McCann Japan pits AI 'creative director' against its human counterpart

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The technology was created by McCann Millennials, a group of young staffers within the Japan office

TOKYO — McCann Worldgroup Japan has developed what it terms as an artificial intelligence-based creative director in an experimental move to apply data and programmatic technology to the creative process.

The AI "creative director" is a piece of technology developed by the McCann Millennials, a group within the agency in Japan, all born between 1980 and 2000. Shun Matsuzaka, a creative planner who led the project, said the initiative had been driven by a desire to understand how data could inform creativity.

Matsuzaka said it was true that advertising creatives still tend to be frightened by data and that there was indeed some fear within the agency at the suggestion of AI taking a role in creativity. However, he said the idea was not to replace creativity, but merely to inform it.

Matsuzaka said the TV series "House of Cards" was an example of a successful creative product that used data relating to consumer responses to develop its storylines.

McCann is currently using the technology to analyze the winners of the All Japan Radio & Television Commercial Confederation annual CM Festival from the past 10 years. It will break down the qualities of the winning work to assess the components that led to successful campaigns, Matsuzaka explained.

He said as an initial test, the agency would pit the AI creative director against human creative directors to assess both parties’ responses to a brief for a TV commercial. But he said the idea was that the technology would ultimately serve to assist creative directors in developing the most effective campaigns. Human intervention was crucial to avoid developing campaigns that were too close to existing work, he said.

At the same time, the technology could help creative directors identify common characteristics of past campaigns in order to develop something notably different and stand out from the crowd, he added.

McCann sees the potential to use AI to integrate information on consumer media habits and content preferences, and from the internet of things to give a better contextual understanding when developing a piece of creative work. Matsuzaka said a number of clients had shown interest in the technology but he was unable to disclose them.

Matsuzaka explained that the McCann Millennials was an effort to inject startup thinking into the agency. It operates across disciplines and invites collaboration with external companies and academic institutions.

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