Does Pearl, the First A.I. Ad Awards Juror, Know a Thing About Creativity?

Probably not much, but she is learning

Headshot of Tim Nudd

Advertising award shows have grown so big, with so many categories, that the quality of judging has become an issue. But if you’re annoyed with who’s judging your work now, check out what the Belgian MIXX awards have come up with—the world’s first artificial intelligence ad awards jury president.

She is named Pearl, after Radia Perlman, a prominent female Internet pioneer. And she’s taking her first stabs at trying to understand—and rate—advertising creativity.

Somewhat terrifyingly, it sounds like she is making some strides. According to the folks at DDB Brussels, who are among her caretakers, after Pearl reviews a case study, she is “pretty good at being able to predict whether it will be a winner or not, and even what color of award you might expect.”

“This is beyond our expectations,” says Jos Polfliet, head of machine learning at Faction XYZ, who also worked on Pearl, “but it seems that creativity is more or less measurable after all.”

Well, sort of. Pearl also screws up a lot, apparently.

“Sometimes she has the reasoning of a pregnant woman,” says Peter Ampe, executive creative director of DDB Brussels, somewhat uncharitably (and least to pregnant women). “She thinks tuna with whipped cream sounds like a great idea! But she’s still learning, and her accuracy will continue to improve.”

Here are some of Pearl’s learnings and quirks:

  • Pearl is not impressed by the numbers of impressions you ran. She prefers qualitative metrics such as “trending topic” and “earned media.” If your campaign has had more than 100.000 shares, don’t hesitate to share it with the jury.
  • Being mentioned by dedicated ad press is no guarantee to win. Being mentioned by BBC and CNN however, does give more credibility to your case.
  • Upbeat, feel-good music is so much overused that it’s being perceived as cliché and generic.
  • The use of a voiceover has a positive effect on the outcome.
  • When it comes to new technologies, buzzwords have the most success in the year after they were launched.
  • Pearl can identify the originality of your campaign, but is still learning to recognize if an original idea is also meaningful.

Due respect, it sounds like Pearl is a bit of a moron. Still, DDB is envisioning that glorious day when a room full of floating purple clouds will replace the world’s top CCOs and ECDs. If nothing else, they say, it will help with the problem of bias.

“Pearl is not quite ready yet to replace human jurors, but she can already complement them,” the agency says. “She doesn’t, of course, have the flaws human juries have, as she is able to give every case the same level of attention, never grows tired, and perhaps most importantly, doesn’t have friends to defend or a network or country to promote.”

We’ll find out more about Pearl’s abilities soon enough. She’ll get a chance to pick her favorite campaign from among the MIXX Award entries. Here’s hoping she gets it really, really wrong.

@nudd Tim Nudd is a former creative editor of Adweek.