Unpredictable Intelligence – Using AI to Evaluate, Interact and Create

For a few years now, Artificial Intelligence has invaded conversations between brands, agencies and partners. Developments in technology are moving quicker than the majority of organisations can, and consumers are fighting to keep pace with the latest advancements. Whilst technology continues to evolve, the one constant we have (other than change) is the need for effective communication. Effective communication remains based on the need for unique insights, a deep understanding of people, the ability to understand facets of consumer experiences differently from others, and the ability to transform all of this knowledge into meaningful stories. People are at the core of what we do and as marketers, we strive to build awareness, engagement and relationships, creating experiences or services that have a positive impact on their lives. Where we need to adapt, is the quantity and quality of the sources we have to drive story building, and ensuring we use them in the right way.

Striking a balance between art and science

Over the last five years, communication has increasingly moved us to strike a balance between insights and technology, hard and soft traits, and art and science. First, we heard about “codes” and programmers came to disturb the idyll between art and copy; then there was the year of neuroscience, helping us understand how reading data daily could actually improve communication, finding new touchpoints between brands and consumers and even new media and new services. Finally, the balance of AI and creativity. Will our job be replaced by an algorithm? Will the average strategy be only cold calculations on the probability that an individual has to click on an ad?

Evaluate, interact and create

Artificial intelligence alone is not enough. It is a powerful tool, but it remains dependent on human vision and creativity. Let’s analyze three components recognized as indicators of intelligence: the ability to evaluate, to interact and to create.

Today AI helps us evaluate: for example, measuring the probability of success or failure of a communication campaign. In Hollywood, for example, AI is used to scan scripts and predict how successful it will be at the box office. Yet the reasoning behind such results is often explained by strategists and analysts (in the human form). What can’t yet be predicted is whether this saves producers big bucks, or has the algorithm missed a box office hit that can only be measured by empathy and human emotion? To date, the poetry made by the narrative, music and photography of a blockbuster is something that, fortunately, cannot be recreated in any lab.

Let’s talk about interaction. AI is indeed able to interact with us today. I remember a beautiful campaign by Canal+ for the launch of The Young Pope. On Twitter or Facebook, the algorithm intercepted all the posts that could be traced back to one of the seven deadly sins (when I tease a friend, when I express gluttony, when I’m lazy …) and proposed a post by Pope Pius XIII who scolded them by quoting a verse from the Bible, all in real time. Now, surely only a very advanced algorithm can work in this way, but the guy who had the idea to create this algorithm well, for me, he’s an artist of communication who clearly adores the programme and is totally in tune with its irreverent spirit.

Intelligence is also about the ability to create, which AI can already do today.  For example, we have witnessed the creation of a work by Rembrandt….posthumously. But would that work, created by an algorithm that has analyzed and studied every detail of all the masterpieces of the painter, have actually existed if the real Rembrandt had not created the originals?

In short, communication is empathy; it’s about relationships. A large component of the human relationship and many beautiful things in life are linked to the concept of unpredictability. We must also remember this in advertising. Unpredictability is the core of life. That’s why at OMD, we talk about Artful Intelligence. This is the application of people and machines together to better reach, and connect with consumers. While it’s great to have machines to automate, we must remember to augment this intelligence to craft actionable media and master human creativity, something which is quite rare and precious, and so consequently hugely valuable.