An A.I. Judging Advertising Creativity. Have We Drunk Enough Kool-Aid Yet?

Why we'll always need human intelligence in this business

Credit: Tang Yau Hoong/Getty Images
Headshot of Patrick Scissons

Lately I’ve been having these advertising “Hot Tub Time Machine” flashbacks.

It’s 2008. I’ve just left my very enjoyable and straightforward creative director job at a multinational to join my brother’s tech startup. I’m at a conference with Mark Zuckerberg and Gary Vaynerchuk floating about. Someone walks up and asks me what I do.

“I’m in social media,” I say.

“Me too,” they respond.

We spend the next 15 minutes trying to decipher each other’s social media “special sauce” to figure out what the other actually does (and whether or not we’re competitors).

With that in mind, Adweek’s article yesterday on the release of an A.I. platform for judging award shows has me scratching my head. Given the investment of time, money and resources into creating such a platform for judging creativity, I’m simply left asking:

What’s the point of this?

A.I. is, of course, the new grape flavor tech juice of these times. Its ability is astounding. Its potential? Limitless.

But when it comes to creating and judging creativity, I’m ready to double-down on H.I.

Why? Because the critical judgment of what’s possible, what’s ahead, and figuring out creative ways around what’s not possible, still rests with human imagination.

I recently returned from visiting the Cybercrime Center at Microsoft HQ in Redmond, Washington. We discussed how their A.I. tech stack could be used to help find missing children. The technology was amazing, and it was a mind-blowing experience. Inevitably the question always came back to, “Now what do we do with this?”

Yes, the possibilities are endless. But it’s still on us to connect the dots.

A.I. shouldn’t be either/or. A.I. is all about and.

Last year, we collaborated with ADA Health Inc. in the U.K. to help create a health and wellness mobile app that connected symptom data to illnesses and diseases. The self-help machine learning diagnosis has no intention of replacing doctors. It’s designed to help them find the needle in the haystack now that the average patient visit is down to less than seven minutes.

So, I’m sold on A.I. to educate and enlighten human critical judgment. But putting it on a path to outright replace it? That’s Kool-Aid talk.

A.I. is 100 percent consistently analytical, rational and pragmatic. Humans are not.

We eat entire tubs of ice cream before going to bed.

We sign long-term lease agreements on import cars we can’t afford.

We spend more than $10 billion dollars a year on self-help assistance.

Humans are fantastically and unapologetically flawed. That’s what makes us the best judge of what is best served to get people to buy Ben & Jerry’s and BMWs.

Machines can’t feel craft. They don’t appreciate timing. They will never understand the purity of human truth. So if we want to get the politics out of award shows, let’s put that on our shoulders, not a tech stack.

If you want clearer judgment of what work will succeed, not only in award shows but more importantly, in the real world, where it counts, my advice is to invest heavily in your H.I. first.

Your CCOs, your ECDs, your creative councils. Real people openly sharing, discussing and debating the best work. That’s where you’ll find the best results.

So I’m respectfully saying no thanks to Pearl (she’s a machine, so I’m not too worried about hurting her feelings) and yes to the continued H.I. judgment from Jack, Neil, Tor, Per, Nils, Diego, Knox, Rodrigo, Bjorn, Josefine, Brent, Colleen, Christina, David, Will, Oliver, Chris, Matt, Mike, Fran, Brent, Brett, Ian, Mark, Malvika, Michele, and Adam, to name but a few.

Patrick Scissons is global chief creative officer at KBS.