Marketing in the time of democratised creativity 

PHD Global’s CSO, Rohan Tambyrajah, on how brands and agencies can respond when technology raises the bar of mediocrity.

Satirical news site The Onion joked in 2009 that a financial crisis is a great time to be an economist.

PHD Global’s chief strategy officer, Rohan Tambyrajah, quipped at Contagious Live last week that it’s also a great time to be a strategist.

Tambyrajah was at the event to talk about the headwinds buffeting the ad industry when he made the comment, to illustrate how crises elevate the importance of the tactical decision-making practised by strategists.

Tambyrajah began his talk by pointing out that the correlation between brands’ excess share of voice and their market share had collapsed since 2006, suggesting the impact of advertising was declining.

The decline was precipitated by the arrival of Web 2.0, said Tambyrajah, which encouraged marketers to focus on ‘hyper targeting’ and obsess over ROI, and conditioned them to think short-term.

But when PHD began speaking to CMOs and marketing theorists to research its book – Shift: A Marketing ReThink – it began to notice the emergence of a more disciplined ‘investor mindset’.

This mindset is not so distracted by shiny new digital tools, said Tambyrajah, and sees creativity as a ‘business-additive discipline – and not just advertising-based creativity, but creativity in its holistic, multidisciplinary form.’

The focus of the ‘investor mindset’, added Tambyrajah, is to build long-term value in uncharted creative waters.

And waters don’t come much more uncharted than generative AI.

AI is ‘democratising creativity in a way that creativity has never been democratised before’, said Tambyrajah. But he warned that it has also ‘raised the bar of mediocrity’ by making it possible for anybody to create content with a few keystrokes. All of which means that agencies will have to ‘push even further’ to prove their value.

Future capabilities /

Sticking with the theme of raising the bar of mediocrity, Tambyrajah went on to discuss two emerging technologies and what roles they might play in business.

The first was Web3, which he described as the ‘decentralised internet’. Never mind the plunge in value of non-fungible tokens, Web3 is moving from marketing innovation to business-model innovation, said Tambyrajah, and marketers will soon stop using the tech to win publicity and instead use it to create real consumer value in the space of privacy and ownership.

He said: ‘We see two dominant use cases emerging in this space. The first is authentication. Web3 and the blockchain in particular has this unique ability – because it is an indelible ledger – to store information and validate the owner of that information.’

The second utility he identified was in community building via decentralised autonomous organisations (DAOs), which he described as ‘a way of getting the community together under a contract, which is written on a blockchain.’

‘That community just becomes a functioning democracy,’ said Tambyrajah, with everyone given the right to vote or otherwise participate in the project that the community was set up to deliver.

Tambyrajah referenced L'Oreal’s work bringing together virtual product creators and virtual designers to imagine the future of beauty as a good example of a brand experimenting with a DAO.

‘This group of people are just innovating on [the brand’s] behalf,’ said Tambyrajah, ‘creating these digital artefacts, helping them pioneer the future of virtual assets in the metaverse.’

Returning to generative AI, Tambyrajah suggested it was more useful to think about the technology as ‘augmented intelligence – as a way to elevate human potential’. In elevating human potential, generative AI will unlock new roles for labour, create new roles within marketing and new roles within advertising agencies, such as prompt engineers.

There are two dominant use cases for these kinds of algorithms, said Tambyrajah. The first is generative film. ‘The ability to create video assets, at the touch of a few keystrokes is going to become very real and happen very, very quickly,’ he said.

The second use case is in the space of conversational AI, which Tambyrajah predicted would soon progress from text-box chats to the ‘full avatar experience’.

‘The branded avatar is going to become one of the new distinctive assets that brands create,’ he stated.

Tambyrajah advised that now is the time for brands to differentiate themselves in this space by training their AIs on proprietary datasets, for example  Chanel could train  its AI by giving it access to Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel’s private archives and effectively using her insight to power a creative model.

The possibilities may seem overwhelming but, as Tambyrajah concluded, ‘You can’t learn to swim by reading a book about swimming.’ And therefore he encourages marketers to ‘Play, learn, then play some more’.

For more information about future capabilities and these new roles of the future, visit Shift by PHD Media

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