February 23, 2024

What AI can teach us about the future of creativity and content

AI isn’t going to take your job. But someone who knows how to use it might.

I say that a lot these days. It’s become a bit of a mantra, and it’s ignited quite a bit of experimentation across our firm. We’re researching customers, naming businesses, and even brainstorming at the scale and speed of AI. But in case you haven’t noticed, it’s happening outside our walls, too.  

Bold brands are experimenting in public and it seems to be paying off. Take Carvana’s, use of AI to boost customer loyalty and engagement. They famously used generative AI to create over 1.3 million personalized videos for individual customers, demonstrating the immense potential of using AI for hyper-personalized creative.

Like an AI-powered “Spotify year in review,” Carvana created individually written, scored, animated, and published videos for each customer, telling a personal story deeply tied to their relationship to Carvana (and their new car). A clear bellwether of new creativity to come.

Each Carvana video interwove details unique to the customer with location-based imagery and auto-generated voiceovers. The example below shows a video for Holly from Minnesota, who bought a red Chevy Corvette on September 29, 2019; it mentions the car make and model, integrates Minnesota scenery, and references events concurrent to Holly’s purchase like National Coffee Day and the Game of Thrones finale—all powered by AI. The videos feel almost magically tailored to each customer.

Video Credit: Carvana

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Unlike generic car commercials, these Carvana videos speak to customers as individuals with unique preferences tied to where and when they made their purchase. The hyper-personalized content builds an emotional connection no cookie-cutter marketing could achieve. 

Carvana astoundingly produced over 1 million of them—exemplifying how creative generation has become widely accessible at scale. In fact, Carvana’s in house cloud-based system can render 300,000 personalized videos per hour, amounting to over 45,000 hours of individually tailored content so far. (That’s over five year’s worth of video watched back-to-back.)

Perhaps the charm of this work stems less from pure cinematic achievement and more from contextualized customization. There’s no doubt the personalized visuals differentiate Carvana in the market. But as customers increasingly expect rich, high-quality content, will novel AI creations be enough?

The emergence of new-to-market AI video generators are ushering in a seismic shift in the creative landscape that will make experiments like Carvana’s more commonplace.

Just look at Sora, Google’s Lumiere, and even Leonardo's video generator. These tools are not just enhancing the efficiency and scale of video production but are also democratizing creativity, enabling users across various skill levels to produce high-quality, engaging content. Their sophisticated algorithms can analyze vast amounts of data to generate content that resonates on a personal level with viewers, pushing the boundaries of personalized marketing to new heights.

This leap forward in AI video technology highlights a pivotal moment where the line between human and machine-generated creativity is increasingly blurred, challenging traditional notions of authorship and creativity. As these tools become more integrated into mainstream production, they promise to expand the creative toolkit available to marketers and storytellers, offering new ways to engage audiences with compelling, customized narratives that were once beyond reach.

This begs larger questions about AI’s impact on creativity.

Allison Sitzman from Shutterstock opined to me just this week that we appear to be moving from a “creator economy” to a “creation economy.” It’s an interesting take. While Carvana’s platform dazzles right now, it may inspire future competitors to push AI's creative frontiers even further.

More to the point, I wonder if true creativity now lies in the planning, choreography and engineering of creative marvels?  Clearly in Carvana’s case, as more brands emulate their tech, uniquely personalized engagement will call back to masterful filmmaking for differentiation once again. 

As AI generation becomes widely accessible, will novelty alone connect brands and consumers? What creative frontiers can generative tech unlock alongside human ingenuity? And what comes next after the first sparks of “creation” are forged?  

To the marketers, experience designers and storytellers reading—I invite you to ponder this.  

How do we fan AI’s creative capacities into a roaring fire? Carvana has certainly lit the match—now the race is on to fuel even greater innovation. 

Who does that? Well, YOU. Humans. Designers, Marketers, Storytellers, Brand Strategists, Copywriters who also code.

Prior to 2024, there have always been two types of content creators on the internet:

  1. Content people: People who plan and produce written (blog posts, tweets, etc.), spoken (podcasts), or visual content (photos, videos). 

  2. Programmers: People who develop software (social networks, tools, games, utility etc.)  

And for the longest time these two groups stayed in their own lanes. Sure, you hired the occasional unicorn who could do both. But largely, the content people produced media and the programmers produced software. Sometimes they worked well together, and magic happened. Sometimes it was a disaster. 

But with the rise of no-code, and the even faster rise of AI, it’s clear that these two distinct  groups are dissolving, or better yet, merging quickly. And amid that shift is a tidal wave of non-programmers and non-creatives who can now use AI to create, well, anything. Even a million custom videos in a fraction of the time.  

Marketers, parents, dentists, YouTubers, accountants, film directors, politicians…. you are all creators and coders now. The full stack of internet content creation is open to all.

So, while Carvana struck an innovative match, the race is on to shape AI’s creative role. Will generative AI spark a leap in empathy-driven connections? Can it expand creative access? The possibilities are rich. Now is the time to carefully consider how AI tools can enhance—not eclipse—human ingenuity. Because our shared future will depend greatly not just on the stories we choose to tell—but also how we tell them. 

Carvana is getting the message. More importantly, their customers are getting the message.  Millions of them. Are yours?