Are the days of the creative department numbered?

According to The New York Times, Paris agency BETC Euro RSCG has developed a software program called CAI – Creative Artificial Intelligence, that develops ads without the need for a creative department.

It’s all based on the theory that there is a formula to creating advertising. Choose an industry category, select a product with a finite feature set, input campaign objectives, select target audience, cross reference market and brand insights with those from a consumer, dial up or down the tone of voice, press the big button, and hey presto there is your ad.

Ok, so the output of the machine isn’t going to win awards, and will at best be mediocre, but if you take a look at 90% of advertising in market today then one could argue that the day of computer-generated ads won’t be too far off. Factor in the time saved from not having to pay creative teams to develop ideas and the argument seems to get a little stronger.

People seem to agree…

“This software can’t do any worse than the stupid dribble that is thrown at us now. ” was one comment posted on the NYT blog article.

“A version of this software has obviously been used for many years. Humans could not have turned out the garbage that passes for TV commercials.” posted another.

Perhaps this should be seen not as a threat to advertising agencies and creative teams, but more of a wake-up call. Advertising creative needs to be more than just mediocre, and designed to fill the gap in the media schedule. It shouldn’t be treated as a commodity to be churned out based on a set number of criteria applied to a specific formula. Advertising needs to move people. It needs to challenge them. It needs to offer value in some way. It needs to make them think in different ways. It needs to tap into their emotions. It needs to be relevant, and personal. It needs to surprise and delight. Above all, advertising needs to earn the right to interrupt people. To be effective, advertising needs to be cognisant of its privileged role in peoples lives.

For now at least, I think humans have the edge over CAI, but hopefully this experiment and those that will follow in the future will ensure the Advertising industry does not become complacent and we will continue to strive for excellence.


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