News & Views

Cannes Lions Seminar / The Cognitive Creativity Playbook

by Contagious Team

Contagious editorial director, Alex Jenkins, and SapientRazorfish ECD, Christopher Follett, took to the stage at Cannes Lions today to present The Cognitive Creativity Playbook.

The session opened with Jenkins and Follett acknowledging the amount of hype currently in the marketing industry around artificial intelligence and its impact on creativity. However, with world-renowned AI experts, such as DeepMind CEO Demis Hassabis, suggesting that building an artificial mind is the best way to investigate consciousness and creativity, it's an area that's definitely worth investigation.

The seminar was broken down into three sections with implications relevant to the current responsibilities of a creative director or marketer: Evaluation, Interaction and Generation.

In the first section, Jenkins showed a startup called Scriptbook, which uses AI to evaluate and predict the success of film scripts - claiming to be better than a human at making that kind of subjective judgement.

Despite admitting that he initially had a 'very visceral, negative reaction' to Scriptbook when he first heard about it, Follett went on to explain exactly how this system worked using sentiment and structure analysis. He highlighted Scriptbook as an important example because 'it has taken a uniquely creative process and attempted to represent it in a manner that a computer can evaluate.'

The next section, Interaction, covered off the potential of bots to create 'personalised conversations at scale' - effectively automating brand building itself. Using examples including Canal+'s AiMEN campaign and the Hello Barbie doll, the audience heard how non-technical team members could take advantage of systems like IBM Watson, thanks to its graphical user interface.

The final section, Generation, was also the most controversial, as it covered off 'cognitive systems with the ability to genuinely create something new'. After a rapid gallop through examples such as Logojoy (AI-powered logo generation) and Lyrebird (AI-powered speech generation), the audience was somewhat stunned to learn about Persado - an AI system that generates marketing copy. 'Their slogan is "Inspire action",' said Follett, 'but it should really be "Automating human creativity", because that's what they're doing'. And, much like Scriptbook, the system claims to outperform man-made messages 100% of the time.

'What we're seeing,' said Jenkins, 'are systems that have high creative outputs, and high quantity outputs, but that maybe only require a single person to operate that system'.

Follett then demonstrated this point with a run through of Autodesk's generative design software, showing how it was used to make objects that co-designed themselves, and came up with designs that humans couldn't possibly have imagined. 'You either have the an insanely powerful creative tool at your disposal, or you’ve got a huge threat to the need for human creativity. In reality, you probably have both.'

The seminar wrapped up with a few conclusions and predictions. The first being that computers are capable of creativity, and the second that creativity is no longer subjective but has been turned into a technology that is beginning to routinely outperform humans.

Although this may spark a potential 'arms race' among creatives, Jenkins observed that 'You won't lose your job to a computer. You'll lose your job to a human that's better at using a computer than you'.

The final piece of advice was that creatives needed to 'play the software' if they wanted to survive in the future.

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