The intersection of art and technology has always been a space of innovation and discovery, and recent developments in AI emerging from that nexus are simply exploding with creative potential.
Initially, AI art was rule-based. Artists would create a set of parameters or algorithms, and the computer would generate art based on those rules. The introduction of neural networks (computational models inspired by the interconnected neurons in a brain) and deep learning (a subset of machine learning that uses layered neural networks to analyze data) changed all that. Instead of merely following pre-set rules, AI systems can now ‘learn’ from vast amounts of data, leading to more complex and nuanced creations.
Today, the tools for creating AI art have become widespread and accessible to a vast audience, and many brand managers are currently investigating whether AI-generated visual content can help their marketing efforts. It’s a quickly changing and exciting time to work in any creative field, but AI doesn’t come without its share of logistical limitations, ethical quandaries, and reputational risks.
Can Machines Truly Create?
Art, at its core, is the expression of emotion, thought, and creativity. AI art, with its roots in technology, may seem like an anomaly in this sphere, but it is merely another medium for conveying innovation and creativity.
Machine learning, a subset of AI, is integral to the development of AI art. Algorithms analyze vast amounts of visual data, learn from them, and then generate new pieces based on that understanding. Generative Adversarial Networks (GANs), a type of machine learning model, have been especially influential in this domain. Artists provide GANs with a collection of images, and the system is then trained to produce new, original pieces that resemble the input data.
But central to the understanding of AI art is the collaborative dynamic between human and machine. Artists play a crucial role in setting parameters, choosing training data, and refining the outcomes. It’s a dance of guiding and being guided. The machine offers possibilities and novel interpretations, while the human provides direction, intent, and critical judgment.
As we continue to grapple with its implications, AI art stands as a testament to human innovation and the uncharted territories of artistic expression that we are just beginning to explore. And, as technology advances and becomes even more integrated with our daily lives, AI’s role in creative expression will undoubtedly expand.
Leading AI Art Tools
A number of tools have democratized the field of AI art, making it accessible to a broader audience and offering unprecedented creative opportunities. The current options that are generating the most positive attention are DALLE-E 2, Stable Diffusion, Midjourney, and Imagen.
Developed by OpenAI, maker of ChatGPT, DALL-E 2 is a GAN that can generate novel images from textual descriptions. The service uses credits, with 50 credits equating to 200 generated images. Users receive 50 free credits their first month, 15 free credits per month thereafter, and can pay $15 for an additional 115 credits as needed.
Released in 2022, Stable Diffusion is an open source, deep learning-based, text-to-image model. Its name refers to the diffusion model it uses, which converts random noise into a structured image output over a series of iterative steps. Unlike proprietary models, anyone is free to run Stable Diffusion on their own hardware (provided they have a powerful enough computer — Stable Diffusion requires a video card with at least 8 gigs of RAM, which is on the medium to higher end).
Available only on the Discord messaging platform, Midjourney generates images from natural language descriptions. Currently, on version 5.2, the app has rapidly improved in just a year’s time. Early versions famously failed at the task of creating normal-looking images of human hands, but the latest update can do that and much more with uncanny verisimilitude. The service is available in several tiers, ranging from $10 to $60 a month, depending on usage.
Google’s freely available text-to-image model, dubbed Imagen, merges the capabilities of large transformer language models (LLM) for text understanding with diffusion models for high quality image generation. Its current output lags somewhat behind Midjourney (which is generally considered the most powerful model at the moment) but has been steadily improving.
The Benefits of Using AI Art in Marketing
Great marketers are always on the hunt for fresh and innovative ways to captivate audiences, and AI art provides a plethora of benefits in this quest.
- Personalization at Scale: AI algorithms can analyze vast amounts of consumer data to produce art that resonates with specific demographics or even individual users. This means campaigns can be tailored to fit precise audience preferences.
- Cost and Time Efficiency: AI can generate myriad design variations in a fraction of the time it takes a human designer. This rapid production can be especially advantageous for A/B testing or iterating on ad designs.
- Reduced Labor Costs: While human creativity is irreplaceable, AI can handle repetitive tasks, reducing the need for manual labor in certain design processes.
- Interactive Campaigns: AI art tools can be used to create interactive marketing campaigns where users can co-create or modify content, fostering deeper engagement.
- Localization: AI art tools can adjust content based on regional aesthetics and preferences, allowing brands to cater to global audiences without completely redesigning campaigns for each market.
- Campaign Expansion: Once an AI model is trained, it can produce an almost infinite amount of content, allowing brands to expand their campaigns across multiple platforms and mediums without constraints.
- Real-time Optimization: AI tools can adjust marketing visuals in real-time based on user interactions and feedback, ensuring optimal engagement.
Limitations and Ethical Considerations
While AI art tools present a promising frontier for marketers, it is crucial to approach their use with discernment. Balancing the benefits of AI-driven art with its inherent challenges requires both strategic foresight and an ethical commitment to responsible innovation.
- Over-Dependence: Sole reliance on AI for artistic outputs can result in a loss of the human touch, potentially making content feel impersonal or generic.
- Algorithmic Flaws: AI models, being only as good as their training data, might sometimes produce unintended or inappropriate content, potentially harming a brand’s reputation.
- Loss of Human Creativity: There’s a risk that overuse of AI tools might overshadow human creativity, leading to a homogenization of design across the industry.
- Copyright Challenges: The matter of who owns the rights to AI-generated art—be it the developer, the user, or the AI itself—is still a legal gray area.
- Plagiarism and Replication: AI models can inadvertently replicate existing artworks or styles, potentially leading to copyright infringements.
- Privacy Issues: AI models trained on user data can raise concerns about data privacy, especially if users are unaware that their data is being used to customize marketing content.
- Bias and Stereotyping: If not carefully managed, AI systems can perpetuate or even amplify existing biases present in their training data, leading to skewed or offensive outputs.
Best Practices for Leveraging AI Images
The incorporation of AI imagery into marketing campaigns can elevate a brand’s visual presence, but it is essential to approach this tool with knowledge and intentionality. Above all, it’s imperative to keep humans in the loop.
While AI can generate stunning visuals, humans must review all outputs for relevance, appropriateness, and alignment with brand values. AI is a tool that complements human creativity. It doesn’t replace it. The best outcomes often emerge from a synergy of human intuition and AI capabilities.
Another key tip is to be open and transparent with brand audiences about the use of AI, especially if the content could be mistaken for reality. Avoid misrepresentations by ensuring that AI-generated images do not mislead consumers, create unrealistic expectations, or convey false information.
Navigating the Crossroads: AI, Art, and Marketing
The benefits of AI imagery in marketing are becoming clearer all the time — cost efficiency, scalability, personalization, and the ability to produce visually arresting content at speed. Yet, it’s not without its pitfalls. Ethical dilemmas, copyright disputes, concerns of authenticity, potential biases, and the blurring lines between reality and machine-generated content pose challenges that marketers must address with care.
What’s most important is not which AI tool a brand uses or even what kind of marketing content they produce with it. It’s that they always seek to balance human creativity and AI’s computational prowess. The goal isn’t to replace the human touch but to enhance it, to allow AI to handle tasks it’s best at while freeing humans to do what they do best — think, feel, and innovate.
As we move forward, the landscape of marketing will undoubtedly continue to evolve, influenced by advancements in AI and shifting consumer expectations. The brands that succeed will be those that use AI not merely as a tool but as a collaborative partner, all the while placing ethics, authenticity, and the consumer at the heart of their strategies.
Hanlon works at the cutting edge of design, technology, and modern marketing. Contact us today to learn more about how exciting developments like AI art can add value to your brand.