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How Technology Is Redefining Creativity

Good Thinking | November 29, 2017 | 3 min read

So many of us in this industry are questioning what all of this technology, specifically AI (artificial intelligence), will do to creativity.

Is technology the new creativity?
Is technology diminishing the power of the big marketing idea?
Will technology change or replace some of our roles?

Here are a few examples of how technology is impacting our industry.

AI is being used to test creative elements.
M&C Saatchi developed a digital poster that changed designs and messaging based on how viewers reacted to it. Using facial tracking technology and genetics-based algorithms, the poster took the aspects that people looked at the longest and then incorporated that into the next design evolution. Even though this was a test with a made-up coffee brand, they thought their employees would be nervous about it: Is this going to kill off creative? What they started to realize is that using AI could be incredibly useful to gain important insights so they could deliver the best creative possible with a real brand. They were using technology to support creativity, not to replace it.

AI is allowing consumers to control the brand experience.
VW’s Unleash your Rrrr is an artificial intelligence-enabled program that lets people control a virtual car around a winding road by making car sounds, like when you were a kid. It was the first AI that was capable of understanding abstract sounds and emotions. This is an example that’s more than a campaign, it is an experience, a big marketing idea that is brought to life through technology.

AI is being used to complement the creative team.
The AI-CD β at McCann Japan was “hired” to most importantly mine and analyze historical databases of creative to identify the best advertising for a particular client. Aiding the human team in creative development and providing inspiration.

Creative roles are at lower risk of being replaced by AI.
A 2016 McKinsey Report indicates the most vulnerable professions are the ones that require rote work (both physical and mental), data collection and processing, and a degree of repetition. Predictable activities that are easily duplicated by machine programming.
At our current level of technology, it appears that the best defense against automation is creativity.

This point was communicated again in a keynote presentation I attended a couple months ago with the Bald Futurist, who said careers that required creativity and human understanding were at low risk.

So, let’s revisit these questions.

Is technology the new creativity?
No. It shouldn’t be all about finding technology solutions. Instead it should be about using technology in more creative ways to better engage the consumer. While AI is very good at processing massive amounts of data, it still can’t make thoughtful decisions or draw sensible conclusions. It is missing that all important human element.

Is technology diminishing the power of the big marketing idea?
No. Thanks to machines, we’ll have more time to embrace our human strengths of creativity and empathy. To spend more time on big ideas. When machines become more intelligent, humans are freed to become more creative. And the creative becomes more personalized and therefore more effective.

Will technology change or replace some of our roles?
Yes. It does change our role, as AI will become a co-worker. We will have to embrace non-human collaborators. It also presents more opportunity. Whenever there is new technology, it creates more work to meet the new demands. It won’t replace account management, strategy and creative roles. It will increase technology roles, of course. And it could eventually take over for some of the data analytics and media planning/buying roles.

Do we need to redefine what creativity means for our industry?
Yes. Creativity is about delivering a great experience and driving purchase behavior. And technology will help us achieve this. Rather than fearing machines, we should look for ways to harness them so we can better innovate.

One parting thought, “The human mind is subtle and extraordinary. You cannot tell a robot to be creative.”