Possible roles for artificial creativity in marketing

Artificial intelligence is presently used in marketing primarily to forecast consumer behaviour and increase the efficiency of brand communication. As everybody knows, however, analysis and control are only one side of marketing; creativity is at least as important, because creativity is ultimately the only means for brands to set themselves apart from one another in a lasting way. With this in mind, in what follows we investigate the question of what role(s) machine learning and/or computational creativity could play in the marketing of the future.

1. Artificial intelligence as a driver of the digital transformation

Whilst the first phase of the digital revolution around the turn of the millennium was focused on the construction of digital infrastructure and the digitalisation of products and services, the years that followed were primarily about conceptualising, designing and establishing digital distribution channels and building sustainable digital business models. Now that a lot of companies have negotiated this phase, it’s presently the development of artificial intelligence that is characterising the digital transformation and driving it forward. Assisted by increasingly powerful processors, increasingly capacious data volumes, and increasingly sophisticated algorithms, recent years have seen machines begin to learn:  artificial intelligence is here, and it’s evolving. This has set a phase of development in motion that is now unstoppable, and which may well represent a turning point for a large number of sectors and industries. AI is currently revolutionising medical diagnostics, making autonomous driving possible, using predictive analyses to plan production capacities, assisting the early detection of attempted scams and supporting investors in the form of so-called “robo-advisors”.  Even though many of the accompanying ethical and legal questions have yet to be answered, increasing numbers of people are talking to Siri, asking Alexa, conversing with Cortana, and chatting with bots.  AI is establishing itself in our everyday lives, changing the rules of the game in many areas of the economy and, in the course of these developments, inevitably transforming marketing as well.

2. Artificial intelligence in Marketing

Artificial intelligence is presently being used in marketing primarily to minimise waste coverage and to make marketing communication faster and more efficient. Everybody knows, though, that analysis, control and management are only one side of marketing; creativity is at least as important, because strictly speaking, creativity is the only means for brands to set themselves apart from one another in a lasting way. This assessment takes on a greater significance still when it is borne in mind that all market participants will be making use of the aforementioned possibilities of AI in the medium term and that this will serve to level out the differences resulting from its effects.  

3. Artificial or Computional Creativity

A large part of the creative economy shares one thing in common: creativity is the final human bastion that artificial intelligence is unable to penetrate.  Even if this view appears plausible at first, however, we’re likely mistaken in the belief that machines can only analyse what exists and are incapable of creating anything new. Today, computational creativity stands alone as a field of research where scientists and artists are working together to fathom how creative computers are capable of being. A glance at where and how artificial intelligence is already finding applications in various creative disciplines in the present day reveals some astounding and unexpected examples. After just 20 minutes of “training” with a real human voice, for example, the audio encoding program Voco from Adobe is able to synthesise and copy it 1:1.

4. Artificial intelligence and campaign creation

Fundamentally, the creative process can be divided into divergent and convergent thinking: Whilst divergent thinking is about generating as many completely different, ideally unprecedented and sometimes crazy ideas as possible, convergent thinking aims to identify and pick out the idea with the greatest potential in order to optimise and further develop it.

Both in divergent and in convergent thinking, there are tasks that artificial intelligence can take on. Based on current developments in computational creativity, there are essentially five different possible roles for AI in the creative process – although these are far from easy to delineate from one another.

  • AI as muse

AI can memorise an enormous number of a company’s own campaigns and those of its competitors, and so knows what has worked well in the past. Based on these, it can develop ideas and suggestions that have the potential to open up unexpected new ways of looking at things.

  • AI as a creator

Assisted by deep learning models, AI systems are capable of independently developing a multitude of distinctive campaign ideas, images and promotional material.  Following this, AI is then also able to evaluate and implement those candidates that best meet the originally defined specifications.

  • KI as a tool

In just the same way as a pen, a movie camera or a musical instrument, AI can be used and operated by people to create campaign images, ads or jingles – to name just a few examples.

  • KI as an assistent

Working as a helper and support worker, AI can independently carry out such preliminary working steps as preparing text, picture or layout options.

  • KI as a gatekeeper

At the end of the creative process, AI can ensure that the drafts and proposals prepared fall within previously determined constraints, such as CI guidelines.

It’s not yet possible to say which of the five paradigmatic AI roles described here will play a part in the future creative process, and in what way. That’s why it will be important in the coming years to devote the necessary time and resources to testing out these different roles, gathering relevant experience and further developing the technology. It’s especially important to be prepared for the likelihood of it remaining uncertain for some time what works and just where the journey is headed. The only certainty for now is that the question is no longer whether AI will radically alter marketing’s creative process but how it will.

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