By Alex Kondys, head of experience design, Revium
AI has really sunk its claws into the stock image and content market, already disrupting the here and now, let alone in the future. As always with market disruption, there are opportunities for those who get on board the generative AI image train early, with cost savings and new creative processes that can offer a big advantage.
That said, the narrative that AI will destroy the stock image market is not entirely true. It is instead likely to force all the big players to pivot from their current approach and business model; something we can already see starting to happen.
But the accelerating rollout of generative AI does present some issues to contend with. The moral ambiguity of content ownership and the various legal challenges being bandied about have given some folks cause to pause, but for the most part they are being overplayed. Yes, these might be issues now – in the infancy phase of the technology – but they won’t be for long. Look no further than Adobe Firefly’s new market model, which plans to compensate creators for content used to train that AI, regardless of whether the creators opted in or not.
On the transparency front, just last week Adobe created a symbol – called the “icon of transparency” – that can be added as a small watermark to AI generated work for transparency. It’s not Adobe-specific either but pipped to be adopted by other companies including Microsoft. Tagging of AI generated content will go a long way to upping the technical standards and certification of generative AI, and might have helped hapless companies like Disney who are now reportedly facing backlash over AI-generated stock imagery featured in their Loki Season 2 poster.
As of today, some small-scale, high-frequency outputs – think presentations, websites, filler content, smaller marketing plays, product ideas and proof-of-concepts – can already be created using generative AI. Big FMCG producers like Diageo and Mars were proud to unveil their use of the tech in this way at Cannes this year. You just need the right people with the right training. For the near term, big-scale items like big campaigns and marketing will still largely rely on photographers and personal human-generated content. But only for the near term.
This year, our consultancy has utilised AI to create contextual imagery for websites and assets, compile mood boards and inspiration for creative assets, and content for client presentations. It has explicitly changed the way we service and provide for clients. And it’s getting smarter and intrinsically more capable as times goes by.
We can now use AI to generate an image of a person, then use it again to put that person in whatever landscape or backdrop we want (real or imagined) and even add logos or brandmarks to their clothing or surroundings on top of that, while keeping the realism. The tech is there, the people are catching up.
But it’s not a matter of just downloading a program and pressing a button. Generative AI is a skill, and skills must be honed. The smart businesses are investing early in getting their team skilled up in this new ‘art’, recognising that like any other technical capability there is a big difference in outputs between the untrained and the trained.
Here are some of the reasons why generative AI is such a powerful toolset in the creative space and why it is going to become incredibly valuable to those organisations who are skilled at using it:
1. Customisation: AI enables the creation of highly customised and unique images tailored to specific client needs. You no longer need to compromise on getting every little detail you wanted in a composition like you do when selecting from a set of stock photos.
2. Efficiency: It can generate images at a much faster pace than human photographers and designers. This greatly reduces production costs and time, making it more appealing for businesses, such as ours, to use AI-generated images that we can brief in to one of our experts to generate.
3. Cost-effectiveness: We’ve found AI-generated images to be more cost-effective for businesses, especially among SMEs, compared to hiring photographers or purchasing expensive licenses for premium stock images – looking at you Getty and Shutterstock.
4. Diverse results: AI can emulate a wide range of artistic styles and create images that suit various aesthetic preferences which caters to a wide range of clients and industries. And it’s getting better.
5. Reduced copyright concerns: AI-generated images typically don’t have copyright or licensing issues associated with them so long as you are paying for a commercial license with the relevant AI tool. This in contrast to using traditional stock images where the costs add up and the usage options can be limited. You also don’t have to worry about another organisation using the same stock image as you.
6. Continuous improvement: AI technologies for image generation are continually evolving and improving. As AI models become more sophisticated, the quality and versatility of AI-generated images will continue to increase opening doors to new opportunities and benefits.
Generative AI will create a ripple effect reaching myriad industries over the next few years. Just look at the advances from Adobe’s MAX conference that kicked off on 10 October and showcased a range of new AI tools in what they are hailing as “a new era in creativity”. You only need to look to the global market size, which is currently at USD $43.87b in 2023 and expected to grow to USD $667b by 2030 (an increase of over 1420%) to see that generative AI is an unmissable, unstoppable force that should be harnessed, not avoided.
Yes, the future will still involve synergy between generative AI and human-generated content. The latter will always exist and have a reason to exist, it’s just that the former is going to start to eat into it more and more over years to come.
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