AI In Ads Is Rising In Kenya Amid Feelings Of Boon And Bane

By  |  February 1, 2024

A now-deleted post on X (formerly Twitter), featuring AI-generated images put up by the Postal Corporation of Kenya (AKA Posta Kenya), the country’s leading provider of postal and related services, was blasted on social media Wednesday, for the unrealistic appendages on display and the appearance of “persons” featured.

Beyond the criticisms that touch on the artistic output, fears of artificial intelligence (AI) taking jobs also featured prominently in what is the latest episode of Kenyan businesses increasingly adopting AI in ads to mixed reactions in the public eye.

In Kenya, companies are working to trim their marketing and ad budgets by replacing creatives with artificial intelligence (AI) to navigate a challenging 2024 amid economic hardships, an earlier report by Semafor Africa notes, sparking concerns about potential job cuts.

The shift involves a growing adoption of AI-generated content—images, models, and voices—for advertising on both TV and digital platforms, leading to reduced ad expenditures. Sub-Saharan Africa witnessed an 11.6 percent dip in ad spending in 2023, as per the World Advertising Research Centre (WARC), with a modest recovery projected in 2024, primarily driven by a 6.1 percent surge in South Africa.

Safaricom, East Africa’s telecom giant and Kenya’s biggest advertiser, introduced what it touts as Africa’s first AI-generated TV ad last August. Since then, the company has extended its AI-driven campaigns across various platforms.

Other Kenyan companies like Pioneer (a private school group), Kartasi Group (a publisher), and Supa Loaf (a popular bread brand) have also embraced AI in their advertising strategies, utilizing AI-generated content in TV ads, book covers, and billboards, respectively.

The upswing in AI usage, fueled by the popularity of generative AI, aligns with economic downturns in key African economies, including Kenya where economic headwinds saw the shilling depreciate by 21.3 percent against the dollar in 2023, impacting spending power.

Businesses are grappling with shrinking marketing budgets globally, accentuated by local challenges like a volatile foreign exchange environment, prompting agencies to be more proactive with client budgets.

As generative AI platforms like ChatGPT and Midjourney gain mainstream acceptance, businesses across the spectrum, from large corporations to small enterprises, are expected to leverage these technologies to cut costs and streamline operations.

The adoption of AI in advertising is gaining traction in Kenya, driven by the desire to save time and money by reducing human involvement. Industry sentiments note a fundamental shift in work and opportunities previously dominated by models, photographers, and production companies.

Others see the use of AI in ads by Kenyan companies as something that makes business sense, allowing for quicker execution of campaigns and cost-effective solutions.

While African countries lack coordinated efforts to impose AI restrictions, Kenyans are wary of the long-term impact on creative jobs. 

There are fears that as businesses bring creative work in-house with AI support, small ad agencies might face extinction, emphasising the need for individuals to add value through AI adoption or acquiring new skills to stay relevant in a rapidly changing landscape.

Featured Image Credits: HiveTech

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