AI in the creative industry: Ignore, Ban or Embrace?

A perspective by Steve Owens, CEO, LEAP

 

With the revolution that is AI continuing to cut a swathe across the creative and media landscape, real questions are now being raised about the very future of our industry.

Now, whether you’re a zealot believer, squarely on side of those demanding we ban this vile heresy or simply looking for a balanced and commonsense way forward, the undeniable truth is that AI is here, and for good or bad, it is here to stay.

The question of how to adapt and leverage the potential of AI whilst remaining relevant and valued to our clients’, has been a topic of many a discussion in the LEAP boardroom over the past year.

As I see it, the power of emerging creative AI tools are hugely impressive, amazing in fact, and by definition they will continue to evolve and improve in an exponentially short timeframe. But right now, they do have limitations, and while they can replicate style and tone, capturing the true essence of art, rooted in human emotion and understanding, remains a challenge… but as I say, this must be caveated with the words ‘for now.

It is worth pointing out, that these new AI applications are not the smart automation tools that we’ve been applying in our content production and media delivery processes for years. These are very different, with an intuitive ability to self-learn and possessing significantly more power and creative application than anything we have seen before. As Elon Musk opined at the recent Bletchley Park AI summit,

For the first time in our history, we are faced with something that is going to be far more intelligent than us. It’s not clear yet if we can control it, but we can at least aspire to guide it in a direction that is beneficial to humanity.

In many respects, this pragmatic thinking is what is framing our own approach.

We started by recognising and embracing the immense potential of AI in the creative and production areas of our business. But we will only apply them in a way that leverages their power to revolutionise both process and creativity – we will continue to stress the importance of responsible and ethical usage and will maintain a clear commitment to preserving the human elements of ingenuity, originality and good old-fashioned production problem solving, the latter of which, still plays a critical part in LEAP’s own USP.

Obviously legal and ethical concerns around AI-generated content, covering plagiarism, usage infringement, etc., cannot be ignored, so responsible AI use is crucial for maintaining integrity within any professional agency, operating within the creative industry.

For us, this was made more complex by having to augment our own policies with a very diverse client base, who naturally have very different approaches to risk, compliance and technology in general within their brand and marketing activities.

Therefore, we have approached things in a flexible and adaptive manner, focusing on some important initial foundations:

The AI Project Board

We have taken an executive level commitment to harness AI’s potential, while safeguarding our values. To realise this commitment, we have assembled an AI project board comprising expertise and experience from a broad range of disciplines, ensuring this is not simply a creative or IT initiative.

The goal is to identify the most valuable, relevant and ethical AI solutions for a range of creative, production and administrative functions and to then subject these to rigorous internal evaluation, stress testing and technical approval, before implementation of appropriate usage through our AI policy guidelines.

AI Policy and Guidance

Through the work of the project board, I am very proud to announce the implementation of a new AI policy and guidance document. This offers clarity on why, how, and when to use current and future AI tools. This resource outlines and explains specifically approved AI tools, and how they can (and cannot) be used for both internal processes and client work, underpinned by responsible and ethical use procedures.

Protecting Intellectual Property and Data Rights

Safeguarding our clients’ interests and their intellectual property and data rights, is naturally a critical part of these newly published policies. Whilst embracing AI internally for creative workflow management, we will always assure our clients that we will not inappropriately deploy AI in the origination of their work, and ensure that our partners receive appropriate guidance, training and clarity on responsible tool use.

Keeping it Transparent

Maintaining transparency is central to our vision. Our policy documents serve as the foundation for our commitment, guiding all team members in responsible AI practices. AI training sessions are now an ongoing part of staff development, ensuring we provide all staff with the necessary knowledge and skills to confidently leverage the power of AI technology, while safeguarding confidential data.

The Future of AI in the Creative Industry

So, going back to the original question of “how to adapt?”

Whilst we do not have all the answers, we are absolutely committed to embrace the change and opportunity of AI, not ban it and certainly not be foolish enough to ignore it; we’ll also positively help and support partners and clients in navigating AI.

By using AI as a tool rather than a replacement, it’s my belief that we’ll not only create job security, but accept AI as a way to liberate creatives to be even more creative. Ultimately, as a creative production agency our mantra has to be that AI is there to “assist production, not remove craft, to expand creativity, never to replace it.”

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