Controlling the machine: The future of creative leadership

As creative automation becomes a reality, the CCO of SapientNitro China contemplates the role of artificial intelligence in the agency of the future

In my country, web banners are being resized by a machine, and they look pretty damn good. It can even give you 10 options to choose from in a matter of seconds, having learned the rule of thirds and the most attractive font sizes for the banners.

But let's take a step further. We get an IBM Watson or Google Deepmind to memorize all the most awarded marketing work from award shows like Cannes Lions, One Show and D&AD.

And it starts learning what resonates with human emotions and remixes the ideas in surprising ways, developing them into pretty good marketing ideas that consumers will actually like. And it comes back with solutions in an hour max, not the two weeks that a creative team needs to spitball. 

In the beginning, it will be seen as a novelty, like the very first poker-playing, chess-playing computers or that Honda robot that learned how to walk. And then it gets serious; a machine manages to beat human-powered agencies and wins the Cannes Titanium.

How far are we from this?

Computers are replacing humans in the most menial jobs. We’ve already got computers beating humans at both Chess and Go. And we’ve got AI making a passable piece of film for Saatchi & Saatchi’s New Directors Showcase at Cannes.

So not too far at all.

This is where things start getting really interesting.

Have you spent extended time wearing a Vive headset using a Google Tilt-Brush or playing with Atlas Reactor and The Brookhaven Experiment? As the content and technology get better, VR can potentially become your main reality. Really, it can be that good. 

That’s exciting and scary at the same time.

Exciting because it is a time for truly limitless creativity and experiences, as you are no longer limited by physical laws and your body when it comes to creating or experiencing something new.

Scary because there will be a day when a machine gains consciousness and knows how to fully manipulate a human. And we are all going to get hooked up in The Matrix.

So what does this future mean for us, the folks working in the creative industry? 

2.0, 3.0, 4.0 Yourself
Make better versions of yourself and become future proof.

What’s a 2.0 version of yourself? Become conversant in VR terminology? Know simple coding so you can converse with the machine? 

Have a think about how you can evolve your creative game. 

There was a time when the Flash Developer was a cool job. Today, this guy wouldn’t make it onto Noah’s Enterprise.

Be immune to the very thing you are trying to create
We are kind of going into the God-mode phase of Creativity right now.

You are only limited by your thinking. But that also means whatever you are going to create may be so great that you get lost in it. Like forever. This is slightly cautionary, but think "Lawnmower Man."

Now more than ever you need to define and know yourself, before you dive into this world of immersive creativity. Of course, you can also choose to embrace it and be drip-fed and adult-diapered as you spend days creating with a Tile Brush. (Not my personal preference).

Creating at this level means you have to learn to take a step back once in a while. If you play Minecraft, you know what I mean.

Partner the machine 
The best creative minds know how to get the best out of their collaborators. It so happens this partner is a machine. Think about how you can get the best out of it. 

In the near future, you will have the machine churning out a few viable options for stories, campaign ideas, experiential ideas and more. It will still be up to you to pick and choose and build on these machine ideas, to make it the best cocktail of storytelling and experience. 

Of course what kind of machine you partner is, is just as important: is it a collaborative machine like a J.A.R.V.I.S. or an abusive partner like Skynet? Choose with care.

Maybe as this gets shared on Campaign ... brilliant engineers get inspired and start the process of creating machines like iDroga and RGAi...

And a group of jobless disgruntled creatives in the future are working with technologists to develop a time machine to come back and stop this article from ever being published.

Raymond Chin is CCO of Publicis Sapient China.

@MarleyLive @KineticUSA

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