Last weekend while I was sitting in a pub with one of my boys watching Arsenal get thrashed by Liverpool, my friend showed me a billboard he had spotted earlier in the day and an interesting conversation sparked up, it was about Artificial intelligence (AI) and how it is now being used widely by brands in Kenya.
Kenya’s advertising landscape is experiencing a seismic shift. Billboards and social media feeds are increasingly dominated by AI-generated imagery, pushing aside traditional photography and potentially displacing human roles in the process. This trend, while exciting for its potential to revolutionize marketing, raises concerns about the future of creative jobs in the face of automation.
Brands like Safaricom are examples of a surge in Kenyan brands utilizing AI tools like DALL-E 2 and Midjourney to generate pictures for ads, replacing the need for traditional photo shoots and model fees. This shift is fueled by the technology’s ability to create high-quality, customized images at a fraction of the cost and time, appealing to budget-conscious brands.
This was expected with a McKinsey Global Institute report estimating that AI could displace up to 800 million jobs globally by 2030, including many in the arts and media sectors, however, reality is hitting hard and fast.
Human Touch vs. AI Efficiency: A Debate Erupts:
While the economic benefits of AI are undeniable, concerns like those expressed by Dan Macharia, a Kenyan on Twitter (X) and AI enthusiast, are gaining traction:
“Personally, I dislike these ads because they look fake and unreal. Even though I’m a big fan and user of AI, some things that should remain sacred, like ads, music, movies, and other creative/artistic areas. Use AI for teaching, healthcare, and other technical fields.”
This sentiment highlights the potential disconnect between the efficiency of AI and the human element often valued in creative endeavors. Many argue that AI-generated images lack the emotional depth and authenticity that human artists and photographers bring to their work.
As AI continues to evolve, Kenya faces the challenge of finding a balance between embracing its potential while protecting existing jobs and the unique value of human creativity. As the adage goes, if you can’t beat them, join them. This can be done by:
- Investing in reskilling and upskilling programs: Equipping photographers and models with the skills to work alongside AI or transition into new roles.
- Developing ethical guidelines: Establishing standards for AI-generated content that uphold authenticity and transparency.
- Supporting human-AI collaboration: Fostering environments where AI enhances human creativity, rather than replaces it entirely.
However, I believe AI will create as many new jobs as it replaces, requiring a shift in skills and reskilling initiatives.
Kenya’s embrace of AI in advertising is a microcosm of a global trend. By acknowledging the potential impact on jobs and fostering a dialogue about the role of AI in creative expression, Kenyans can rest assured of a future where humans and machines work together to shape the advertising landscape.