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Why AI Art is bad for your brand

Tuesday, February 06, 2024

A black image with green text on it, mirroring The Matrix. Overlaid are 4 images, 2 men and 2 women, generated by Bing and having the Canny Valley effect.

Social media demands we include an image with our posts. It ticks a favorable box in The Algorithm. If that image shows a person it gets an extra boost. The sweet spot is when they're smiling.

We all responded to this folklore. Our social media feeds quickly filled with selfies varying from the cringe-worthy to the heavily staged. All while it fueled our insecurities, dented our mental health and disadvantaged the camera shy.

The 2020 solution was to raid a free stock library like Unsplash. This had its own issues as our posts got lost because we all flocked to the same photo of an Asian woman sitting on a couch.

Enter Generative AI. Type a few words into a text box and get a photo-realistic image back that's unique to us and ready to crop and add to our latest masterpiece. Take a few minutes to steer the image away from fingers with six fingers or teeth on the outside of its mouth, and you're good to go.

Plastic People

What AI generates is, almost by definition, the mean. It's the perfect midpoint in amalgamated data flowing through models trained on gazillions of other people's work. The results have an aesthetic that's just the wrong side of uncanny to be noticeable, the right side not to freak us out.

It's the GenAI version of the poor girl with her laptop on every post about remote working ever posted. A plastic people look that announces, "This isn't real."

Generative AI fed our laziness. Forget going to Shutterstock or (heavens forbid) breaking out the camera. Pop along to Bing.com/create, bang in a prompt, and copy/paste the result into your post. Job done in under five minutes. It'll be unique, so your post won't get lost in the malaise. In theory.

Except people notice. We're past the point where GenAI is quirky in its own right. The novelty has gone, and we're judging these images on merit.

Screenshot of a tweet by Del Walker that compares using Gen AI in social media marketing to wearing an obviously fake Chanel bag.

The sheen has worn off the shiny new toy.

Generative AI has passed the "new enough to be novel" phase quicker than expected. It doesn't look cool and hip, just cheap. As if those using it in their campaigns had zero budget or couldn't be bothered to do "real work."

This isn't to say GenAI doesn't have a place in our content creation. I use it for inspiration or to create elements for a montage. However, we're way past where a generated image has novelty. We might also be approaching a point where algorithms turn on these creations.

For now, I tend to avoid social media posts with plastic people beaming out at me. I suspect more of us might do the same.

My name is Ross Hori

I'm a freelance writer, designer and photographer. By day I create articles, features and reports. At night I take photos and write fiction.

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