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With the arrival of AI-generated art and the proliferation of tools like Midjourney, Stable Diffusion and DALL-E, questions have been rife in circles across the creative industry.  

Is this a temporary trend? Or a would-be essential tool in creative communication?  

A quick glance in any magazine affords an eerie glimpse into a capitalist conformity. Advertising might have gotten comfortable riffing of itself. For an industry always in search of new ideas, its ability to look beyond itself could use some sharpening. AI art engines and their ability to draw on visual data well beyond the walled Jericho garden of advertising sameness could well be the conduit creatives need to prompt new ideas, new ways of thinking and spark new connections and ways to tell stories. 

Creative communication can be complex. It can also be extremely monotonous, often executed for targeted consumer profiles living life as linear phases. But it can also be inspirational and evocative: Crafted for emotional, spirited humans careening about real, messy lives well outside neatly defined psycho-graphic behavior patterns.  

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Compound that with the idea that we’re all used to shortcuts. It seems that everything these days has an autocorrect, auto-order, auto-everything. So, might it be possible that we’re viewing AI art engines in much the same vein? Like a strange ‘creative autofill’. 

Letting generative AI inspire

In an industry that purports passion and original thinking, auto-generated visuals in service of auto-defined psycho-graphic profiles can be alarming. 

However, viewing these AI art tools more like ‘visual search engines’ and ‘concept connectors’ might bring the debate into sharper focus. Unlike the near mathematical mapping of a programmed media buy, there is no predicting what an AI art engine will produce. Harnessing this unpredictability and the surprising connections AI art engines can glean from creative sources well outside the known, self-referential cheat codes of the advertising game is where AI art may find its purpose for advertising creatives. 

American philosopher John Dewey writes that, “Science states meanings; art expresses them.” In doing so, Dewey prescribes clear roles for the two in the process of creation. But in the ongoing debate of generative AI art’s place, might the roles be reversed? Can human art state meanings and then permit science to express them, making something entirely new and thoughtful? 

Campaigns have been created and art prizes doled out — all to much outcry and discussion. But so far, the focus has been on what AI art engines can produce as an output. Not a lot has been explored on what it can inspire. And therein lies the next stage of evolution for AI art’s usage — from creative auto fill to the entirety of inspiration on tap. 

Taraka ‘TK’ Tennakoon is associate creative director at AKQA.


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