Tim Leake: Artificial Intelligence, Artificial Creativity and Artificial Humanity

We’ve connected with members of the Creative Technology community to hear about their projects, the way they integrate with traditional agency executives and what they see for the future of the advertising industry. We hope you’ll find them as illuminating and provocative as we did. This time out we’ll hear from Tim Leake is SVP / Creative, Marketing & Innovation for RPA, a Santa Monica-based agency all about People First. So it’s somewhat fitting that Tim would have an opinion on the emergence of Artificial Intelligence in the creative community. 

Artificial Intelligence, Artificial Creativity and Artificial Humanity

I put a cheeky little post up on social media last week:
“Artificial Intelligence will eliminate a lot of jobs in the coming years. But if you’re worried, remember AI sucks at being creative.”
Nearly immediately, the Internet told me I was wrong. (Thanks, Internet, I can always count on you for making me feel good.) AI has already written songs, “painted” paintings, edited movie trailers and made films.
I’m going to go ahead and double-down on my assertion, though. Tweets aren’t the best medium for clarity, so perhaps my use of the very broad word “creative” wasn’t the right choice. But in the above examples, AI was used as a production tool. These works were “created” but they aren’t “creative.” They’re original, but not unique. They are derivative of whatever existing works were fed to the system to mimic. And AI mimics very well.
Niklas Badminton makes an interesting point that most people won’t care anyway, and most popular art today is already derivative and repetitive. First of all, that’s really sad. Second of all, I know it seems true, but I don’t think it really is. (I love the challenging thinking, though, Niklas!) Music and art evolves, spring-boarding from what was into something new. And while AI might be able to replicate the “sound of the Beatles,” I am highly skeptical that it could ever write a song as good as the Beatles and even more skeptical that it could ever make the stylistic and creative leaps that they made over their career.
But can AI create ambient, droning music that is awesome as background noise while working? Yes – it’s fantastic at that. I do not believe it will ever write the equivalent of “God Only Knows,” however.
That spark of what makes something interesting, brilliant, entertaining, fascinating and engaging — that’s hard to capture. It requires humanity, and likely always will. Because “what makes great art” and “what makes great ideas” is soft and fuzzy. It can’t easily be programmed. There may be trends, but there are no rules.
This, I believe ( I like to think it’s more than simply “hope”) is what will keep us relevant in the future. Creativity still needs a push, a poke, a nudge, and sometimes a shove. Artificial Intelligence will help us clear out all the boring, menial tasks that creative people don’t really enjoy doing anyway. Developing a truly fresh and breakthrough style for a brand? Needs humanity. Applying that style to hundreds of different display ads? That’s your job, AI. Though, for the foreseeable future, anyway, even those hundreds of ads will still need a human eye to oversee them and make sure things didn’t accidentally come out ugly. When the world develops the AI to consistently create 120x240 display ads that don’t make me want to vomit — that will be a watershed moment. Even humans haven’t cracked the code on that. Do you hear me, Google? I’m counting on you.
AI will help us scale our creative ideas faster and bigger than we could before. It will help create first drafts, that we then tweak and edit to give a fresher personality and perspective. It could even deliberately trigger “happy accidents” that break the rules – but it won’t be able to tell if those happy accidents work or not.
I’m fascinated by the potential of Artificial Intelligence to add humanity to marketing and brand interactions that currently suffer from being utterly devoid of humanity. But while I’d much rather interact with an intelligent chat-bot than talk to a less-than-intelligent customer service rep reading off of a script anyway, at their best, these bots will simply be mimicking humanity. When every single experience we have is with a perpetually positive, funny-but-not-edgy, cool-but-not-distant, culturally-neutral voice on the other end, will they all just blend together? Will we crave the good ol’ days when someone was rude to us for no reason?
Humanity is funny. We don’t always know what we like or why we like it. Humans are hard to predict. * cough * the 2016 election * cough * Creativity works because it surprises us. Because we didn’t see it coming. Creativity is novel and unusual and it breaks the rules. It makes us feel something in a way we didn’t before. We relate to something creative in ways we didn’t know were possible before we saw the creative thing. Creativity is random. It breaks the rules in just the right ways.
And that is why AI sucks at being creative.

Q&A with Kamakshi Sivaramakrishnan, Founder and CEO of Drawbridge

 Kamakshi Sivaramakrishnan, Founder and CEO of Drawbridge

Kamakshi Sivaramakrishnan, Founder and CEO of Drawbridge

The CreateTech Conference has always been about the present and the future. Where is the industry today, and where is it headed? To answer this question we engage the thought leaders, visionaries and experts in the field and ask them to share their insights and POVs. This year, in addition to having these people speak at the conference, we’ve also asked them to be part of our online content initiatives. This gives them an opportunity to explore topics and ideas beyond their conference presentation, and also allows those unable to attend a chance hear from these industry leaders.

In this edition, we connect with Kamakshi Sivaramakrishnan, Founder and CEO of Drawbridge, the leading anonymized cross-device identity company. Prior to Drawbridge, Sivaramakrishnan was lead scientist at AdMob.

CreateTech: Today’s consumer has multiple devices, and potentially multiple online identities. How must marketers design communications that reflect this reality?

Kamakshi Sivaramakrishnan: It’s a great question and one that’s been top of mind since the inception of Drawbridge. We live in a time of unprecedented device proliferation and adoption – especially on mobile. It’s safe to say that all of us have at least one phone and one computer, maybe more, and many of us probably have a tablet or a wearable or a connected TV as well. As consumers, this has made our lives so much easier. But for marketers this device proliferation has led to identity fragmentation, making it difficult to deliver personalized customer experiences online.

One way to get around this is to force a login, like Facebook or Google, or for that matter Amazon or Netflix. These are each highly customized environments across devices, as long as consumers are in those platforms. But how can marketers deliver personalized customer experiences across the rest of the Internet, where it can be very fragmented?

I think ultimately it’s less about marketers designing communications to reflect the multi-device, fragmented-identity reality, and more about using technology to get around that, and deliver those customized experiences regardless of platform or channel. To do that, marketers need an independent, accessible, scaled solution for digital identity. A democratized alternative of what the Facebooks and Googles of the world have – a universal currency for anonymous digital identity.

CT: Consumers can no longer be counted on to follow a linear path to purchase. How does that affect the design of communication?

KS: Not only is the path to purchase no longer linear, but the landscape for marketing channels has exploded. In the past, brands had only a few ways to connect with consumers outside of a direct relationship with them. But today we have computers, smartphones, tablets, watches, even cars with screens in them. In addition, we have social media, video, native, and myriad other formats to take advantage of. This can create a lot of noise for consumers if marketing is done haphazardly.

Consumers are getting more and more sensitive to being constantly overwhelmed with messages across every channel and medium possible. Today there are methods like universal frequency capping that can limit the exposure from one brand to help protect brand sentiment, or sequential messaging that can help guide consumers through the purchase path across devices. But at the end of the day, this is less about designing specific communication messages, and more about using data to deliver the richest experiences, which translates into more effective communication.

It’s also important to make sure marketing is measurable. Ultimately every brand wants to get a consumer do do something – click an ad, watch a video, visit a site, download an app, or even do something offline like visit a store or make a physical purchase. In order to efficiently drive those actions, we need to understand who consumers are across all of those devices and channels. It comes back to having a seamless digital identity.

CT: How can advertising agencies (and their executives) learn to work with people and organizations that have skill sets unfamiliar to the world of advertising?

KS: Advertising and marketing are colliding. Everyone is bringing in more technology partners or even building tech stacks themselves, so this is becoming more and more important as these worlds join forces. There’s a balance between art and science where the math doesn’t displace creative, it makes it stronger. To that point, something that has always rung true to me, regardless of who I’m speaking with or what the topics is, is that you should trust data. Whether it’s a piece of advice, a new technology, or pure methodologies, if it’s backed by sound data, it can be easily trusted. If you’re coming to the table with something new, no matter how unfamiliar, come with the data to back up your points.

CT: We seem to be on a path from social to AR & VR storytelling. What impact will that have on communication design?

KS: It’s definitely still early days, but I think the potential for AR and VR is tremendous. I’m very interested in seeing where this goes. Today the vast majority of the AR/VR applications are pure consumer experiences, so it will be interesting to see how the marketing and advertising players explore and adapt to the this new channel.

It also remains to be seen how an enterprise value can be derived from AR and VR. Marketing and advertising are ways to create value, but will consumers stick around? Certainly brands will continue to use this medium creatively, but is there a larger data play? How does the technology and data involve, and evolve from, the pure creative aspects? There’s an interesting dialog here around this divide between data and creative.

CT: When designing communications, which comes first, consideration of the platform, or consideration of the audience?

KS: It’s definitely a mix and every brand and enterprise needs to find the balance that suits their specific needs. I tend to go back to the audience first. If the audience isn’t defined and understood, the platform is irrelevant.

For example, if your business is purely enterprise B2B, and your audience doesn’t exist in the social media sphere, then there may never be a social media strategy that’s right for you. Likewise, if reaching millennials is key to your strategy, traditional TV spots may not be an effective means of reaching this digital-first generation.

Defining and being able to reach your ideal audience is key – then you can adapt the message for the platform. The platform is irrelevant if your audience isn’t right.