For AI to Truly Elevate Marketing, It Must Be Partnered With the ‘Happy Accidents’ of Human Creativity

Make AI stand for Augmented Inspiration

AI presents an opportunity to revolutionize marketing. - Credit by Getty Images

Today, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is arguably the most disruptive technology, with cloud computing, large data sets and big tech companies such as Microsoft, Google and Amazon accelerating its impact and the fact that investment in this arena has grown from $589 million to over $5 billion in the last five years. Recent research from Publicis Media’s Business Transformation practice found both consumers and executives predicted that AI will be most the disruptive trend across a number of categories, most notably in telecoms, airlines, consumer electronics, automotive and even fast food.

Richard Hartell

But perhaps we are not exactly clear yet on the full scale or nature of its disruption. Perhaps other than the obvious effects like more personalization, automation, job destruction and consequent impact on economies and society, there is another potentially uplifting effect that inspires a new type of creativity for our age.

So, as part of its bigger impact on business and society, how will AI impact marketing?

Firstly, AI provides “intelligence” (obviously) that is faster, more accurate and less biased in processing large amounts of marketing data. AI is essentially the much more effective left side of the human brain—free of any our emotional weaknesses that lead us to make less logical, precise decisions. For example, within five years, AI will be better than humans at diagnosing medical images and better than legal assistants at researching case law.

This will also have a number of impacts in marketing that we are just starting to see today. The most obvious place is the ‘back-stage’ impact it will have on automating processes driving more efficiencies. It will also enable faster connectivity of marketing data with enterprise data. This will result in real shifts in the structure of marketing departments and their relationship to other parts of the organization and agency partners. This, in turn, will fundamentally change what agency partners do and the value they must bring to clients.

On the front stage, for consumers, we will see increasingly more personalized communications and seamless, frictionless experiences as AI learns what works and what does not. For example, COSMOS A.I., SapientRazorfish’s marketing intelligence platform, leverages AI to learn, reason and predict the customer journey through timely and relevant brand experiences. Also, the work done by Zenith in the U.K. on Aviva shows how machine learning can be used to precisely attribute sales conversions to specific digital interactions and optimize activity with external media platforms.

This is already disrupting people’s journeys and experiences with brands by warping and collapsing them in entirely new ways, particularly when combined with emerging user interfaces such as Alexa. This will ultimately impact consumers’ choices and the power of brands as trust shifts from manufacturers to retailers.

However, we are also starting to see how AI does not just provide more intelligence but also more insight and inspiration for creativity.

AI is generally incapable of making creative leaps on its own. It is programmed to recognize when it has made a mistake, learn immediately from it and correct it. But in creativity, these happy accidents are frequently the inspiration for creating something fresh and different. So, what happens when we mix AI with EQ—the left side of the brain with the right?

In small pockets, we are seeing this already happening in the world of art and design as part of the creative process with interesting results.

In music, Sony created a Beatles inspired song, Daddy’s Car, using AI, and machine learning is being merged with human interventions at live music events called AlgoRaves. Google DeepDream is creating art from the mistakes that AI makes along the way, with image interpretation, and its Magenta project is a crowdsourced research project to explore the use of machine learning to create different forms of art. Deep learning computing has also been trained to learn how to write new chapters of Harry Potter books after reading the existing ones, as well as write a short sci-fi movie called Sunspring.

In marketing, we are also seeing the very early stages of AI creeping into creative development. IBM’s Watson generated a trailer for Twentieth Century Fox’s Morgan, Coke is exploring using AI to create music and scripts for ads and M&C Saatchi’s AI generated billboard advertising are early examples. But using AI more in combination with human creativity in advertising is still very much in its infancy and deserves greater attention by the creative community.

AI will undoubtedly have an enormous impact on business and marketing, and it is already playing an increasingly large role in the connection of technology and intelligence to create new valuable experiences for consumers and companies alike. However, companies that blend creativity with intelligence and technology will truly exploit its potential and reap the greatest rewards. Perhaps then AI could stand as much for Augmented Inspiration as it does Artificial Intelligence.

Richard Hartell is the global president of strategy and transformation for Publicis Media.