Automated Creativity Is Inevitable (And A Good Idea)

You can’t throw a marketing professional down a flight of stairs these days without the words “artificial intelligence” tumbling out of their mouth.

We’ve seen a slew of announcements about just how much artificial intelligence is going to be used to replace all of us protein-based, left-and-right-brain-evolved monkeys in marketing today. Still, there seems to be this top-level thinking that artificial intelligence will never be smart enough to replace the creativity and human insights that truly make our work sing in the marketplace.

What makes us so confident?

This isn’t about a dystopian science fiction narrative, the inevitable moment where we switch on SkyNet. This also isn’t about the futurist’s Pollyanna glee over that moment when Star Trek’s Holodeck goes from virtual reality to reality, and suddenly nobody wants to leave the hot sex fantasy of virtual worlds. Maybe we’ve all spent too much time watching Westworld? Maybe it’s just me? Coca-Cola’s global senior digital director, Mariano Bosaz, recently did an interview with AdWeek during the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. He talked about breaking the age-old process of creative briefs, pitching ideas and producing content for experimenting with “automated narratives” (quick, get that title on your business card, before everyone else does). Bosaz believes that artificial intelligence can do simple content activities like update social media platforms and choose music for video content.

His is a long-term vision for the industry, but it could come sooner than most people anticipate.

AI is already doing the work of creatives in other arenas, from composing music to bots writing all kinds of weather reports and basic sports journalism. Companies like Tronc (formerly Tribune Publishing) will be using artificial intelligence to ramp up video production from a few hundred to two thousand videos a day. It’s not hyperbole. There’s technology, distribution and a plan at play here. Still, great content and advertising won’t ever become the job of artificial intelligence… will it? Could AI ever create something as mesmerizing as a Monet, as touching as a chorus from Dylan or as cutting as the words of Twain? It could. Look at it this way. Currently, many people are scared about relinquishing their driving to a computer. But as someone who had the pleasure of taking a joyride in a Google autonomous vehicle on an open road in a populated city, my first reaction was: I never want a human being to drive another car again, including me. Being privy to exactly how much the computer can “see”, parse and react to in relation to our simple brains made it evident just how transformative that technology could be. Think about the sheer number of cultural and artistic inputs that artificial intelligence can consume, parse and remix to come up with variations on a creative brief. It’s fair to argue that they could be better at understanding and emoting than humans with that many inputs.

Artificial intelligence is not going to affect every part of business and then just stop when it comes to creativity.

The wheels are already in motion. So let’s think about it in terms of the here and now. If bots are currently (and successfully) writing articles (and humans are none the wiser), what kind of baseline creative content could machines produce for your brand today? Think about all the different iterations on an email newsletter for targeting. Is there part of your creative process that is both repetitive and time-consuming that simple AI technology can not just replicate, but optimize and enhance? Does anyone in your business use or have access to Amazon AWS APIs, Google Cloud ML APIs, IBM Watson Bluemix APIs and Microsoft Cognitive Services APIs? Why not? What seems like a reasonable timeline for your brand to start experimenting with artificial intelligence and creativity?

I, for one, welcome our artificial intelligence creative overlords.

The above posting is my new/regular column for Strategy Magazine. I cross-post it here with all the links and tags for your reading pleasure, but you can check out the original version online here:

Mitch Joel is President of Mirum — a global digital marketing agency operating in close to 20 countries. His first book, Six Pixels of Separation, named after his successful blog and podcast is a business and marketing bestseller. His second book, CTRL ALT Delete, was named one of the best business books of 2013 by Amazon. Learn more at: www.mitchjoel.com.