First it came for the production line workers, then it came for the truck drivers, and now it seems like technology is coming for the advertising creative. If there’s one thing that stands out from the first proper day of Cannes Lions, it’s that big tech is done with just owning data and making teams work efficiently—it’s coming for the rest of the advertising pie, too.
It’s becoming ever more clear that as the public moves over to even more sophisticated technology to view and interact with content, then the creators of this content need to shape their thinking to fit in with these new expectations. “At the core, the customer wants to be delighted at every turn,” Adobe’s Chris Duffey told the audience at Cannes today. “AI is going to be a massive part of brands’ business, so the relationships creatives have with these providers are going to drive the client relationships. Technology is creating the experience economy.”
Almost all the speakers and panels today showed how new platforms, artificial intelligence and augmented reality were gearing up to radically alter the way that creatives can create. This can be either through lightening the load, expanding horizons, or in some cases even becoming an integral part of the process. Like a virtual bird dog, this new trend in tech promises to point the way and manage all the fetching and carrying and leave the human side of the equation to concentrate on making the decisions.
“A machine can be an assistant, a peer and, the holy grail, a muse,” Duffey told the Interactive Stage at Cannes earlier today, as he teamed up with Microsoft’s Doug Gould to discuss the developing relationship between technology and the creative. “Even though it’s only 16 months away, 2020 is looking like a watershed year. Almost every business is predicting that AI will be infused through their organization, and essentially our mission is to build products that serve the creator and respect the use.”
Showing us a glimpse of this future, the duo went on to present Adobe’s recent partnership with Grey London and Braun, which uses A.I. and deep learning to decode the German company’s design language and present their product team with new avenues to explore. “The key is to start with technology and end with human” explained Gould, “and our work shows how this will be the creative industry.”
This trend towards blending technology and insights was also at the heart of Google’s recent work. Bravely stepping into the 10 am time slot on the first day of the festival, Andre le Masier, the company’s executive creative director, outlined their approach. “We start with people, insights and ideas; not tech. We’re anthropologists at heart, and we study how people act. Making tech for tech’s sake is always a bad idea.”
R/GA, represented by his panel partner James Temple, echoed these sentiments. “We have a simple mission—we want to come together to create innovation and inspire progress,” he told the panel. “The creative canvas has never been more powerful. Our North Star is a more human future; empowering people to lead better lives.”
Google and R/GA provided multiple examples of how technology-led creativity can have a transformative effect on communities and lives. Google’s Crisis Response uses real-time information and an array of cross functionality to ensure the safety of people trapped in the center of a crisis, while R/GA’s recent “Love Has No Labels” campaign used augmented reality to challenge longstanding biases, and has since become the second most-viewed public safety campaign in the UK. Both showed, that when done right, technology continues to power campaigns that can shape, improve and even empower lives and can provide eye-catching vehicles for brands to promote their values and visions.
As projects like this show, digital innovation is starting to change the public’s relationship with the media, and people are expecting ever richer experiences as part of the buying process. Where once retail was a purely human-led experience, the rise of richer, more rewarding online experiences is starting to fundamentally change the way we shop. In fact, the evidence is everywhere, from the long, drawn-out death of the mall in the United States to the disappearing brands on the British high street, consumers all over the world are starting to turn away from human-driven interactions and are starting to embrace the more personalized experiences that virtual and augmented reality can offer.
“Technology is already profoundly changing our experiences, so it’s vital that we internalized this process,” proclaimed Lubomira Rochet, L’Oréal’s chief digital officer to the festival’s vast Innovation Stage. Speaking about the French cosmetics giant’s recent acquisition of ModiFace, she was discussing the central role that technology and innovation has when it comes to the company’s relationship with their customers. “It’s helping us to move away from [a] top-down idea of what beauty is and helping people to discover things for themselves. The future of the beauty industry lies in personalization—we need to put experience at the core.”
L’Oréal is showing that brands can play a vital role when it comes to turning theoretical ideas into practical applications. ModiFace and its ability to allow users to try out different looks and products has the potential to fundamentally change how customers discover and use the company’s products. Through a combination of AR and smart mirror technology, the acquisition has given L’Oréal both a novel way to engage with its customers and a huge advantage over its competitors who are all mostly finding their feet in this new world. Brands’ eagerness to incubate, partner and disseminate these new advances can only accelerate the pace of innovation and their adoption by the wider public. “In digital, no one can win alone,” said Rochet. “You have to put yourself at the centre of innovation and do so in a way that is both credible and valuable.”
As the technology becomes ever more capable, the old model of the copywriter/art director duo has begun to feel irrelevant in these times of machine learning and more and more both agencies and brands are grappling with ways to integrate artificial intelligence, insights and analytics with creative thinking and strategy. More than just being a problem of capacity and functionality, technology is becoming an organizational headache, and everyone from Microsoft to Google was keen to stress that the old siloed way of working, with an insights team over here and a creative team over there, was as dead as the dodo.
So, like it or not, the future is here and it looks like a robot body with a human brain. Before we all take a leaf out of the luddites’ handbook and descend on Google’s HQ with torches and pitchforks though, it looks like the old ways might still have their uses. One thing that was clear today, is that for the most part these innovations only work when they can access market intelligence on a scale that many companies can never provide. While Burger King can put out incredible reactive campaigns driven by user interactions, it’s a fact that many industries will never have this level of interaction, especially if it’s a grudge purchase like travel insurance. While all of today’s speakers were keen to show us a digital utopia, the reality is that until they can make thousands of people spill the beans on how they really feel about Stu’s Autoshop, then unfortunately a lot of us are stuck doing it the good old-fashioned way.