With the news that Coca-Cola plans to create adverts using artificially intelligent algorithms, what does that mean for regular creative Joes like the Arch team?

The Mobile World Congress took place earlier this month in Barcelona, and among the announcements came the news that Coca-Cola is to experiment with using Artificial Intelligence to create ads. Sounds nuts, right? You might be envisioning placid, well mannered, i-Robot style androids patiently tapping away on their Macs, or Westworld-esque Graphic Designers with no idea their creative agency is an elaborately constructed lie, but in reality the ads will be developed using algorithms for what makes advertising work.

Counterintuitively, artificial intelligence can be seen as a natural progression of current advertising and marketing trends. We’re constantly looking to collect data, target specific groups of people and generally add a sense of scientific understanding to why advertisements work. We can’t help but feel, though, that the automation of creativity will take something out of advertising: the creative spark that only a human to human interaction can induce.

But we don’t want to write off AI just yet. Whilst it seems on the face of it that we’ll all be bowing to cyborg overlords before long, AI can be a fantastic benefit to the world of advertising and marketing. One fascinating example is Artificially Intelligent Personal Assistants – things like Apple’s Siri or Amazon’s Alexa. Speak to Siri, or Cortana, or whichever one you want, and they’ll try their hardest to come up with answers to your questions and your problems. The craziest (slightly Orwellian) thing about IPAs (Intelligent Personal Assistants, not Indian Pale Ales) is that they actively learn. If the information they’ve supplied back to you is useful, they’ll tailor future searches to that information, bringing up similarly structured results.

AI in IPAs

The connotations for advertising are mind-boggling. SEO will change, with voice searching lacking the brevity of traditional searching – for example compare typing in “creative agency Leicester” to asking Siri “What are the names of some Leicester based creative agencies?”. As you can see here, local searching will become more prominent, with one American study seeing 22% of all 2016 searches being locally orientated.

A natural companion for this new way of searching is the chatbot – automated, text (or voice) based program which operate in a similar way to IPAs, but often with a more specialised purpose. There are two types – chatbots that function based on a set of rules and chatbots that replicate voice tech by learning and using artificial intelligence. As an entertaining Space Race style aside, in the rush to create the best AI chatbot, Facebook are rumoured to have hired staff to simply answer questions 24/7 on their messenger chatbot ‘M’. . In fairness, the chatbot is designed to learn from human beings – the idea being that the bot learns through observing actual conversations. It’s still fun to believe in some elaborate cover-up though. 

The examples above are primarily to do with data collection, the process before creating an advertisement or delivering a service, or driving traffic to a website. Is Coca-Cola taking AI a step too far by trying to algorithmically create, and create is the optimum word here, an advert? Can a robot be creative? We’re not cowering under our desks just yet, and we think we’ll be safe for a couple of years at least, but only time will tell whether androids can advertise with success.