Deutsch Is Opening An Artificial Intelligence Practice to Blend Creativity With Technology

Agency built Taco Bell's Slack bot and voice-controlled videos

Deutsch has worked on AI for Taco Bell, Volkswagen and Target.
Sources: Getty Images, Deutsch

Agencies are clamoring for bots. As marketers increasingly experiment with artificial intelligence, creative shop Deutsch is launching an eight-person team tasked with helping brands understand virtual assistants, the Internet of Things, and bots.

Named Great Machine (after the robot character in the science-fiction film Forbidden Planet), Deutsch North America’s chief digital officer Winston Binch will oversee the new bi-coastal practice. Technology director Martin Legowiecki will work with a team in the agency’s Los Angeles office while Rachel Mercer, head of digital strategy and invention, will spearhead AI efforts in New York.

According to Binch, AI started to become a bigger emphasis three to four years ago and adds to the shop’s growing engineering and technology chops. “As we thought about AI and we looked around in the space, there’s a lot of people doing this, a lot of other agencies launching their own services—many of them are focused on data and predictive analytics,” he said. “We see a real hole in the market around creativity, emotion and personality. We’ve been talking about brand personas for years, but we usually manifested them through communications and stories. Now we have to do it through voice interfaces and conversational user interfaces.”

He cited Amazon Echo and Google Home as two examples of devices that ecommerce marketers are interested in weaving their brands into as the gadgets become more popular with consumers. “They’re asking, ‘Once we move out of Google, and we’re using voice to shop, how is my brand going to show up and how am I going to make sure that I win?’” While the technology has been in place for several years, creative use cases from marketers so far are limited. Binch referenced IBM Watson’s AI-powered Marchesa dress and Microsoft and ING’s work to recreate a Rembrandt painting as examples of AI and creativity. Those are ideas that we can see some of the possibilities, but this is a wide-open space,” he said.

Deutsch has picked six areas that Great Machine will cover: Bots, predictive and anticipatory systems like IBM Watson that can make real-time decisions based on loads of data, the Internet of Things, cognitive assistants that function like personal assistants to complete everyday tasks, personalization concepts that use data to tailor content for individual consumers, and process automation technology that digs through a company’s data to make the business run smoother.

“We think that these are six pretty good places for brands to start but ultimately like marketing, it comes down to what’s the business problem that we’re trying to solve,” Binch said. “Even a great video, you’re only going to watch one or two times. What I love about the power of these technologies is that we can bring both emotion and function and these can be long-term engagement platforms. They’re not destinations, they’re systems.”

The agency’s already done a bit of AI work for clients including Volkswagen, Target and Taco Bell. Last year, it built TacoBot, a Slack bot for Taco Bell that allows businesses to place food orders and chat with a bot through the work-messaging platform. And for Volkswagen, Deutsch made a voice-activated web app that used a computer’s microphone to steer a car down a custom path based on the sound of a voice.

To get started, Deutsch is offering free one-day workshops they describe as boot camps for potential clients to get a better understanding of AI. The second phase is a program called 20/20 where the agency will develop an AI strategy for $20,000 in 20 days. From there, brands can work with Deutsch to work off of the strategy.

“We have a large digital practice and this is trying to point us in the direction of the future,” Binch said. “More and more of the work that we do is going to be powered by AI.”