Thought Leadership

Are leaders underestimating the impact of generative AI?

Industry leaders have their say on the AI revolution

Nicola Kemp

Editorial Director Creativebrief


“We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run.”

The words of futurist Roy Amara have successfully stood the test of time, capturing the almost universal knee-jerk human response to new technology and innovation.

Amara’s Law carries an added weight when viewed through the lens of the unintended human cost of social media. As an industry grapples with the unintended consequences of social media on young people’s mental health, it is perhaps understandable that the moral cost of Artificial Intelligence has dominated the industry agenda.

Yet while it is increasingly apparent that social media is this generation's smoking, AI has perhaps been accused of stealing your job, before you have even had a chance to open your mind to its possibilities. With this in mind, we asked industry leaders if the industry is at risk of underestimating the impact of generative AI on the creative industries?’

Jon Williams

Jon Williams CEO of The Liberty Guild.png


The Liberty Guild

There are finally signs that agencies are accepting that AI is happening and they’re putting money behind it - £300m at Publicis and £250m at WPP. That’s great. The bitcoin’s finally dropped. We’re over the nay-saying. But now what?

Writing haiku on ChatGPT is one thing but the challenge leaders have is to operationalise AI so that it works for the business. I don't mean automating your contribution to content obesity and ramping production up to machine speed at the pointy end of it all, or the impact on business intelligence and data science at the top end of the organisation. That’s happening anyway. I mean how does it augment you? As a person. In your day job. Anyone helping you there? And I don't mean Adobe Firefly in the studio.

At the moment AI is a thing that gets us all to go faster. Or cheaper. But I don't see enough of better. How does it get us to better ideas? How does it help our thinking? Not our doing. Anyone? It’s funny, AI works so well with systems. But most creative agencies are kidding themselves if they think they're properly systemised. They run on superstitions, totems and rituals, bits of process cobbled together from many old-school sources. Inefficiency glued together with a splash of ‘culture’. That’s damn hard to augment. So the challenge comes down to the individual. As ever.

So I don't think it’s that leaders don't get it. They do. I just think it's really hard to do at a deep enough level to make a difference. Must try harder.

Jack Sails

Jack Sails, IMA-HOME.jpg

Head of HX


In the realm of the creative industries, the buzz around generative AI is undeniable. But conversations with leaders across various agencies and creative companies reveal a mix of excitement and concern about its potential.

Many leaders recognise the pressing need to integrate generative AI, but there's a gap in comprehending its full scope. This isn't merely about automation or efficiency; it's about adopting a new perspective on creativity itself. Especially in the creative sphere, tools like Midjourney and DALL-E showcase AI's obvious capabilities when it comes to visuals. However, the challenge lies in moving beyond the obvious deliverables in front of us to see AI as a co-creator that amplifies creative output rather than taking over entirely. There are a whole host of generative AI tools which—while the tasks they carry out aren't inherently creative per se—offer a chance to automate the mundane, freeing creatives to focus on what they do best: creating.

The choice is clear enough: embrace AI and harness the full breadth of its capabilities, or risk being left behind. For creatives, generative AI isn’t just about making things people can look at; it can redefine our creative processes and outputs along the way. At IMA-HOME, we're preparing an AI Framework that promotes creative freedom and ethical use, giving our team the confidence and support to play, and ensuring they’re ready for whatever comes next.

Leaders must shift their mindset to view generative AI as an integral part of the creative journey. It's about leveraging AI to unlock new possibilities, serving as an enabler for human creativity. The underestimation isn't in its impact, but in our readiness to embrace it fully.

Charlotte Russell-Parsons

Charlotte Russell-Parsons, Hearts & Minds.jpg

Account Director


Aren’t we all over this? The noise, the fearmongering, the Terminator-style tropes of AI destroying life as we know it? It’s an endless job keeping up with the risks, the developments, the tools… especially if we’re not a Data Scientist or AI Prompter.

And by ‘we’, I mean everyone – Account Directors, Creatives, Planners and industry leaders. In my humble human opinion, we aren’t underestimating the impact of gen AI. We just lack the frameworks to ensure up-to-date, strategic, and ethical usage.

I recently finished a MSc Behavioural Science dissertation (exploring the behavioural impact of AI in the creative industries), and my research showed that although leaders have the foresight to recognise the challenges, and desire to protect their people, they aren’t fully equipped to bring all creative employees along – upskilling, training, tackling misconceptions, and understanding of its eventual impact – it’s all still wanting.

I interviewed several leaders across issues surrounding generative AI – how it mimics human creativity and accelerates problems around deepfakes, behavioural manipulation, mis-/disinformation, transparency, anthropomorphism, and copyright. All issues that they should have answers for, that already impact both consumers of AI-generated content, and creative industry employees like us. Everyone knows we should be using this to stay competitive, but how can we best use it, inclusively, ethically, and ‘for good’?

So in short summary, no, I don’t believe leaders are underestimating the impact of generative AI. And us-against-them dialogue (both around leaders vs employees, and us vs AI tools) risks stunting experimentation and creating necessary, progressive frameworks.

Jevan Dail

Jevan, contented.jpg

Senior Motion Graphics Designer


If anything in some respects they’re over estimating the impact: they think it can do more than it currently can. It’s a buzzword and people want to put it into their work but when it comes to what’s being produced it’s certainly not something you’d want to present to the client.

Day-to-day it’s useful for lower lifting - upscaling an image, expanding an existing background or using ChaptGPT to streamline the process of adding some further scripting, but all that still needs a human to set the boundaries. A recipe book and a stove won’t produce a meal - you still need a person to put everything together.

All that said, if there is some underestimation it’s around where generative AI might go. Just this week OpenAI launched its version and their results are the best I’ve seen in terms of complexity. They seem to have nailed what people want, but it’s a way off being opened to public access.

In short I don’t think there’s any need for alarm. In terms of the industry as a whole, the reason people like me do this kind of work is because we're creatives and, as humans that engage with the content ourselves, we're drawn to it is because of the originality and ideas that are unique to the human mind. That’s something that a few thousand lines of code simply can't replace.

Sam Page

Sam Page CEO 7DOTS.jpg

Co-founder and CEO


Leaders in the creative industries are either paralysed by fear or are diving headlong into AI without direction. Both are a recipe for disaster. The former means they are falling behind and the latter is leading to AI fatigue when they get terrible results. But there's a smarter approach: leverage the 80/20 rule. Let AI handle the heavy lifting, ie. 80% of the legwork for you. You then need to do 20% of the effort, with your time freed up for the important creative input.

Take Open AI's video from text mode, Sora. You need to give it a creative and clear prompt to get the video you want… and let's face it, the video isn't going to win any awards. It needs some work on top to make it amazing. By combining AI efficiency with human ingenuity, the possibilities are limitless. It's time to stop underestimating the impact of generative AI. Embrace it strategically, and watch your creativity soar to new heights.

Maris Silis

Maris Silis Cheil.jpg

Creative Director


As a creative who started their career in an age before the internet, the introduction and continued rise of generative AI within our industry has me torn between excitement and concern.

From a creative perspective, generative AI (be that text, imagery, voice, music or film) has given us amazing opportunities to enhance the creative offering, while lessening the more mundane and time-consuming processes. But it’s the speed at which this technology is developing that has my alarm bells ringing.

According to research from Goldman Sachs, generative AI has the potential to automate 26% of work tasks within the arts, design, entertainment, media and sports sectors – in my view, a suggestion that’s not far off the mark with the introduction of Jasper – a more refined AI content creation platform capable of producing multiple types of customer-facing content.

Let's embrace the reality: AI has become an integral part of our lives, much like the internet. As we move forward, it's essential for us to be mindful of how we harness and regulate its capabilities. While there are legitimate concerns about rights management and the ethical use of data, there's also an exciting opportunity to shape the future positively. By responsibly managing and utilising AI technologies, keeping ethical implications in mind, we can explore their potential to enhance creativity, efficiency, and innovation.

As we navigate this evolving landscape, let's ensure that we prioritise transparency, accountability, and the protection of individual rights. Together, we can shape a future where AI serves as a force for good, enriching our lives and society as a whole.

Peter Gasston

Peter Gasston VCCP.png

Innovation Lead


In a nutshell: yes, but probably not fatally so. There’s a quote from Bill Gates that I constantly come back to: “We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten.” There are some incredible AI breakthroughs happening right now, but as we put them into action we quickly find out what the limitations are. In the nine months since launching faith at VCCP we’ve seen generative AI quickly adopted by creatives, planners, and more, but largely to fit existing processes.

However, as AI models become more powerful and — crucially — more controllable, we’ll start to see those processes transform. New possibilities will open up, which we can already see happening in the independent creator community. A creative team will be able to take an idea all the way through from concept to production, which will increasingly put independents up against agencies. The agencies will need to adapt creative departments, through development or recruitment. The media asset supply chain will face disruption and displacement. Leaders may find that AI hasn’t changed their agency, but has changed the industry around them.

But we shouldn’t fall into zero-sum thinking. There will always be space for craft, for human emotion and insight, and for depth of brand understanding and creative storytelling. But we’ll be able to do more, and differently.

Sam Yates

Sam Yates, Chief Solutions Officer, Creative Technology at Jellyfish.jpg

Chief Solutions Officer, Creative Technology


Amid the flood of media coverage on Generative AI, it's easy to think that our creative leaders have got it all figured out. But what we’re seeing is that much of this attention is focused on short-term gains.

Most brands are just dipping their toes into the waters of Generative AI. Fancy models are spitting out fascinating stuff, pushing creative communities to venture into new artistic territories. However, according to a recent Jellyfish survey, a whopping 88% of brands are still in the experimental phase with Generative AI, basically still beginners. At Jellyfish, we’re successfully seeing clients start to integrate AI platforms like Pencil to increase productivity and performance, moving them from ‘experimental’ into ‘integrated’, or even ‘advanced’.

If we only see Generative AI as a tool for making content or crunching data, we're missing the bigger picture. Beyond the hype, there are some major behavioural changes brewing.

In navigating this emerging landscape, creative leaders must prioritize the capability of AI models to generate assets that align with guidelines. Marketers, in turn, must understand how AI models perceive the brand. Additionally, creatives should consider enhancing their skills in technology, strategy, analytics, and language to bolster their creativity for the future.

So, does this mean we can't keep up with what's out there right now? Not at all. But get ready, because the changes coming our way might be even bigger than we think.