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Write What You Know: Rise of the Machines


What does 2023 have in store for advertising? Snap London creative director Liam Wilson doesn't have any grand predictions, but he does have thoughts on AI, optimism and ultimately trying to get people to just have a laugh before the machines take over

Write What You Know: Rise of the Machines

It’s a new year, new me meeting about a meeting that could’ve just been an email.

What does the future have in store for advertising? Snap London’s Liam Wilson investigates.

I didn’t give advertising a second thought over the festive break. 
I was too busy experiencing this script I wrote for Landsec shopping centres first hand.

I also spent my time contemplating the bigger philosophical questions of life such as: why are Crunchies so much better in their Miniature Heroes form than the conventional 40g bar? After extensive research, with a focus group of one, I concluded that it’s because the honeycomb is encased by chocolate on all sides -- something which cannot be achieved with the classic crunchie bar. Conversely, Creme Egg twisters have no place in that tin, deserving to live only in their true egg-form at Easter. 

Over Yuletide, boardroom meetings were replaced by cheeseboard meat things. I was chomping on Terry’s Chocolate Oranges like they were apples. The swab results from my DNA kit I received as a Christmas gift came back, and it turns out I'm now 63% turkey and 37% Baileys Irish Cream. 

But now we’re back like the Terminator.  
Two thousand and twenty three: Rise of the machines. 
I’m already one pitch down, which was a bit of a shock to the system to say the least, as my synapses were still clogged with custard. 

People in advertising like to write things in January with their predictions and projections for the year ahead. If you came here for that, you are in the wrong place. I can neither be arsed nor am I clever enough. Besides, with the slow retreat of my hairline, I have more forehead than foresight.

However, just before Christmas, I was sitting on a beach reading a heavy book on long termism called ‘What we owe the future’. In it, author William MacAskill, a moral philosopher, argues the future could be very good or very bad and our actions today will affect which of those it will be. Doesn’t sound particularly groundbreaking, considering I apply the same logic to hangovers. Could be good, could be shit, depends on my actions the night before.

One of MacAskill’s chief concerns for the future of humanity, though, is AI. 
The photo that sits at the top of this article sums it all up.
The week after I read the book, AI bot ChatGPT came out and threatened to steal my job.
Feed it prompts and machine learning means it can pump out copy within seconds.
Whereas you feed me tons of information and all that happens is I fall asleep in a strategy briefing.

Take over the world by all means, dearest AI overlords, but leave me out of it please. I had to do a year of placements getting paid £150 a week for this so-called career.

Old MacWilson had a job
AI, AI…oh. 

The whole of the internet has understandably gone into meltdown over AI. I’m not too worried just yet, as so much copy that makes it out into the world already sounds like it was written by a robot (I’m looking at you, 'Love What You Love' Diet Coke posters). 

The second series of BBC’s Traitors gameshow will just be people trying to work out if a piece of advertising was made by a Faithful (a human creative probably named Dave, Steve, or Katie) or made by a Traitor (an AI bot or a client).

Speaking of unfaithfuls, Boris Johnson famously wrote two articles on Brexit.

You remember Boris don’t you? 

No? Well, cast your mind all the way back to two prime ministers and a monarch ago in September 2022. He was the fly-tipped mattress stuffed in a suit, an Eton mess of a man in charge of running the country You can swap the first n in ‘running’ for an i, if you wish.

Anyway, he wrote two articles on the EU referendum: one supporting leave, and one in favour of remain. 

His behaviour during his tenure makes a lot more sense when you realise he’s just Gollum from Lord of The Rings donning a blonde wig. He’s selfish, untrustworthy and feeds off the power of his own ringpiece. Gollum would one hundred percent decorate his Mordor flat with precious gold wallpaper too, given the chance. 

The article he eventually published turned out to back the winner. Yay! Albeit a winner in which pretty much everybody loses.

I could very easily write two articles like Boris: one on how much I hate advertising, one on why I love it. I could also write something like MacAskill on how the future of advertising could be very good or very bad, depending on our actions.

But seeing as we are in the early dawn of a new year, I’m going to try and keep it nice and optimistic.
January is a time for new beginnings, after all. 

My wish for ‘23 is to be more optimistic. I want my New Year’s resolution to come in 4K HD positivity, not buffering in 720p cynicism. 

Second on my wish list is to banish the mouse I currently have refusing to contribute to my mortgage despite splitting its time between residing somewhere in our kitchen and living rent-free in my head. At least my wife can now say she cohabits with a small rodent and some Mickey Mouse creative director.

My final resolution is to start writing articles that actually get to something that resembles a point.

It’s rather difficult to feel optimistic about, well, anything, these days.
As part of the brilliant Wiedens ad campaign, the word OPTIMISM used to be emblazoned across the foil lid in packs of Lurpak butter. 
Now it costs about £9 and comes wrapped in a security tag.

Hellbent on destroying the arts and creative industries that Britain is actually renowned for, Rishi and his party haven’t got any ideas on improving the country other than adding more maths to the curriculum. His party already has dividing and taking away from people down to a fine art, so I'm sure everything will be just fine.

Sewage is being pumped into our rivers and seas, you can’t get a doctor, you worry about how long your heating’s been on, foodbank is a word that has become common parlance, trains are never running, but apart from that - everything is Great in Britain.

As for our industry, there are always endless articles declaring blah is dead, or the end of blah is nigh, or the future of blah is here. Older creatives saying it ain’t what it used to be. They make it bloody difficult to be optimistic sometimes. 

On the other hand, pretending everything is sunshine and rainbows isn’t helpful either.

You’re going to win some pitches. You’re going to lose some pitches. That’s advertising.

People will get made redundant. But they will bounce back somewhere better and thrive. That’s advertising. 

You’ll probably burst out laughing at a moronic client comment because if you didn’t, you’d cry. That’s advertising. 

While scientists are developing nuclear fission and petulant billionaires are thrusting into space in cock-rockets, you’ll find yourself hunched over a laptop attempting to bend the space-time continuum with a 30” radio ad filled to the brim with 45” of legals and copy mandates. That’s advertising.

And as the AI machines at SkyNet rise up for Armageddon, you’ll be eating late-night pizza in a harshly-lit office as you have a big pitch in the morning. You’ll look up from page 197 of the deck to the window as the sky blazes red. And you’ll realise the emergency end-of-the-world backpack you prepared for this very moment - the one containing a torch, heirloom seeds, a flint lighter, a machete and a bag of Walkers prawn cocktail - got left on the kitchen table when you set off for work to catch your rail replacement bus that morning.

All of the above is quite the war of attrition for any human being. 

And that’s why I think advertising is actually full of optimists, often dressed in cynical clothing.

What if is how most sentences begin for a creative. 
It’s how we suggest ideas, throwing them out into the open.
Often rejected, sometimes ridiculed. But we keep ‘em coming.
Believing an idea can change behaviour and permeate into culture.
Or at the very least, believe it can get made.
Having ideas is the epitome of optimism.

I love nothing more than trying to get something made when people say it can’t happen.
Being a persistent pain in the arse.
What I don’t like is false hope.
False hope eventually breeds pessimism.
I think people suffer burnout and feel downtrodden when they’ve dosed up too much on false hope. 
So this year, stop prescribing it to your creatives.
If a brief looks woolly, check it’s not a wolf in sheep’s clothing feeding off their time.
Shut the timewasting clients down early doors.

So without sounding like a Live Love Laugh photo frame resting on a mantelpiece in a grey, crushed velvet Chigwell living room: ‘Put in the graft. Finesse the craft. Have a laugh.’
That’s the best way to make great advertising in 2023, or any year.

Have a laugh is the most important bit.
Having a laugh should be serious business.
Have a laugh within the work and while making the work.
It generally helps if you work in a place where the people are genuinely nice, kind, and down-to-earth. Unafraid to take the piss out of themselves or their CEO. 
I’m lucky to have that at Snap London. 
Without having a laugh, you might as well be an AI robot anyway.

As for me, I'm going to embrace the robots just like I've embraced optimism.
At the end of last year, my Geordie mate Vicki left to join another agency (Boo. Traitor).
We’d worked together for over five years.
But with my newfound positive outlook, I have been working on creating her robot replacement named 'Why AI Pet'. 
Productivity has skyrocketed.
Who needs humans anyway?

Article written and uploaded by ChatGPT using the following Prompt: write a rambling, ill-disciplined essay in the linguistic style of Snap London creative director, Liam Wilson.

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Snap London, Mon, 09 Jan 2023 13:32:56 GMT