One of the biggest issues that creative teams face is finding the right images to put alongside their marketing campaigns.

The time and effort required to create and curate an image library is considerable, and it needs constant maintenance to ensure that images stay relevant to the brand and message. 

Imagine if you could find the image you have in your head, immediately, without having to search through your content library?

What if there was a way to search for your image online in real time? Where you could just describe what you wanted and a perfect high-definition image was returned to you within seconds? 

While we are able to imagine any situation, we currently rely on manual photo manipulation to turn this into an image that we can share.

But could we get to a point where we ask our computer: “Show me a picture of me riding a bicycle on Mars,” and a realistic representation is produced?

That’s why marketers value creative photographers so highly.

And there is no doubting the value a modern genius like Rankin has brought to campaigns as celebrated as Dove’s major worldwide hit campaign ‘Real Women’.  

Some of the most exciting research I have seen in this area is coming out of the Facebook Artificial Intelligence Team and is based around artificial image creation. 

Facebook’s team is trying to create 100% computer-generated images that fool humans into thinking that they’re real. 

In 2015, Facebook published some results which indicated that it could create very small images (64x64px) of landscapes from a random 8x8px grid. 

When those images tested alongside real images downscaled to the same size, the artificial images were judged to be real 40% of the time by the test panel. 

 

Earlier this year, the team built on their earlier success by generating more complex scenes, including bedrooms. 

While the images were still very small, they do look very realistic as the examples above show and it feels like we are on the edge of a breakthrough in this field.  

Personally I expect within the next 6-12 months we’ll start to see images at a larger resolution and slowly there will be the ability to create a realistic image from a text description.

There is no doubt that this is a very exciting area of research and, while it is a few years away from practical application, it’s something we should watch closely. 

Until then I don’t see any immediate move away from human-generated content.

User-generated content

One of the best ways of currently finding an image for your campaign that resonates with your target audience is by using user-generated content (UGC).

UGC is one of the most trusted forms of marketing; from YouTube stars promoting products to companies paying people to push their content on social media, this is a form of marketing that actually drives measurable sales.

UGC is more trusted and more effective for a company than traditional advertising and with new methods popping up all the time, it looks set to continue.

Using on-open live UGC in email can result in a 43% increase in click-through rates, up to 3x conversion rate improvement, and 86% consumer trust rating as an indicator of product/service quality.

Studies show that UGC is 50% more trusted than any other content and, combined with brand content, can result in a more authentic, personalised and connected customer experience.

One large brand already using UGC in their summer email and social campaign #myholidayhabits is Teletext Holidays, the UK’s longest established digital travel agency in the UK, with nearly 300,000 customers last year.

Kelly Maher, Head of CRM at Teletext Holidays explains: “Since using UGC, we have seen an unprecedented 2x increase in customer engagement in our campaigns.

"My team and I are now able to use up-to-the-second user generated content from all major social channels including Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter to populate our emails with truly personalised, highly engaging content for every user on-open.”

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Published 18 August, 2016 by Dr Janet Bastiman

Dr Janet Bastiman is Chief Science Officer at SmartFocus and a contributor to Econsultancy.

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