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Creative Harmony: How Much Will AI Influence Sound for Brands?

Everyone’s at least a bit scared of Artificial Intelligence (AI). Whether you’re technophobic, fearing an apocalyptic uprising in machines akin to ‘I, Robot’, or you’re a training lawyer seeing GPT-4 beat 90% of your peers in the bar. Even Elon Musk, Steve Wozniak and hundreds of other tech experts signed an open letter calling a pause on developing AI tools more advanced than GPT-4. Scary. 

But surely the creative roles are safe?

Creativity is an innately human characteristic that no robot can replicate, isn’t it…?

Whilst we’re all typing in prompts in an attempt to speed up the menial aspects of our jobs, the impact of AI on various industries is accelerating at a rate of knots. For most people creativity and music felt like an area that would remain unaffected. That is until David Guetta caused a stir with his Eminem-style deepfake. Since then, we’ve heard the likes of Drake, The Weeknd, Ye and Oasis all mimicked with unnerving likeness to the real d***. 

It’s not just music either. German photographer Boris Eldagsen refused his p**** for w****** at the Sony world photography awards, admitting he generated the image using AI. He did it to prove a point; that people wouldn’t identify the plagiarism and accelerate a debate around AI’s impact on “the photo world”. All of these ‘deepfakes’ provide a worrying insight into what the future may look like given the exponential growth of AI that is set to occur over the coming years.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. True creativity remains a human quality that is difficult to replicate. Following his conversation with an AI robot artist (Ai-da), Baz Luhrmann, stated “until she can actually love and dream, I’m not worried”. He believes that AI can help facilitate creative work and do a lot of the grunt work, but will always lack the authentic emotions to fulfill the task completely. In the words of Keith Richards, “Music is a language that doesn’t speak in particular words. It speaks in emotions, and if it’s in the bones, it’s in the bones” and creativity will never be in the bones of AI.

From a brand perspective, the development of image generative AI means we can input a brands values, markets, objectives, target audiences, and generate numerous visual identities at the click of a button. People are often astounded by how hard it is to differentiate it with human-made alternatives. There have even been a few AI generated adverts circulating on social media recently, including one for ‘Pepperoni Hug Spot’. Aside from the creepy mouths and other quality issues, it’s almost believable, if not a little cheesy. However, this is largely due to the relatively novel nature of generative AI. It collects the data available to it and generates output that fit the criteria.

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Over time, if everyone starts putting data into these systems, the output will start to become standardized and boring. If people are just creating things based purely on historical information, how will anything new be created?  

The same can be said for sonic branding. When we’re in a ‘discovery phase’ of a project we establish ‘audio cornerstones’ that are essentially principles that describe the brand at its core, which are also meaningful in music and sound e.g. bold, nostalgic, mysterious etc. I’m sure at some point in the not-so-distant future there will be a way of typing these audio cornerstones into a program that’ll create 100 different tracks that resemble these cornerstones – But they will lack the human touch that facilitates the emotional connection between brand and consumer. 

However, that doesn’t mean AI has no place in the creative process. We have a product called Ignite that uses AI to benchmark a brand’s values against 1000s of commercial tracks, built with the input of over 500,000 consumers. This roots the brand’s audio cornerstones in music that the client already knows and provides clarity on the creative direction. Our sound effectiveness partners, SoundOut, test the creative directions we’re exploring to validate our work and make sure the brief is being hit. They use AI in their products, making the process more efficient and accurate. When speaking about their new AI generated product (OnBrand) David Courtier-Dutton, CEO said “Technologies like OnBrand are just another tool that helps brands and agencies ensure that creative directions and music choices being explored are indeed aligned to the core brand values and deliver on the brief”

So, instead of using AI to create – We should view AI as a creative tool that can help make processes more efficient and the output less subjective. It can be a collaborator, used to steer creativity in the right direction, rather than replacing it altogether.

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