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Only a human can be creative

Chemistry Creative Directors Susan Young and Patrick Murphy discuss the merits of the human mind and why machines will not replace us as creatives.

Most of the profound and world-changing artistic and scientific developments from the past century have been created by humans who were able to see connections that had nothing to do with each other.

And that’s the secret of what we do as advertising creatives: we make unexpected connections to solve our client’s problems. 

It’s intangible magic that only happens when a few highly trained minds get together in a room to throw ideas around. And the ‘in the room’ bit is crucial. There’s something about sitting opposite from each other in person that just isn’t the same when you do it over Zoom. You need that emotional connection and human expression, which arguably is impossible to create via a machine.

To most, the ideation process itself seems completely random but is in fact the result of years and years of expertly tuned connection-making. That’s why the Art Director/Copywriter partnership in advertising is still one of the most powerful creative tools agencies have. 

What’s more, it often begins way before you actually put ideas down on paper (or a cocktail napkin, as used to be the case) – when you’re not actively thinking about the problem, like in the shower or driving into work.

This is because our ideas are strongly influenced by the things around us – current events, design trends, movies, the weather, the general mood of the nation, what we had for breakfast, something our kids said, what our mates were laughing about over a drink, or what we observed while sitting on a bench at lunchtime.

Billy Connolly built an entire career out of telling stories about funny real-life observations; Bruce Springsteen writes lyrics directly from his experiences; Van Gogh created works from what he saw around him. It’s hard to see how a machine could create that sort of humour, music or painting with that level of emotion.

While we have more tools and access to better technology than ever before, we are still seeing great advertising creatives and artists creating work that comes from simple human insight. It’s something New Zealand advertising has been so good at over the years – and continues to celebrate if Saatchi & Saatchi’s Toyota ad which won big at AXIS recently is anything to go by.

Benjamin Franklin once said: ‘Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.’ And that’s just it, by taking part in meaningful discussions we are provided with an arena to express new ideas, think critically and voice our opinions on a deeper level. It’s a complex mix that would be very hard to replicate by a machine, despite German artist Mario Klingemann telling us it is inevitable. 

Rather than thinking of machines such as AI as a way to replace creativity, perhaps we should think about it as a way to enhance creativity. That way, we can create collaborations that have never been dreamt of before. And as creatives that gets us way more excited than being done out of a job!



Chemistry are experts at combining strategy and creativity to get under the skin of brand challenges, creating solutions that drive real business growth. For more information visit chemistry.co.nz

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