Kenyan marketers embrace AI as its use grows globally

Friday, January 26th, 2024 11:00 | By
Kenyan marketers embrace AI as its use grows globally
Representation of Artificial Intelligence. PHOTO/Pexels

A display on a billboard in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi advertising a brand of bread, has created a lot of buzz online and offline in the East African country.

Normally, such advertisements – in this case a mother running after her baby, speeding away with a huge loaf of bread as she smiles heartily – do not attract much attention, but in this case, the image is generated by artificial intelligence (AI) software.

The advertisement is one of the first in Kenya to be created using generative AI as marketers embrace the technology.

Both private and government agencies in Kenya are rapidly turning to AI-generated advertisements to market their products and services. Kenya’s mobile operator Safaricom is among the companies that have adopted the technology for its advertising.  The firm has not only made printed advertisements using AI but also motion ones that are now popular among Kenyan consumers.

Zizwe Awuor Vundla, director of brand and marketing at Safaricom, said the firm pioneered the commercials to show that AI can be a tool for creative excellence and marketing effectiveness.

Making inroads

“It’s been so cool to see naysayers flip and say, ‘This was incredible.’ It (AI) has allowed us to do so much. I’m just really excited about that transformation. And it hopefully changes the conversation when it comes to AI for good,” she said in a recent interview.

AI, according to Safaricom, is slowly making inroads into the African creative space, although sometimes creatives have to struggle with difficulties in finding props and people that depict the authentic image of the continent.

But so far, so good, it seems, for Kenyan industry, as government agencies are also joining in on the use of AI for marketing purposes.  A week ago, the Kenya Urban Roads Authority (KURA) released an AI-generated advertisement that depicted progress made in building roads in towns and cities of the country.

“We are working toward a seamless connectivity across all the 47 counties through the transformation of urban mobility,” KURA explained in the advertisement. Moses Kemibaro, a digital marketer in Kenya, observed that AI is currently having a “wild wild west” moment in Kenya as the country moves to make guidelines and regulations for using the technology.

Areas of concern, according to him, are things to do with intellectual property rights and the technology taking away the jobs of creatives, including photographers, videographers, and models.

“Whatever the case, the ship has already taken off as businesses opt to use inexpensive AI-generated creative assets for their marketing campaigns. AI will touch everyone and everything going forward, so we all either have to ride this tsunami, or get crushed by it,” he said in an analysis.

Among those concerned about the growing use of generative AI in Kenya is George Mutua, a videographer who works for an advertising firm in Nairobi.

“AI is slowly eating our cake; I am afraid that many creators may lose their jobs because of it, but the problem is that we have to adapt to the change. The camera may not be important soon, but I certainly need to know how to create the AI videos,” he told Xinhua. George Njuguna, director of information technology at Safaricom, noted that there are several ethical issues surrounding the use of generative AI.

“But many of the technologies that have impacted human civilization in the past have had ethical issues. So Safaricom is taking a leadership role in discussing it from an adoption perspective,” he said.

There is a proposed law before the Parliament of Kenya that seeks to regulate the industry as it rapidly grows.

Dubbed the Kenya Robotics and Artificial Intelligence Society Bill, 2023, it seeks to promote responsible and ethical development and application of AI technologies in the country.

Digital economy

Kenyan President William Ruto recently directed Ministry of Information, Communications and The Digital Economy to develop AI legislation to guide the industry.  The head of state indicated that this will go a long way in boosting the country’s economy.

“It is well-established that economies where research and development are a policy priority tend to stay competitive over time, because the future is full of possibilities for them. Our Digital Master Plan is intended to fulfil this role by enhancing our ability to confront an uncertain future with confidence,” he said.    

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