AI Creative Directors, Meet Alexa the Receptionist

By Erik Oster 

In March of 2016, McCann Erickson Japan welcomed an AI creative director entitled AI-CD β. In June, the agency pitted the AI CD against Homo sapien creative director Mitsuru Kuramoto to see who could develop the better ad and then asked Japanese audiences to weigh in.

But creative director isn’t the only agency position artificial intelligence is gunning for. They want your receptionist jobs, too.

The innovation team at agency VCCP decided to conduct a little AI experiment, employing Amazon Echo’s Alexa as a receptionist. After a developer and copywriter to develop Alexa to handle answering simple questions and integrated with the agency’s system and employee database,  VCCP decide to make things more interesting by programming Alexa with three different personalities based on the OCEAN personality model of five basic traits.


So how did this quirky version of Alexa do?

Out of 407 interactions, the AI system misunderstood 38 requests, answered 104 questions, successfully welcomed 34 visitors (and also cracked a few jokes, flirted with coworkers and whispered the wifi password upon request). Unsurprisingly, people preferred Bubbly Alexa to Neurotic Alexa. VCCP learned the difficulties in communicating brand tone through such a system and that human receptionists are irreplaceable (for now).

According to VCCP innovation director Adrian Gans, Alexa “is limited by her voice, by the need to trigger her skills with an invocation, by the linear nature of her conversations and by her tendency to get distracted by background noise. And she really is not intelligent. Every interaction had to be carefully scripted.”

So by our calculations, the robot takeover should be at least 24 hours away.