Monday, March 7, 2011

Frankenstein's Adman

Notice anything odd abut these ads?

You might be tempted to simply say, "they're crappy", but they all share a diabolical secret: They were created by a machine.

And that monstrous machine was the creation not of some mad scientist, but of a Creative Director. St├ęphane Xiberras, to be exact, the Exec CD at BETC EURO RSCG Paris.

Image from Shift Disturbers.

The Drum today posted an interview with Xiberras about his computerized creative generator, CAI:

"What started out as an intellectual game became more and more alarming as we progressed in the development of our robot," said Xiberras. "We expected to create a clumsy rather grotesque machine that would be systematically way off the mark, in a comical way.

"Unfortunately, this is not the case. CAI produces something that is caricature, but that very often by some random diabolical grace, reminds us of an ad we have already seen on a street corner or on the page of a magazine.

"CAI creates something that resembles advertising, but that fundamentally isn't, in the sense that it lacks essential qualities: novelty, inventiveness and the unexpected. In short, anything that only a human being is capable of producing. CAI is a fascinating but dangerous machine because it synthesises the nemesis of our creative profession: standardised or formatted thinking, call it what you want."

"Faith in the fact that creativity sells, and the courage to defend creativity against idiotic formatting no matter what, are the only arms that can still protect us against CAI. To surprise, to innovate, to invent is what we owe our clients and what they have the absolute right to demand from us.

In other words, Xiberras built this monster so that creatives would have an enemy to fight against. The Drum also challenged flesh-and-blood UK creatives to pitch against the computer's algorithmic concepts on the same brief. The results are intriguing.

CAI's Harley Davidson concept

McCann Erikson Central's version. See more at The Drum.

What's interesting to me about CAI's ads is that the strategic insights are fairly solid. And that's 90% of what makes an campaign succeed. But that missing 10% — the subtleties of language, the refinements of art direction, and even the hip cultural references — is what actually makes an ad get inside someone's head and stay there.

Thank God that hasn't been automated. Yet.

1 comment:

  1. Good old CAI! (Spotted this a while back:

    I think that CAI could actually be useful - imagine benchmarking a new campaign in consumer testing with CAI on one side and the creative agency on the other...

    If man can't out-think machine, man needs to do something machine can't. Like skinny dip...