The Verdict: Why 'The Next Rembrandt' sets new standards for creative data

Cannes Lions has its first ever Creative Data Grand Prix in J. Walter Thompson Amsterdam’s The Last Rembrandt for Dutch financial services company ING. But what set this campaign apart from all the other “great” pieces shortlisted?

Creative Data Lions jury president Tash Whitmey, global CEO of Havas helia tells The Drum just why it was honoured and how she and her fellow jurors feel it is incumbent on them to set the direction for this nascent category, in only its second year out.

She says in a video interview, filmed in partnership with Tune: “It was incumbent on us as a group of people to set a sense of travel, a sense of direction, but also some guidance to… a fledgling industry in terms of bringing creative and data together.”

The Next Rembrandt consists of 148 million pixels distilled from all 346 of Rembrandt’s paintings. A group of art historians, material researchers, data scientists and engineers – led by J. Walter Thompson Amsterdam for clients ING and Microsoft - took on a controversial challenge: teaching a machine to think, act and paint like Rembrandt. It also won a Cyber Lions Grand Prix on Wednesday night.

It was, says Whitmey, the purest encapsulation of data and creativity working hand in glove. “It is about taking highly complex series of data and fusing that into the creative process in the purest possible sense,” she says.

“We liked it because it is a brilliant brand piece; ING has sponsored Dutch art for years. Their ambition as a brand is to be seen as innovative, and this is incredibly innovative so it ticks that box. It sparked interest all over the world and I think it sets a benchmark for the creative data industry.”

She adds that eventually she would like to see the Creative Data Lions subsumed into the festival proper, though acknowledges that the award needs to bed down first.

“For how long is data an innovation and when does it become an absolutely fundamental part of all creative processes,” she questions.

The Drum’s full coverage of the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity can be found here.

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