What does the future hold for the automation of creativity?

What does the future hold for the automation of creativity?

Monday, February 13, 2017
Simon Green

Automation is impacting all industries, and some industry experts believe it could push unemployment to as much as 50% by 2045, with computers being able to perform almost any job that humans can do. But what effect will it have upon the creative industry? We’ve already seen automation pervade the advertising industry with the rise of programmatic trading; could it also replace writing, creative design and execution?

The timeline is pretty tight, and there’s little point in sitting around, waiting to find out. Some creative agencies have begun to explore the possibilities of AI, with JWT Amsterdam going so far as to use it create the next Rembrandt, scooping multiple awards at the Cannes Lions in the process. Bas Korsten, the creative director behind the Rembrandt project, says within a video produced by The Drum: “The blurring between us and technology; that was the assignment. How do you merge these two or let them work together?” When it comes to AI, he argues, “there are no limitations”.

The stats shed some light on how pervasive automation is becoming. IDC predicts that CMOs will drive $32 billion in technology spending by 2018, and automation software alone will be a $5.5 billion market by 2019. As a case in point, Facebook has said that 10,000 developers are building chat bots for Messenger.

Last year saw the arrival of the world’s first artificial creative director, AI-CD ß, created by McCann Erickson Japan under its Creative Genome Project. It is already working commercially for the agency, taking on a brief for client Clorets Mint Tab. More than 1,000 TV creatives have been added to AI-CD ß’s database, which help it to determine the best direction for a creative brief. For new entrants to the creative industry, this has big implications. Yasuyuki Katagi, CEO of McCann Erickson, Japan, explains: “New creative people, they don’t have to study the past, as there is AI…Knowledge is replaced by AI, but creativity cannot be replaced by it”.

Just over a year ago, M&C Saatchi broke new ground with the launch of an outdoor campaign driven by AI, which had the ability to create unique ads on the fly, based on audience reactions. Built around a central London site, the campaign, for invented coffee brand Bahio, was powered by an algorithm that tested different executions of the creative through analysing the strengths of various features such as copy, layout, font and image. Approximately 1,000 different images were randomly served to passers-by before the self-selection process began. Creative components which failed to engage (measured via a hidden camera on site) were automatically removed from circulation while those that prompted an engaged reaction were re-worked into further executions.

Being realistic, the creative industry is probably one of the safest industries to occupy, as it seems most likely the automation will support and compliment creative direction moving forward, rather than replacing it. However it remains to be seen precisely what AI will be capable of in 20 years time!

The 16-minute film below, produced by The Drum, is well worth a watch if you’re looking to learn more. Within it, Justin Taylor, UK MD of video ad marketplace Teads, summarises: “We’ve seen programmatic become pervasive across the different businesses. Creativity needs to catch up and this is where AI is really focusing right now…As we move into the creative era of programmatic, we should see creative directors, data technologists and the machine working hand-in-hand, to really start making a difference. And that’s when the new era of creativity is really going to come in.”

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