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McCann Worldgroup and [Ai]magination aim to (safely) bring AI-generated content to brands


By Webb Wright, NY Reporter

April 10, 2024 | 4 min read

For now, the partnership will focus exclusively on AI-generated images – but not images depicting people.

McCann Worldgroup

McCann Worldgroup announced a new partnership with AI content studio [Ai]magination on Monday. / Adobe Stock

The first time Frédéric Raillard met McCann Worldgroup global CEO Daryl Lee, the latter was wearing a Cirque du Soleil sweatshirt emblazoned with the slogan ’Tout est possible,’ or ’Anything is possible.’

The words endeared Lee to him immediately and not just because he thought (mistakenly, it turned out) that he was a fellow Frenchman.

And ’Anything is possible,’ he would say later, was a perfect articulation of his perspective on generative AI. Just a few months later, [Ai]magination, an AI-generated content studio that Raillard founded last year, entered into a strategic partnership with McCann Worldgroup, which is ranked among the world’s most awarded agencies.

Announced Monday, the partnership will enable McCann to leverage [Ai]magination’s technology to produce AI-generated content for the marketing company’s portfolio of brands, which includes Nestlé, Coca-Cola and L’Oréal.

McCann Worldgroup’s portfolio agencies, including McCann, Momentum Worldwide and Weber Shandwick, will all have access to [Ai]magination’s AI content services.

As part of the partnership, both McCann Worldgroup and [Ai]magination will host internal workshops designed to train employees on generative AI literacy and to foster a spirit of collaboration between the two organizations.

The partnership, for the time being, will focus exclusively on producing AI-generated images for clients, though Lee envisions eventually expanding into other arenas, such as video.

“We’ll focus on images first because that’s where gen AI is most sophisticated,” he told The Drum in an interview. “There’s less hallucination…video is catching up, but it’s not there yet.”

News of the deal between McCann Worldgroup and [Ai]magination arrives at a time when many marketing industry giants are rushing to ramp up investments and establish their niches in the burgeoning AI-assisted marketing industry.

Some of the world’s largest advertising holding companies, for example, such as Interpublic Group (McCann Worldgroup’s parent company) and WPP, have recently made significant AI investments.

According to Raillard and Lee, the partnership will proceed with an emphasis on responsible use of AI and, by extension, brand safety. For example, the tech will not be used to generate images of people, presumably to avoid the kinds of missteps that can result from biased training data or algorithmic instructions. (A recent episode from Google’s Gemini, in which the model generated images of Nazi soldiers and the American Founding Fathers as people of color, among other historically inaccurate representations, has underscored the occasionally dangerous unreliability of generative AI).

“The question is not, ’What can you do with generative AI?’ … it’s, ’What should you do?’” says Lee.

Despite the risks and uncertainties presented by generative AI, Raillard still sees himself as an AI optimist, and he becomes visibly animated when discussing the potential for the technology to improve work within ad agencies. “We want to be very conscious and very responsible and approach AI in a very sustainable way – but also, we are big believers that this is opening [up] so much creativity,” he says. “It would be completely crazy not to see its potential.”

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