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Beauty Is in the AI of the Creative Director

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The day when beauty is no longer in the eye of the beholder, but in the eye of the algorithm, is upon us – the day when data drives artistic choices based on objective measures of click-through rates and conversions.

Over the last decade, marketing has become an increasingly technical, ROI-driven profession thanks to the ability to measure digital behavior and the explosion in marketing technology. Now creative directors are the beneficiary (or victim?) of technological advances that subject them to the same level of objective accountability as the CMO. We’re entering a time when debates about color choices, graphics, photography and background music are decided by artificial intelligence and machine learning.

The explosion in processing power, storage capacity, data and advances in AI and machine learning can unlock possibilities previously inconceivable for many companies. McCann Erickson in Japan started to experiment with these possibilities. It pitted a human creative director against one informed by artificial intelligence to develop an ad for a breath mint brand. The AI creative director was essentially a program that analyzed past creative work and then recommended the direction for the ad. It wasn’t exactly humans vs. robots – the AI gave direction for a team of humans to execute – but the thought is still compelling. The AI-informed ad performed pretty well in an online poll to determine which ad was most effective, but the human beat the machine.

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We’re not too worried about our colleagues being replaced by robots, but the experiment does point to the potential for data-driven design. If we can evaluate the elements of design, like color, imagery and sound, as drivers of measurable outcomes, then we might be able to cancel some of those design reviews where we argue about images.

There are practical applications of machine learning that are being exploited today in more creative businesses. When you’re purchasing apparel online, the salesperson, stylist and merchandiser are replaced by algorithms based on your search and online behavior to make product recommendations, suggest items that go with your fashion choices and offer promotions.

Advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning aren’t the enemy of creative. Instead, they could be the creative director’s ally in efficiency and accountability, especially when it comes to finding, selecting and using digital assets. It’s not that dissimilar from the merchandiser getting a little help from the machine in online merchandising.

Imagine combining a DAM’s machine-learning capabilities with its ability to integrate with content-delivery solutions. Today we can get analytics on asset-download frequency, views or likes in our DAM. DAM can integrate with e-commerce systems, third-party marketing platforms, WordPress and other content-management systems. When DAMs can take advantage of machine learning and integrate with delivery tools, then creative directors will have the metrics to know which assets perform best on which channels. And that data surfaces in the DAM to guide decision-making. Imagine the data when you get recommended assets to increase conversions or social media engagement.

Replacing a creative director with a robot is far-fetched, but leaning on AI and machine learning to increase the efficiency and accountability of creative directors is on its way. It’s just a matter of time before we’ll be able to predict which creative yields the best business results.

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