AI-generated imagery is (metaphorically for now) taking over, which begs a very important question of whether you can or should use it for marketing purposes. Find out if the benefits of AI art outweigh the downsides.

Marketing has always been a very visual field, but the growing role of content in your marketing mix has definitely posed some challenges. Between tight budgets, lack of resources or just not being able to find the right image – wouldn’t it be nice if you could just type in a description and the perfect image would appear?

Enter: Artificial intelligence.

Marketing Intelligence Meets Artificial Intelligence

AI image generators, also known as generative models or deep learning models, are algorithms that use artificial intelligence techniques to generate new images based on user prompts. These models use large datasets of existing images to generate new images that resemble the patterns and styles visible in the training data. (Basically, it looks at a bunch of pictures and copies patterns to fit a prompt.)

There are a number of AI image generators available, including Bing Image Creator, Midjourney, DALL-E 2, Shutterstock AI and more, that allow users to receive custom images for little-to-no effort, time or money, and has the potential to revolutionize the content-hungry marketing landscape.

But can you actually use AI-generated images for marketing purposes?

The short answer? Sure, you can technically use AI-generated imagery in your marketing.

For one, using AI to generate images is cost-effective and efficient, allowing you to automate and scale your image creation with few resources.

In addition, results are really customizable and personalizable. You can analyze customer data and generate visuals tailored to those audiences to enhance the engagement and relevance of your marketing campaigns.

Finally, it can help fill a skill gap. If you want to visualize a concept but lack the tools or skills to make it yourself, AI can help. But remember, as with all AI content generators, your output is only as good as your input, so it may still take time to refine your prompts to get the desired result.

However, just because you can use a technology, doesn’t necessarily mean you should. In the case of AI-generated art or imagery, there are some legal and ethical gray areas that you’ll have to navigate.

Copyright and Intellectual Property Considerations

The case of Naruto v. Slater, also known as the “monkey selfie” case, involved a dispute over the copyright ownership of a series of self-portrait photographs taken by a crested macaque (named Naruto) using David Slater’s camera. While the case primarily (primate-arily?) revolved around whether or not animals could own copyrights, it indirectly impacted future discussions related to AI-generated images.

The U.S. Copyright Office eventually included the clarification that “only works created by a human can be copyrighted under United States law, which excludes photographs and artwork created by animals or by machines without human intervention” to its Compendium of U.S. Copyright Office Practices. And, in a recent update to its copyright registration guidelines, the body addressed AI-generated works specifically.

When an AI technology receives solely a prompt from a human and produces complex written, visual, or musical works in response, the traditional elements of authorship are determined and executed by the technology – not the human user … Users do not exercise ultimate creative control over how such systems interpret prompts and generate material. Instead these prompts function more like instructions to a commissioned artist … When an AI technology determines the expression elements of its output, the generated material is not the product of human authorship.

As of now, copyright laws generally attribute authorship and ownership to human creators only. However, the emergence of AI-generated content raises new challenges and complexities in defining authorship and determining copyright ownership. Legal frameworks will need to evolve to address these issues and establish guidelines for AI-generated content in the future – and I, for one, call “not it” when it comes to testing these legal boundaries.

Ethical Concerns & Challenges

While you, the reader, may not be one of them, there are many who would misuse AI. Whether they’re trying to get reactions or deliberately stealing someone else’s work, there’s many ways that AI image generators could be immorally used:


Potential for Misinformation

Ever heard of Deepfakes? While usually done with video content, with malicious intent, someone’s face could be plastered over embarrassing or reputation-harming content. Combine that with AI voice programs, and a life could be ruined with just a few clicks. Granted, most of this is used for meme purposes, but even if it’s mainly to make Obama, Trump, and Biden play Minecraft together (not a euphemism), the possibility is still there.


Issues with Data Privacy & Security

Even though copyrighted and personal data is exempt from web scraping, many artists – myself included from time to time – post their art onto social media. Since social media sites are part of the “free websites” on the internet, data on those sites gets scraped into the training model that most AI image generators use. Therefore, any art posted onto social media, like DeviantArt, Twitter, or Instagram, can be taken into AI training.


Ensuring Transparency & Disclosure

Most AI image generator users can get away with claiming AI art as their own because it’s not always easy to differentiate it from art made by humans. Remember the AI art piece that won an art competition at the Colorado’s State Fair? While the creator had disclosed Midjourney’s involvement in developing the piece, the judges didn’t realize that Midjourney was an AI program.


Mitigating Bias & Ensuring Diversity

Whether we want to admit it or not, we all have biases. And sometimes those biases can find their way into algorithms through biased training data or flawed data sampling. Machines lack the historical, social and cultural context to identify and filter biased data points, resulting in stereotypical, insensitive or otherwise inaccurate representation in AI imagery.


Impact on Creativity & Employment

The rise of AI-generated images raises concerns about the future of human creativity and the potential displacement of creative professionals. I mean, if it’s already able to make award-winning art and fix American politics, why not replace graphic designers altogether? (Just kidding, Nick!) While AI can assist in generating visuals, it cannot replace human ingenuity, storytelling, and emotional connection.

Future Trends & Implications

We’re living in interesting times and the explosion of AI technologies has the potential to make it even more complicated. As these technologies evolve, so must the ways in which we engage with AI-generated imagery, particularly in marketing.

I, alongside many other artists, would prefer using AI as a tool to aid us in our art rather than for the final product. In that way, it would be akin to a painter using a paintbrush to create their art. Using it for inspiration, or, if trained on your own work, visualization purposes, is really where AI image generation can be useful.

However, while the faster/cheaper/easier appeal is obvious, it’s important to note the adversarial relationship between talent and training, creators and generators, and humanity and technology that using AI-generated imagery instead of human-made art creates. We, as marketers, must stay informed about the legal and ethical challenges that its use poses.

As for Responsory? We’re proud to have an experienced and talented group of thinkers and doers who prove their humanity through their creativity, communication and problem-solving. While we’re always striving to deliver value as efficiently as possible, we kinda like being human. If you’re looking for a resource for content creation, brand design or navigating the waters of AI technology, we’re ready to help you – no prompt or algorithm required.

About the Author

Maggie Eilbes brings a love of art and writing to her role as Content Intern. She’s entering her third year of college by transferring to UW-Oshkosh from UW-Milwaukee at Washington County with a plan to major in English with a minor in Creative Writing. From short stories to research papers, she’s done a lot within her Creative Writing, Intro to Literary Studies, and English classes. Combined with her curiosity, creativity, and imagination, she hopes to learn as much as she can to help others and spread her ideas to the world.