By Sonoo Singh, associate editor

June 29, 2018 | 5 min read

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When it comes to the creative process, how far can AI go? Or indeed how far should it go? More critically, why should AI be a part of the creative process? This is what industry experts explored on the ‘Augmenting creativity through AI’ panel at Cannes Lions 2018, in association with Deloitte Digital.

The panel kicked off with the most critical question — why should AI be part of the creative process? The panelists — Heat's head of media strategy and ad tech, Jocelyn Lee; founder of Blab, Randy Browning; Adobe’s vice president of brand marketing, John Travis; and LiveRamp chief marketing officer, Jeff Smith were in unison to say that it is fascinating to watch how AI could augment the creative process itself, where brands and agencies could build a powerful and accessible creative toolkit to create amazing experiences.

For Lee at Heat, this means providing “real time dynamics audience insights, critical for the creative process.” Smith from LiveRamp added that in an age when we are flooded with data, we need to figure out the insights, and “AI can actually deliver those insights to scale. If you are looking in real time, then all that data wouldn't necessarily be that useful if it's just lost in spreadsheets. We need AI to do all that and fuel creativity.”

AI’s ability to facilitate stronger collaboration by automating and simplifying “mundane tasks" that are key to the creative process, was highlighted by all the panelists.

The resistance to AI — we need to have more conversations

When it comes to AI, a lot of us are jumping in with an element of fear and having the "how robots are going to replace us all" conversation before we’ve even discussed the possibilities of the meaningful applications with this technology.

Adobe’s Travis agreed that there is a lot of hype around AI and that is probably somewhat scary. “AI, just like digital transformation in general, requires, I think, a lot of us to reinvent ourselves, which is kind of scary. So I think that's part of the reason why there could be some hesitation.”

Browning from Blab gave an example of a practical application of AI to inform the creative process: “We use AI to discover insights from social channels that are out there. Our approach means that we are having a machine crowdsource context versus having an analyst determine what that context is and that's a big difference, right?

“The machine that has no prejudice is in real time understanding the context. I think it's a very friendly way to think about AI in the context of creativity. It's not an enemy, it's actually helping you.”

AI, a game changer for the creative industries

When in Cannes talking about creative work, conversations around a renaissance in creative industries are not far. But will AI be a game-changer for creativity? And should we be questioning the extent to which AI can develop its own sense of creativity, if it is even capable of doing that on its own?

The panel shared their enthusiasm and hope for AI and its use for creativity. For Lee and Smith, AI will combat the data swamp, help make agencies far more efficient and also save time and human resources. However, Lee added that the creative industries need to be ready for AI. “As a media practitioner, I would say that we have had to adapt to new technologies very rapidly. For instance programmatic has driven us all to be more technologically savvy. But with the creatives, they are not comfortable with all this data around us.

"We need to make sure that advertising agencies have data interpreters that can play with AI, so that creatives don’t have to go through the data that AI comes up with and help build strategies in a way that is both impactful and creative.”

And are there brands that are capitalising on the power of AI, and getting it right? Smith pointed to General Motors and Toyota as being “fairly far ahead on that front” and FMCG companies such as Procter & Gamble that are looking closely at how best to leveraged AI.

Travis from Adobe declared: “AI can be amazingly magical, it can help bring data to life and be an inspiration to the creative process.” Browning added that the way to do it would be to stop thinking about AI as spreadsheets and numbers. “Instead, start thinking about it as better insights. There are some great creative agencies out there who are developing insights with the help of AI and that is mind blowing, because they are using machine learning to make their creatives better and I think that's right.”

The panel concluded that AI will enhance and not replace the creativity process, with real time dynamics and audience insights critical for the creative system. AI, said the panel, is here now and it’s already incredibly powerful.

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