Science fiction could be made real in the future marketing world
A view from Rachel Barnes

Science fiction could be made real in the future marketing world

When you consider how the advertising and marketing industry has remained rooted to office-based working for decades, it seems obvious that it's ripe for monumental change.

Now here’s a prospect: "Show me an AI algorithm that can come up with Skeletor and He-Man ‘dirty dancing’ and I will happily shallow fry my own lightly buttered testicles."

And we’d all (not) like to see that, thanks Justin Tindall (see this month's Private View).

But I’ve been given a glimpse of a time in which this could happen – not the promise of such culinary delights but of an artificial-intelligence-supercharged agency.

I had the pleasure recently of reading the distinction papers of the IPA Excellence Diploma students, in which they lay down their vision for the future. It couldn’t have been more timely considering the "Future of work" theme of this month’s magazine. 

While they were each thought-provoking, one of the papers had that delicious ingredient of science fiction made real.

The AI-enriched future outlined in a paper by Oliver Feldwick at CHI would have agencies powered by insight bots trawling the internet when asked to serve up vital information for every brief; copywriting AI that learns brand tone of voice and creative flair from those it works alongside; and chatbots that evolve to become on-hand virtual consumers, based on the wants and needs of real people.

But all that is just the warm-up to the main event: the "higher order cyborg creativity". Although you can read his full paper next month in a special Campaign supplement, in a nutshell, Feldwick’s at-times-dystopian vision has centaur teams, made up of humans and their AI, improving one another’s performance as they do in "centaur" chess. And these creative AIs will in themselves be in hot demand, even living on after their human "master" is no more.

Although it blows my mind, much of this is within the realms of reality now. However, to unleash maximum creative opportunity, it’s not simply about bringing in AI, but rebuilding the entire company around AI.

Not dissimilar to some of the ventures already under way with agencies – the latest of which, of course, is Publicis Groupe’s AI platform Marcel. While the parameters of Marcel are still being defined, it could mean introducing AI into the creative process and sharing ideas with marketers in real time through online tissue development. At a basic level, Marcel will match projects to people based on past successes and ratings.

As Publicis’ CSO, Carla Serrano, explains in our interview about Marcel, there’s a generation of talent coming through who want to work the way they live – flexibly and mobile – not restricted to desk jobs and fixed hours.

That’s what got Publicis thinking. Its vision is that no-one at the group will work without engaging with Marcel: "It’s one and the same."

When you consider how the advertising and marketing industry has remained rooted to office-based working for decades, it does seem patently obvious that it’s ripe for monumental change. And attempts to figure that out are in part driven by new generations with entirely different expectations of how they want to work and plan their careers – but are disillusioned by the "self-satisfied", "inhuman", "sweatshops" they find ("The future of work").

From Dentsu to PHD, there are so many other amazing AI transformation projects that I need to know more about. It might be out of reach for some right now, but there are few big brands that haven’t already adopted some form of AI. We’re only just scratching the surface of the future of work.

If the 20 rising adland stars who made this year’s Faces to Watch are an indicator of what’s to be unleashed on our marketing world, then Mr Tindall might have to get his frying pan out sooner than he thinks

Rachel Barnes is the UK editor of Campaign.