AI & advertising

One of the first examples of AI entering the creative advertising space was when advertising agency Havas created an AI system called Creative Artificial Intelligence (CAI). CAI could create advertisements in just a few minutes using stock photos and copy from a database (Elliot). All a user needs to do is tell the software about the product, the goal, the target demographic and, finally, the intended benefit of the product. Within minutes CAI presents three possible ads, with the potential for hundreds of thousands more.

Essentially, the software searches through stock photography and copy, reconstructs existing ideas, and mashes them into something new. A journalist at the New York Times attended a demonstration of CAI technology and described the ads as being clichéd and uninspired but “…perfectly acceptable — ads that could run in magazines or newspapers, as banners on Web sites or on billboards” (Elliot, Dallas).

In a fascinating merge of creativity and technology, creatives at the ad agency J. Walter Thompson Amsterdam studied Dutch painter Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn’s paintings and created a completely new Rembrandt-like portrait in 2016 titled “The Next Rembrandt” for their client ING (Nudd). This project required software engineers to write deep learning algorithms paired with facial recognition technology so that the computer could scan through a vast amount of data about Rembrandt’s known paintings, recognize patterns, and then determine what went into making a Rembrandt masterpiece. The deep learning system then generated common characteristics that identified patterns in subject matter, color, composition, geometry, and brush height for the team to gain insights into what actually makes a Rembrandt a Rembrandt.

The Next Rembrandt by JWT painting by ai

The Next Rembrandt created using AI

The final result was an impressive 3D printed painting that consisted of 14 layers and 148 million pixels, all based on 168,263 painting fragments from all 346 paintings by Rembrandt (Nudd). After encountering the painting, Tim Nudd from Adweek said:

This is a completely exquisite work, and a remarkable thing to gaze at. As with any painting, the details are much more vivid in person than in photos. The brush strokes look like brush strokes. The colors and shadowing are magnificent. Most of all—and perhaps most disconcertingly—the man looking out at you from the canvas just feels real. For a massive data project to visualize something that feels so human is extraordinary indeed. (Nudd)

What is most remarkable about The Next Rembrandt painting is the reaction it got from the public. An artifact that “feels so human,” yet was largely created by an AI algorithm, should cause designers to reflect more deeply on what it means to be human, especially if AI is capable of reflecting such feeling in the work.



All of these examples provide an interesting look at what the future of advertising could look like, especially when you consider the fact that overtime AI gets exponentially better the more data it has access to. So my question then becomes when computers handle a lot of the tasks that creatives are used to doing, what tasks will remain for them to do? What are the skills creatives should be honing? What is the true value of a creative and maker in a world of smart computers that can also do creative work?

Check out my post here for some thoughts on those questions and more.

Let me know in the comments below which of these emerging technologies you find most fascinating. Looking ahead, how do you think AI is going to change the way you might work in the near future?

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Posted by Dirk Dallas

Dirk Dallas holds an M.F.A in Graphic Design and Visual Experience from Savannah College of Art and Design. In addition to being a designer, he is also a writer, speaker, educator & the founder of CreativeFuture & From Where I Drone. See what he is up to over on Twitter via @dirka.

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