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May 21, 2024
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Brxnd NYC Conference 2024 - Exploring the Collision of Technology and Creativity

Last week I attended the 2nd NYC Brxnd conference in New York City organized by Noah Brier. The intersection of brands and AI is one of the more interesting dynamics given the human nature of brand concepts and development and the appeal of replacing some of the more time consuming and repetitive tasks in creative and marketing execution.  Brxnd is truly a collision of human creativity and technology.  Speaker Tim Hwang took this to the next level when he suggested that AI assisted creativity could be a performance art - watching creatives use ChatGPT (or other tools) as a show, similar to a concert pianist. The analogy is extreme - but the question is real, how do you mix the world's top creative minds with the most powerful (and most human-like) technology of our generation.

The conference featured an agenda from a wide variety of AI perspectives, from AI product builders, legal, brands and agencies resulting in many different perspectives. Below are my five key takeaway from the conference: 

1. AI value lies in improving excellence rather than replacing mediocrity

One of the repeated observations on AI across speakers that has far reaching implications is that with AI, no one has to be bad at anything anymore. Need a marketing email to announce your product but have an engineering background?  No problem, ChatGPT can write you one that’s passable with minimal instruction. Need a menu for a summer BBQ but have trouble boiling water… you get the idea. Because of this, the value of mediocre thought work will be decreased to near zero - so while it can save money in the short term to replace cumbersome manual processes with AI driven automation, the real sustainable value and advantage lies in using AI to achieve a higher level of excellence.

2. AI Legal Perspectives on AI and copyright are still evolving, but some clarity is emerging

There's a noticeable softening in the legal stance regarding AI-generated content. While it was previously thought that AI outputs could never be copyrighted, current discussions, influenced by increased documentation of human input, suggest a future where creators could claim copyrights on AI-enhanced outputs. This shift underscores the need for creators to document their process for valuable assets that may be beneficial to copyright.  It’s important to note that draft or intermediate versions don’t need this level of documentation as they will likely not need to be copyright protected.

3. Image generation is flashy, but image discovery is more immediately valuable

Joshua Nafman's example from Diageo highlighted a pivotal shift: the real value for brands lies not in generating new images but in efficiently discovering and utilizing existing ones. This is especially true for large brands that have many sources of content generation and massive archives of usable images. AI's ability to sift through and enhance the relevance of existing media assets provides immediate value without any of the legal or existential questions of AI image generation. Google realized this too apparently as they announced “Ask Photos” at their Google I/O conference the following week.

4. Different perspectives shared on role of human oversight

The conference showcased varied opinions on whether AI should be an independent agent or a tool driven by humans. Each perspective has merit, depending on specific workflows and objectives. I think different sides to this debate are actually closer to each other than might appear at first glance. For example, someone might argue that content creation needs human oversight BUT also be OK with AI guided grammar checks and corrections without human intervention. To me, the need for human oversight is greatest in areas where the success of the output is determined by the reaction of humans.

5. Collectively, we’re still early in overcoming AI fears to unleash potential

Mark D'Arcy’s commented we have been given a rocket but are only using it to fly to Indiana. Noah also acknowledged that he anticipated at last year's conference seeing a lot more AI in action by this time. Fears around creative authenticity, coupled with legal issues still limit many firms from adding AI to their processes. Embracing AI’s full potential will lead to significant rewards for those willing to venture beyond dipping their toe in the water to drastically change how they operate.

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