Will the Next Nando’s Ad Be Written by a Bot?

Will computer programs take over commercial content creation and render advertising agencies obsolete? We might be closer to that than we think.

The question has been raised by leading advertising thinker Jarred Cinman, the joint CEO of VMLY&R SA, who asks whether a computer can create more compelling, effective and persuasive content than humans.

Software is already designing effective marketing strategies. A study by Deloitte says that to stay strategically ahead of the competition, marketers need to start treating artificial intelligence (AI) as a tool to help them better segment customers, achieve a higher level of consumer engagement and create dynamic content strategies.

In today’s complex, interconnected marketplace, Deloitte says AI and predictive analytics allow marketers to better identify target groups. The process is faster and more accurate, and it can help to identify new segments within these groups.

Cinman says while creative output requires emotional resonance, intuition and a deep understanding of human psychology, content is fast becoming computer-generated.

“Platforms like Epic Games’ MetaHuman have zeroed in on getting software to create lifelike human forms,” he says. “These virtual people are so lifelike that in a purely visual sense it is hard to tell them apart from actual people.

“It is hard to imagine how the world of advertising will not be entirely revolutionised by having an infinite cast of models, completely customisable, that never get old and never get tired and charge nothing for the right to use their image. Watch out modelling industry, here come the avatars.”

Cinman says there has also been a huge explosion in AI art. Projects such as  DALL-E and Midjourney have put the power to make visually stunning images in the hands of anyone who can write a description of the piece they want to make. And, he says, the more people make them, the better the algorithms get at responding to these prompts.

He says one of the most compelling advances in AI is demonstrated by the OpenAI platform GPT-3. “The goal of this tool is to create human-like pieces of writing in response to questions or requests from a user. When it comes to writing clear instructional content, setting out facts or promotional copy or even pithy pay-off lines, this system and others have proven that they can produce work that is at least as good as a lot of professional writers. And in the time it takes a human to write a few lines the computer can create hundreds, so the return on time and labour is exponentially better.”

Cinman says a suite of tools and techniques are on the horizon that will radically speed up and improve how creative projects come together and how people work as a team to deliver them. “The new generation project management software will look for inefficiencies and redesign the project plan to avoid them happening again in the future.”

Cinman says in agency-land humans will not be replaced but, crucially, will become the partners of advanced computers that will let us do things faster and better than we could ever have imagined.

Jon Savage, head of content at the agency HaveYouHeard, tells the FM that while the human element remains crucial in advertising content, tools for human/AI  collaboration have advanced by leaps and bounds.

“I find myself leaning heavily into computer-generated creativity to expedite efficiency in my business. It is not that the computer is surpassing my need to exist, but that being able to develop artwork, music, and self-learning programming frees me up to do real creative work. It is a reality that is already here, so it is important to start embracing it as a tool to be harnessed and not something that is here to replace you.”

This piece originally appeared in the Financial Mail.