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045: Buckle your seatbelts
[Before - Session 15] Open source creativity seems a likely future
We’re nearing the shore.
Please gather all your belongings.
This part of our journey is almost over.
Tomorrow evening is the 15th of 15 sessions of the Future of Advertising course at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. We will receive the student’s final presentations (Assignment 3), hang out with the talented David Mackereth, and prepare for what comes next.
I’ll continue to write about creativity after the course wraps. Please subscribe!
Making a ruckus
A few days ago someone inside Google leaked a memo evaluating the firm’s strategic positioning versus OpenAI and critically—versus open source innovation. In short, “the uncomfortable truth is, we aren’t positioned to win this arms race and neither is OpenAI. While we’ve been squabbling, a third faction has been quietly eating our lunch. I’m referring to open source.”
From my vantage, this was the money quote:
“The barrier to entry for training and experimentation has dropped from the total output of a major research organization to one person, an evening, and a beefy laptop.”
While the majority of the memo is written to and for technologists, I’d argue this quote and the tenor of the piece speak to creatives in marketing and advertising equally well. Let’s break it apart…
Ever since Al Gore invented the Internet the pace of creativity and technology has only increased. Artificial Intelligence is a tungsten carbide foot coming down on the gas pedal. What’s transpired around open source AI is a potent signal for the future of advertising. It only gets faster from here.
Note, I didn’t say “better,” or “of higher quality” or “easier.” Just faster. The challenge for creative people is twofold:
Adjust methodology to keep pace—all while maintaining quality
Learn what no longer needs our attention—i.e. discern where real value can be applied, and say “no thanks” to everything else
It’s easy to appreciate the allure of scale. There’s nothing wrong, in my book, with building upon success. Clearly, plenty of marketers and their agency holding companies continue to agree.
But what began with the Internet continues, i.e. an ability for an enabled, augmented human to make leaps scaled organizations no longer can. With AI, those leaps seem much bigger. As the memo reveals, “They [open source innovators] are doing things with $100 and 13B params that we [Google/OpenAI] struggle with at $10M and 540B. And they are doing so in weeks, not months. This has profound implications for us.”
We’re going to see a continued rise of individual influence and capability, of large scale ideas birthed by a few, powered by AI. Of course large orgs will endeavor to take advantage, as they should. But access to “industrial strength” AI capability is not longer confined to industrial-size teams.
The opportunity for creative people—and marketers who believe in them:
Use AI to scale. From research to implementation, AI empowers individuals—from bandwidth to capability—to deliver outcomes they previously couldn’t.
Outthink vs Outspend. Pat Fallon’s (and Howard Gossage’s) differentiation applies here as well. Audacious ideas need less money to create the same or greater impact than mediocre ideas. AI supercharges the “outthinking” component.
I don’t actually have anything profound to say about this word. I just appreciated someone inside Google typing the word “beefy” in reference to a laptop. That said, I do think FTC Chair Lina Khan’s Op-Ed proposing AI regulation illuminates the adjective. I agree with her closing sentiment. As she puts it, “history also has lessons for how to handle technological disruption for the benefit of all.”
I’ll be back in your inbox tomorrow with a recap of the last class. And some hints about what happens next.