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Resurfacing the Soul of Social Media With Lo-Fi Content

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Finally, it pays to fit in. Ad men have been known to cleverly slip the product placement pill in the bologna of entertainment since the early days of print ads. Throughout the 20th century, print media marketers faced more competition among each other and from other media vehicles like radio and TV, which led to what’s now known as the Golden Age of print advertising. Promotion- and value-focused ads, akin to coupon clippings, eventually evolved into full-fledged editorials, using copy and images to soft-sell products through whimsical storytelling while blending in with the rest of the content. The same tendency has occurred with TV advertising: Since ads are mere interruptions to the content viewers are trying to consume, marketers have learned to masquerade their work as part of the native media to surpass the “innate ad blockers” of a jaded audience.

Promotional content is always evaluated in the context of surrounding content and the medium itself. With social media being the most democratized media vehicle since cave wall etchings—boasting an incredibly low barrier to entry—the visual quality of the content is expected to be low. As a result, lo-fi brand content appears so naturally alongside content generated by users, and it’s proven to enjoy on average 40% more views than hi-fi visuals.

The revolutionary lesson

While brands are being rewarded for leveraging lo-fi content, creating high-quality output becomes increasingly effortless thanks to the developments in technology. We ushered in the Fourth Industrial Revolution in 2018, when McKinsey and World Economic Forum established the Global Lighthouse Network, an initiative to unite manufacturers spearheading the next generation of technology tools. The next generation of value chain efficiencies—Industry 4.0—incorporates an array of technologies like renewable energy, robotics, cloud computing and, of course, generative AI—which, with unheard-of adoption rates, has become ubiquitous in just about six months.

What are the near fates of content and the professionals that create it? Perhaps the inkling of an answer can be found by going several industrial revolutions back—specifically, the Second Industrial Revolution of the late 19th century, where a series of critical technological advancements including the steam engine shifted the manufacturing paradigm. With long hours and skill no longer required to produce merchandise, the place of the artist and the craftsman became uncertain as machines replaced handwork. And yet, instead of extinction, craftsmanship experienced a renaissance.

Technology marked the end of the aristocracy’s monopoly on production and spurred interest toward traditional methods of art and manufacturing as custom-made production became scarce. Artists began intentionally leaving tool marks in wood and stone as proof of their handiwork. The Arts and Crafts movement that emerged among many other craftsmen’s guilds in the U.K., and later around the world, has largely informed contemporary art and design.

Lo-fi versus AI

GenAI will inevitably wipe out some jobs, just like any productivity tool ever has. It will not replace human creativity, but rather democratize it. One can already use AI to generate high-quality imagery, surpassing the learning curve it would require even a couple years ago. The access to unprecedented tools will empower creators to develop more content, faster, using saved time to delve deeper into the strategic aspects of their work and tell better stories.

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