What’s next for AI now that it’s gone mainstream?
AI won 2023. Of all the upheavals in what was undoubtedly a tumultuous year, AI was the biggest disrupter. A year on, here’s what we can expect from the tech in 2024
It’s been a year since AI catapulted out of science fiction and into everyday life. Like a highveld thunderstorm on a sunny afternoon, it arrived seemingly out of nowhere and changed everything. In fact, it’s hard to think of another technology or development that has appeared so suddenly and become so pervasive in such a short time.
It was quickly apparent that AI would not be a passing fad, and sure enough, it is very much alive and thriving in 2024. Now that the hype has lessened somewhat, here’s what we can expect as AI enters its mainstream era.
After three years of heavy work arising from the pandemic, 2023 saw the revival of comedy as a way to handle the global polycrisis. While last year was more of a tentative exploration of lightening up, this year we can expect a lot more work designed to entertain — as evidenced by Cannes Lions opening new comedy categories for this year’s awards. AI will enable that, making it easier to generate content that plays in the realm of the absurd and allowing more creative freedom.
2. AI creativity
Speaking of which, the tech continues to evolve and creatives are using it to make paradigm-shifting work. Just a year on from its arrival on the scene, when AI was viewed by many in this industry as a threat, it has already become a go-to creative partner, research and insights provider and image generator. I see 2024 as the year that AI will leave the realm of exploration and cement itself as a standard part of our creative toolkits.
3. AI influencers
Originally viewed as a gimmick, AI-generated influencers have become serious business, and their rise will accelerate as Gen Alpha comes of age. They will challenge the traditional notion of celebrity endorsements. Hyper-realistic virtual influencers, crafted by AI algorithms, will become a staple in advertising campaigns, offering a fresh and engaging way to connect with audiences.
I see 2024 as the year that AI will leave the realm of exploration and cement itself as a standard part of our creative toolkits
4. AR with AI
The fusion of augmented reality (AR) and AI is a logical next step and will create immersive advertising experiences. AI algorithms will analyse user interactions in real time, customising AR content to match individual preferences. This dynamic integration will blur the lines between physical and virtual worlds.
5. Ethical AI
As people grasp the scope of what AI can do, more and more are questioning the ethical use of the tech and asking important questions about it. With AI becoming more mainstream, there will be a bigger focus on regulation to ensure transparency and accountability in data usage. Ethical AI practices will become a cornerstone of brand trust.
6. Hyper-personalised functionality
Algorithms are getting more advanced, and hyper-personalised content is becoming more sophisticated. Powered by AI and machine learning, ads will be finely tailored, not just to demographics, but to individual preferences, maximising engagement.
With so much focus on AI, people will develop a craving for the real. Work that brings authenticity will stand out in a sea of automation and efficiency. It’s important for creators to remember that AI is just an enabler — our humanity is how we connect.
As we navigate the AI-driven future, the key will be to maintain a delicate balance between human ingenuity and AI. Comedy and authenticity are lenses we should keep applying to help us create this balance. By adding value and relevance to the audience, agencies that embrace and master the power of AI without losing sight of their humanity will not only stay ahead of the curve but will shape the curve itself, ushering in a new era of advertising that is intelligent, dynamic and deeply resonant with the evolving needs of the audience.
Ana Rocha is the executive creative director at VML South Africa.
The big take-out: Key to navigating an AI-driven future will be to maintain a delicate balance between human ingenuity and AI.
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