grows its capability by feasting on inputs from users, crawling archives, articles and the such from the internet, and a host of other ways. So it’s a bit of a minestrone soup of information and it’s only as good as the data it finds and serves up.

So the issue here is, can you trust the authenticity and interpretation of data from AI? And the flip of this is, should your business be inputting valuable data into AI to find efficiencies in how they operate. Public facing AI platforms do pose a particularly significant risk when it comes to safeguarding consumer, military, government and other sensitive data.I’m no IT expert, but if I was, I’m pretty sure the advice would be something like, “Use your common sense and don’t input anything into Chat GPT that puts anything at risk.”


AI has been helping the creative industries for a number of years. HP’s Watson first piqued my interest back in 2010 when it showcased the future possibilities of its generative potential. And in nearly 14 years, look where we are. Alexa is in every home, fridges are sending us messages of what to eat next, even my kids are messing around on Adobe FireFly like it’s always been here.

As a creative leader, it’s hard to deny that AI doesn’t have a place. Purists out there will probably heckle me for saying this, but it’s helping hugely in some fundamental areas.

These tend to be ‘quick wins’. Small tasks that would take an illustrator, designer or  copywriter a few hours to produce a relatively straightforward but time consuming task. Let’s say we want to test some different email subject lines. And the client needs them ASAP. Google Bard mops that stuff up in no time. 10 different lines with pre-text based on my email’s content.

Now here’s where AI helps, but to a point. AI has no context of what you’re needing this for besides the prompts you put in. So to get something back that’s half usable, you have to know how to ask the right prompts.

There’s an element of creativity in this part…sort of.

But what comes back is usually a bit generic, lacking in humanity or any sort of brand awareness. So you do need to spend some time looking through the results, deciding if AI has got the gist, and whether there’s something half usable. It’s then a case of using a little light touch creativity to fine-tune the best ones.

For a task like this, which is important but not conceptual, AI helps break the back of the task and we can move our brains and craft skills onto bigger and better things, like in depth storytelling - our agency sweet spot. Yes AI can write you a story, but its literary origins are from a weird concoction of data inputs and what it spits out won’t be worrying Cormack McCarthy anytime soon. Your stories are best told by people who know how to craft them (sales pitch over).


Coming up with ideas and concepts for campaigns is something that humans learn to do and build memory muscle. Years of sponge-like feeding on cultural events, art, literature, past advertising, speech writing…you name it, creatives absorb so much and they carry it around in the fastest and most powerful processing unit ever devised - our brains.

It’s this accumulation of information combined with emotions and knowing how people respond to things that means humans can start with concepts and ideas in far more unique and surprising ways that AI can. And most likely ever will be able to.

It may be old school, but there is no better way to have brilliant ideas than a chilled out room, a couple of humans, some pens and a blank piece of paper. These analog origins of ideas can then become whatever our imaginations want them to be. And that’s why clients pay good money to agencies.

Once we’ve had the idea, then we can bring AI back in. But only to support bringing our ideas to life. Or in some instances, to justify whether an idea will work. System 1 Group is one such organisation who can do the latter. Their AI tracks the sentiment of audiences and it can tell marketers if creative ideas are going to be successful or not. Remember the Cadbury’s Gorilla ad? If it wasn’t for System 1 Group, that ad would still be in a marketing director’s bottom draw.

Ai helps agencies quickly visualise things too. We’ve shifted from trawling through stock library websites looking for images and moved to using Midjourney and Dal.E. But they will never be the end point. It’s called ‘Midjourney’ for a reason.

The same goes for music, quick rough edits, voiceovers, presentations…AI comes in and saves us time.And the time element is so important. Because as the budget gets pulled in, time on projects is reduced. We no longer have the luxury of time to necessarily craft every element at every stage. Our clients have pressures, we have to be able to respond. So we have to use tools to help, or we cut corners and quality.

As a creative leader, I’m still all about the craft and the quality. But I carefully use AI to support me and my creative teams. In a meeting recently, someone described AI as a ‘Wingman’. The Goose to our creative Mavericks. And I think that’s a great summation of how to view it and use it.


AI, just like the telephone, the car, the lightbulb, the computer, the internet and all the other technological advancements that have shifted the parameters of how we live our lives, have all been accused of being fads that’ll never catch on. The world is always divided when it comes to the next big thing. And that’s where we are today. Are you going to be AT&T or Western Union? I know which I’d rather be.

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