Testing Perception vs. Reality: AI Can’t Replace the Human Element

By Melody Lin, Director of Client Strategy at Aki Technologies, the media division of Inmar Intelligence

As adoption of ChatGPT and other generative AI grows, so too do fears that AI will displace the need for human thoughts and services, particularly in the realm of creativity and industries like marketing and advertising. However, there’s good reason—and increasingly, quantifiable proof—that many of these fears are unfounded or overblown.

The phrase “unchartered territory” has been used throughout history to describe our future as technology continues to evolve at an ever-faster rate. For example, way back in 1933, the New York Times sounded the alarm on the technology of the era in a story headlined “The Threat of The Machine Age.”

Technological innovation seems destined to spur philosophical debate about the balance of power between “mad scientists” and their creations; yet with every doomsday forecast, the outcomes—with the benefit of hindsight—prove to be nothing close to what was feared.

But what about AI? Will this prove to be the exception—the true bringer of human creativity’s irrelevance? And, more importantly, must we wait to see it all play out, or can we bring some perspective to the conversation today?

Aki Technologies, the media division of Inmar Intelligence, recently surveyed more than 1,000 U.S. adults to understand their perspectives (and fears) related to AI. Then, we put those fears to the test in a real-world advertising receptivity test to see how people reacted to advertisements featuring human-only copy production, AI-only copy production, and hybrid AI copy edited by a human. We were as surprised as anyone by the results, which brought the following myths regarding AI to light.

Myth 1: AI can match or exceed human creativity.

With its computational power and machine learning capabilities, AI can explore diverse possibilities and produce innovative solutions that might elude human thinkers. That said, according to our survey, 52 percent of people believe AI can also match or exceed human creativity.

We wanted to see whether this could be the case when it comes to advertising. So, we presented people three advertising variations (human-only production, AI-only production, and hybrid AI copy edited by a human) and asked them to select the one they would engage with. We expected that the advertising creative generated by AI and edited by humans would drive higher engagement than advertising creative that was either entirely produced by a human or entirely generated by AI. Best of both worlds, right? However, our research found that human-generated copy was 60 percent more engaging than AI-generated copy and 31 percent more engaging than AI-generated copy that was edited by a human.

In other words, when human creativity was the starting point, humans responded better. With this in mind, we must acknowledge that human creativity is deeply rooted in emotions, intuition, and subjective experiences. So, is it really so surprising that it’s challenging for AI to fully replicate the depth and complexity of human creative expression?

While imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, nothing beats the original. AI generates ideas based on past inputs, not future thought—and originality is an important factor for thought-provoking, eye-catching creative. As art curator Anna Choutova once noted, “Bad art is unchallenging, safe, and stale.” Given AI’s need for existing source material, AI-generated creative could always feel iterative to some degree.

Myth 2: AI will take over human creative jobs.

AI’s ability to analyze vast amounts of data and quickly generate unique ideas can be seen as a threat to human creatives. In fact, our research found that 66 percent of people say they are concerned about AI taking over human creative jobs. However, the more likely reality is that AI will be employed to complement and evolve the ways we work, rather than to displace human roles.

When you consider a creative field like advertising, we must remember that generating creative assets isn’t the end goal. Driving positive outcomes with that creative is what really matters. In that regard, even when we re-ran our original advertising receptivity test and employed a marketer with years of professional training in leveraging AI to inspire advertising copy creative, the human-generated copy still outperformed the AI-generated and human-augmented versions of the creative.

Looking further down the road, the most likely impact of AI on creative fields will be that jobs will change, but they won’t go away. Rather, they’ll be enhanced by systems, and, over time, AI capabilities will create the breathing room needed for humans to step into entirely new roles. In fact, it’s estimated that 40 percent of Gen Alpha (kids aged 0 to 12) will have jobs that don’t currently exist.

Myth 3: AI will produce solutions beyond the human intellect.

With its computational power and machine learning capabilities, AI can deliver advantages such as cost savings, enhanced operational efficiency, and improved output quality and consistency. But ultimately, without human input, AI and machine learning are ineffectual today. Engines like ChatGPT are programmed to mimic writing styles, avoid certain types of conversations, and learn from questions. AI-generated creative can be formulaic in structure. Effective AI must incorporate the natural cadence of human language which is essential for creating relatability and consumer trust.

AI, by its very nature, currently lacks the experience from which knowledge and original thoughts are born. The AI-generated advertisements in our test (and even those edited by humans) lacked the nuance of the human element, and the human mind sensed this missing element when it processed the AI-generated assets.

It’s natural—human, even—to greet new technology with apprehension. But what history demonstrates, and current research is proving out, is that humanity will never render itself unimportant or obsolete. Creativity is fueled by the human spirit, emotion and experience. While AI can bring scale and efficiency to our creative endeavors, real connections are based on the human that guides them.

Tags: AI