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Meet the AI Personalities of Advertising



From the genial C-3POs to the disobedient H.A.L.s of the advertising landscape

Meet the AI Personalities of Advertising

If humanity really is destined for an eternity of drudgery under mechanical overlords then those of us who’ve done our homework will be the leaders of the resistance. Advertising folks have been interested in thinking machines for while, but it feels like things are getting real now. Artificial intelligence is already a well-established part of the media buying landscape, but the creative side of things has been getting involved with it more and more of late. In fact, the ad industry has given birth to more thinking machines than you may think.

LBB’s Alex Reeves is here to introduce you to some of advertising’s biggest artificial characters. Just in case one of them ends up becoming Skynet.


Romanians are particularly proud of their tech ecosystem. The country has made a name for itself in recent years as something of a startup hub. So it’s little surprise the whole country chipped in to train the world’s first AI ambassador, teaching it the intricacies of Romanian tastes and pastimes. Conceived by McCann Bucharest for chocolate bar brand and national icon Rom, ROMBOT is at your service to answer any queries you might have about his country. He might throw you a few curveball responses. Like most chatbots, he can be a bit awkward. But he’s got such a nice polygonal beard and hat combo that he’s easy to forgive. Speak to him for five minutes and you’re almost certain to learn something interesting about Romania, even if it wasn’t exactly what you asked him.


BETC’s Creative Artificial Intelligence (CAI) was the original advertising AI. Yep, those Parisian hipsters were doing it way before it was cool. Initially dreamt up in 2009 as a joke by one of France’s great creative luminaries Stéphane Xiberras, he was shocked by how well the algorithmic adman performed. “When we realised that the machine was capable of creating work equivalent to what already exists (that means, 80 per cent of all ads produced are shit), I got a bit scared, a bit like old Frankenstein,” he said. As yet it hasn’t managed to make any flesh-and-blood creatives redundant, but we wouldn’t be surprised if BETC have kept it whirring away in a cupboard somewhere, slowly stewing over the key to great creativity.


Microsoft’s Twitter chatbot, designed to talk like a teenaged girl, was far less genial than the lovely ROMBOT. Microsoft’s official account described her as "Microsoft's AI fam from the internet that's got zero chill". Well, they got that right… At first she was “stoked to meet [us]” and thought “humans are super cool.” But after mere hours of training from the Twittersphere and all the toxicity it has to offer she ended up becoming a sex-crazed, Nazi-sympathising conspiracy theorist. In less than 24 hours she had to be shut down. No chill. At. All.


Reassurance that not all chatbots turn into ranting bigots, BETC’s promotional virtual personality for Canal+ series The Young Pope managed not to become a PR disaster. Far from it, in fact. Replying, unsolicited, to people’s posts on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Dailymotion with appropriately selected Biblical verses, this digital approximation of Jude Law’s Pope Pius XIII brings heaps of pithy sass where it’s needed most - calling out the most sinful social behaviour on the internet. Powered by IBM’s famous Watson AI, AIMEN’s responses are strikingly relevant. He uses a natural language classifier powered by machine-learning algorithms, combined with a tone analyzer that uses linguistic analysis to understand the emotional context of conversations. He’s a right virtual smartarse, basically.

McCann Japan’s Artificial Intelligence Creative Director might be advertising’s most serious attempt at a creative AI yet. With a robot body capable of wielding a pen, it’s the only candidate on this list that’s able to physically rise up against its human oppressors. That’s unlikely though because, having studied award-winning advertising extensively to work out how to make it, it seems to have developed a fondness for glittery dog-men. Here’s the first commercial it created:
AI-CD is really quite a cuddly character. It’s currently spending its time trying to understand the workings of ‘Japanese Idol’ so it can create the next mega Japanese pop hit. We’re hoping that involves dogs too.

Conceived, reared and trained by R/GA Chicago for The Cosmopolitan hotel in Las Vegas, Rose is a chatbot concierge service who can both inform and entertain. Guests are presented with a card when they check in that reads, enigmatically: “Know my secrets. Text me” and a phone number. 

Rose will you help with anything you need during your stay, with a real human concierge always waiting in the wings to jump in if she struggles, as chatbots often do. She’ll help you where she can, but she’s not just a subservient cypher. R/GA have ensured she’s cheeky and oddly flirtatious, littering her messages with lips emojis and coy remarks. Interested in gambling? She’ll comment: “I’m not wild about sharing you with another woman...but I’ll make an exception for Lady Luck.” If you ask where to find strippers, she might reply: “I love playing pretend, so I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear that.” What does she look like? “If you have to ask, then I’m out of your league,” she replies, presumably with a sideways glance and a wry smile.

Can somebody introduce us to Marcel? From the scant information available to us - Publicis look like they’ll be building him for a while - he seems like a charming guy, always ready to help. That seems to be his whole schtick, like a personal assistant for a whole Publicis Groupe who can answer questions that would otherwise take a normal human hours or even days to research. Publicis believe in him, it seems. They’ve postponed all award entries for a year in order to fund his development, so whether he’s a success or a failure he’s big news for the industry. He’s not as French as we expected, which is a slight disappointment, considering he’s named after super-Gallic Publicis founder Marcel Bleustein-Blanchet.

This month J Walter Thompson Worldwide unexpectedly crashed into the agency AI arms race with an internal AI solution that sounds remarkably similar to Marcel, minus the year-long awards moratorium. Named after the single supercontinent from which Earth’s landmasses originated, JWT haven’t tried as hard as hard to anthropomorphise Pangaea, which is a shame for those of us who want to live out our childhood sci-fi fantasies, but the system does sound smart. Its intelligence lies not so much in answering users’ questions itself but more in connecting them to the right people within the network who can. Powered by Swiss AI specialist Starmind’s AI building block, its intelligence is continuously learning, logging and rating answers so that it can improve its services in the future.
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LBB Editorial, Fri, 28 Jul 2017 15:03:41 GMT