Are we Redundant?
The rise of A.I in the Advertising Industry
This month we are on a more personal journey and perspective. Our Creative Director Will looks into the idea of A.I. taking over the world but first, our industry. Will it happen, or has it happened already?
“Last month Tess (my wife and WING COO) and I went on a pretty fun adventure – The Swimmer – a very chilled (in many ways!) half-marathon run across London early on a Saturday am. Chilled because it’s not a race, oh and also because you have to swim through outdoor ponds and lidos along the way. We started at Hampstead ponds and ran to Parliament Hill Lido, then on to the Serpentine and finishing at Brockwell Lido. Highly recommended but certainly not the point of this blog… Nor is the fact that poor Tess had to put up with me regularly filming us along the way. But what is relevant is the fact that when I got back home I was keen to show the kids what we had got up to, so I downloaded an app on my phone in a matter of seconds called ‘Magisto’, selected the films and photos that I had taken and pressed ‘Go’. Some 3 minutes later I had a film edited, complete with titles and music. And you know what, it was really good! Not, I hasten to add because of my shaky camera skills whilst running or because of any athletic prowess, which I can assure you was lacking, but because the film was well cut with great transitions and a perfect length to tell our smug story! So where does that lead me?
‘AI will never ever properly work in the creative industry.’ I have always been adamant. But here I am with a phone/computer that completely and utterly out-diddled anything I could have done on my own in the time. Ok, so if we had put WingMan24 on to it, it would have been super quick and very high production value BUT that wasn’t what I wanted here… and yes, I may well be doing us out of a job or two even writing this, but Magisto I have to say, completely smashed it. How depressing. Are we redundant? Maybe. Possibly. But honestly no, I don’t think so (thank goodness!).
Our first ever pitch 12 years ago had this quote squarely written on the front page –
‘It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, it is the one that is most adaptable to change’
Most attribute this piece of sage advice to Charles Darwin, and, as usual, some dispute this, but no matter as all of us WINGers still live by that mantra… hence the reason for WingMan24 and why it says on the WingMan24 site ‘Great content, 24 hours later’. It’s what needs to happen and we have already proved that it’s possible to achieve with projects for Vodafone, HUGO BOSS and Jaguar shot and delivered well within our 24 hour self-imposed time frame.
Change is a critical thing to encourage and embrace. And yes, genuinely Magisto smoked us and I would bet pretty much anyone in my ‘UGC wanting immediate output’ domain, but there is no way it could take us in the real heat of battle. But can a more tailored AI programme? I was pondering this and had some concerns, especially after our February WING Perspective where we discuss the AI/algorithm led and derived Ozark (which btw I highly recommend and genuinely think is the best and most entertaining piece of crime drama I have ever watched) and then this month this Lexus ad called ‘Driven by Intuition’ came out. The first frame announces
First thought… ‘AI is rubbish at grammar… it missed an ‘An’ out before ‘award-winning’’.
Lexus believes that this is a world first… an ad entirely scripted by artificial intelligence. It would be interesting to ask the Oscar-winning director they used for the spot, Kevin Macdonald, how much play and interpretation he had with the script in terms of shot types, shapes and cuts… you would assume a fair amount otherwise why would a brand employ such an amazing talent to direct the film if the script was so crystal clear? Macdonald smiles wryly and discloses that he wanted to try and be as faithful as possible to what the AI wrote with ‘just a nudge here and there’ in this BTS film. Seems like a bit of a paradox to me… or maybe not... And to be fair to Lexus, their response to the ad release was also pretty guarded - Michael Tripp, General Manager for the Lexus brand stated –
‘we think this is the potential of AI: to inform decisions about what we add to the creative mix and how we serve the creative up in the media.’
‘Inform decisions about what WE add’ – seems pretty clear to me that the personal pronoun here was still very much the decision maker in this process and the WINGers’ consensus was that the ad spot is nothing sensational but more of a toe dipped in the water for a progressive brand with half the team saying ‘I just don’t understand it’. To my mind it feels like more of a publicity play for a brave brand than a genre defining moment for the industry.
So are we creatives redundant? Almost definitely not. Yet.
But how long have we got? And what is the future? Sitting right here it’s hard to tell in all honesty, though there are people way cleverer than us who will probably know and would scoff at this blog and my naive idiocy. And Macdonald does make a slightly worrying observation that the story that the AI wrote for the ad is eerily self-aware, almost as if a human had written it.
"What’s odd is that it came up with a story that’s self-reflective, about a machine struggling to figure out if it’s alive or not".
Terminator fans may get a bit over-excited at this but for now though I reckon we should stick with Mr Darwin’s (or not) 150 year old piece of advice which I translate as ‘be on your A-game and never rest on your laurels’. I reckon as Christmas fast approaches and with it a month full of great clichés and resolutions, that this is the one that we will really stick to at the WING studio.
Just as I finished writing this I came across this beautifully succinct quote from Sir John Hegarty ‘People say AI will write books, it will paint; but it’s just bollocks – people just talk crap... There will always be a better piece of technology but, more than anything, we are in short supply of brilliant creative ideas.’
For once big ad agency and agile content creators agree!
For now, though, we are very much looking forward to seeing all your AI enabled Christmas montages on our social streams very soon… Enjoy Magisto everyone!
WINGers Top Three Pieces of Content
National Lottery – Haircuts for Homeless
An amazing idea and a lovely little piece showcasing the work that is being done. Summed up perfectly with the line ‘you can’t buy that feeling’. Well shot, well edited but most of all, powerful.
St Mungos – “Potential”
In this ultra low budget, yet incredibly inspiring piece for St Mungos, we are shown homelessness through a different lens here. The idea of actually seeing homeless individuals wearing the clothes that represent their dreams is strong and incredibly moving.
Plastic Oceans UK – “Future Fish & Chips”
This makes for an interesting watch. A different way to talk about pollution as the issue is brought home in a blunt and interesting method. We wonder what’s been left on the cutting room floor because some of those customers were getting pretty angry about the plastic-tasting fish.