AI Art for Marketing: A Guide for SMBs

edited August 2023 in Business

There is no escape! From award winning AI generated photographs to the godfather of AI, Geoffrey Hinton’s resignation from Google, AI is all over the news right now. In the past six months or so, the future has arrived in the form of AI chatbots and text-to-image models. Read on to discover what AI art is, where it came from, and how your SMB (small and midsize business) can use AI art generators in marketing campaigns.

Alexa, what is AI, and what is AI generated art?

AI (Artificial Intelligence) has been around since the 1940s, and put simply, is the simulation of human intelligence processes by computer systems. The applications of AI are diverse, and as we will find out, often divisive. From Alexa and Siri to the recommendation systems on your Spotify and Netflix accounts, AI is increasingly becoming seamlessly integrated into the technology that we use in our daily lives. Recently, AI chatbots like ChatGPT and Google Bard have taken the world by storm, changing the way that many of us approach problem solving. 

What is AI art? Well, AI art is, as it sounds, art generated by artificial intelligence. This could be any artwork, but generally refers to images and music created through generative algorithms and deep learning techniques, without the need for a human artist to throw paint at a canvas, or pen notes on a score.

Did AI art arrive at the end of 2022?

No, AI generated art didn’t appear out of nowhere at the end of last year. Let’s take a step back in time to see where AI art originated. Before its recent, personal computer based popularity, AI art was an artistic discipline with roots in the cybernetic creations of the 1950s. Artists in the 60s eagerly explored the relationship between new computing technology and the arts. The pioneering exhibition Cybernetic Serendipity, held at London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts in 1968, set the groundwork for the continuing development of AI art in the twentieth century. Five years later, in 1973, Artist Harold Cohen developed algorithms that allowed his computer program, AARON to draw and eventually paint with the irregularity of freehand drawing.

How does AI art work?

Today’s text-to-image generators offer a different response to a different question than those of the 1960s. AI image generators like GetIMG, NightCafe, and Deep Dream have all soared in popularity in recent months. The quality of AI generated images continues to improve, these are exciting times for instant, efficient, low cost creativity. How, exactly, did we get here?

Thanks to the emergence of deep learning algorithms, AI art programs such as DeepDream have been able to learn and adapt based on huge amounts of data, allowing users to create complex and realistic art. Another milestone in the recent evolution of AI art can be attributed to GANs (generative adversarial networks), invented by Ian Goodfellow in 2014. GANs work by training two neural networks in opposition, producing and evaluating images until the images produced are indistinguishable from real ones. 

Moving forward to 2021, OpenAI developed CLIP (Contrastive Language-Image Pretraining). CLIP blends language processing and computer vision, allowing it to understand and analyze relationships between words and images. In 2022, diffusion models brought AI art into mainstream consciousness. These generative models function by transforming random noise signals into image data, check out stable diffusion for a taste of what is to come.      

How can my SMB benefit from AI art?

At this point in our art journey, perhaps you are wondering if you can sell AI generated art? Will your business be the next Banksy of AI generated art? Like anything, package it right and someone will buy it. Portrait of Edmond de Belamy, the first portrait created using AI to come to auction, was sold at Christie’s New York for $432,500 in 2018. 

A more realistic goal for most SMBs is to harness the power of AI generated art to create your company’s digital marketing images. There are several benefits. Firstly, there is reduced turnaround time with AI art, no wait, and no delay. You think it, the program digitally inks it instantly. Secondly, if you are looking to cut costs, or lack the budget to take on graphic designers, AI programs are a cost cutting alternative to employing people. Thirdly, if you don’t have the time or the patience to try to explain your needs to an illustrator or graphic designer, AI art will provide you with images that meet your needs, with no questions asked.

How to use AI art in your marketing strategy

Creating AI art for your marketing images can be as simple as typing in a description of what you require and then choosing a style that suits your brand. Depending on the AI art generator that you choose to use, as well as your level of engagement with the software, there are many options to customize your AI art and really make it unique. 

The number of AI art generating programs out there increases daily, some are free, some require a monthly subscription. Check out GetIMG, NightCafe, Deep Dream, as well as DALL-E2, Jounce, and artbreeder to see if any of them can help you create suitable graphics for marketing your business. 

AI art can be used in content and social media advertising and is particularly suited to social media platforms. By using AI art generators to create visually appealing advertising content, SMBs can stand out while saving time and money. AI art can help to personalize Email marketing campaigns: dynamic graphics increase appeal, increasing open and click-through rates. The personalized, custom aspect of AI art in marketing provides custom content for individual users based on browsing and purchase history, driving engagement and creating higher sales.  

But, exercise caution: AI art is not a one-size-fits-all replacement for working with design professionals. Don’t trust the machine. Ask yourself if your AI art marketing images look right. Ensure that your AI generated designs will resonate with your target audience, and consider customizing your SMBs AI art style to align with your brand image.

Good artists borrow, great AI artists steal?

There are certainly some major ethical and legal considerations involved with using AI art generators.  Proponents claim that AI art enhances human creativity but does not replace it. Inevitably, as AI advances, many human jobs will become redundant as AI systems vastly undercut human workers.

In terms of theft, AI art generators analyze images, learning from them in order to create new images. Issues of copyright, intellectual property, compensation, and crediting human artists whose work AI art generators have “scraped” is yet another bone of contention in this field. Potential legal implications of fair use vs copyright infringement pose an ongoing concern for users and creators of art and AI generated art. Rulings of current lawsuits related to AI generated art and intellectual property will guide future laws surrounding the use of AI art. How these regulations will be enforced internationally remains to be seen.

AI art generators enable anyone with a computer, an internet connection, and the ability to type a few words to create “art” in the style of any number of greatly talented artists. These were artists who struggled, starved, ate their paints, and died at the canvas, dedicated to their art. The instant, minimal effort gratification of AI generated art removes the magic from art, or adds to it, depending on your perspective.

Times change

Another perspective is that, as art changes, old ways are replaced, and later reappear. The artistic processes of artists in many creative fields have changed drastically over the past century. Take portraiture for example. For centuries, the portrait painter, working in pencil and oil paint, rendered their vision onto canvas. They were, for the most part, made redundant with the invention and popularization of photography in the early 20th century. Towards the end of the century, the rise of digital photography and digital print replaced film cameras and traditional darkroom printing methods. Look around you today, chances are it won’t be hard to spot someone creating a portrait of themselves using a smartphone, replete with beauty filters or bunny ears!

What does the future look like?

The future is bright for AI art in marketing and other applications. AI art will continue to develop increasingly intricate outputs after learning from larger datasets, replacing human artists in many roles. As AI technology continues to advance, AI art will be increasingly integrated into marketing campaigns for businesses large and small. There will soon come a point where it will be hard to distinguish between real and AI generated images and content. This lifelike, personalized, AI generated content will further engage target audiences and drive sales. Like it, or loathe it, AI generated art is here to stay.

Edmund is an English copywriter based in New Taipei City, Taiwan. He is a widely published writer and translator with two decades of experience in the field of bridging linguistic and cultural gaps between Chinese and English.


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