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Cannes Lions

What We Learned About AI at Cannes 2017

Artificial Intelligence was the talk of the Croisette – so what is the creative community saying? And where are we headed?

What We Learned About AI at Cannes 2017

Even before Publicis Groupe announced their plan to create a holding company-wide AI platform, funded by a moratorium on awards entries, artificial intelligence, clever creative data and machine learning were big topics of Cannes 2017. 

It popped up in numerous panels and throughout the awards themselves – one of the big trends to emerge from this year’s winners was the tension between the low tech, simple ideas and the ingenious examples of AI. In the red corner, standing for pure, easy-to-grasp concepts in a confusing world, you had the likes of Fearless Girl, Humanium and The Immunity Charm. And in the blue corner, it was all neural networks and learning chatbots.



BETC’s AIMEN campaign for the launch of the Young Pope – which won a Gold, Silver and Bronze in Creative Data and a Bronze in the Media Lions was a project that was singled out for praise by the Creative Data jury and also many of the creative directors we spoke to from other agencies during the week. It was an example of AI being used to do something creative that human beings simply could not do – and it was also an example of an idea enhanced by AI rather than revolving around it.



As a relatively young tool, there were also winners that attempted to ‘hack’ AI platforms and exploit bugs and problems. For example, the Direct Grand Prix went to ‘Google Home of the Whopper’ from DAVID Miami, a cheeky campaign that used the phrase ‘OK Google’ in its TV ads to activate viewers’ smartphone AIs. It generated a lot of controversy and column inches by playing with the loophole of ‘always listening’ devices – a big sticking point with voice-driven AI. In other words, it’s the sort of idea you really can only do once.


And Burger King wasn't the only one to play with the trendy combination of voice and AI. That was a massive trend, brought up by many of the experts we spoke to and covered in extreme depth on the Palais stages. J. Walter Thompson revealed their comparative research into international attitudes towards voice technology and artificial intelligence during the festival - and they weren't the only ones to get excited. MRM/McCann NY's quirky 'Your Voice is Your Stamp' project for the US postal service nabbed a Silver Innovation Lion and is a great example of just how diverse and broad the potential for the technology is.



There were also entries, such as Chat Yourself, which won a Bronze in Pharma, and I’m Ada, I Can Help, which got a Silver Innovation Lion, which highlighted the sort of interesting opportunities that lie ahead, particularly in the field of healthcare. On the other hand, from a creative point of view, there’s a debate to be had around how to classify these projects, whether they belong at Cannes Lions and if they count as examples of creativity.



LBB’s Laura Swinton and Addison Capper spoke to creatives, Lions judges and tech experts to get their take on AI and the conversations around it on the Croisette and in the Palais.

Is AI Going to Replace Human Creativity or Enhance It?


Patrick Scissons, CCO, KBS
I don’t think it’s an either or proposition – artificial intelligence OR human intelligence. A lot of what has been said at least culturally is that it is a replacement proposition. But the way that we’re looking at is as more of an enablement – an and proposition.  Artificial intelligence AND human intelligence. In the case of the Ada app from KBS Albion, for example, right now the typical hospital visit is eight minutes. There is no way that a doctor can ask the questions needed to ascertain what element of the 12,000 diseases that exist from 8,000 symptoms in that period of time. So having some type of support intelligence platform that can just provide some deal of context, so that when you come into that eight minutes there’s constructed response. That’s a big thing. And the more that there’s a reciprocal dynamic and a two-way versus just a bunch of data that a machine spits out and it ends, that’s where there’s the greatest opportunity.

Hugo Veiga, ECD, AKQA Sao Paulo
When you look at the strongest ideas in Cannes, they’re still analogue - like Fearless Girl, Meet Graham and Boost Your Voice. They use social and digital channels to amplify the idea but the best ideas are still the ones that have a really strong purpose and are simple in their idea. In terms of all the technology, such as AI, there aren’t yet any ideas using that as strong as something like Fearless Girl. There aren’t any examples of using AI to really amplify an idea to another level. Creativity is still winning over innovation and technology, which is the essence and what defers us from the machines. 

Humberto Polar, CCO, FCB Mexico and member of the Creative Data jury
I would say that it was in the middle of our discussions how creative data should be an ally of creativity and not a substitute for creativity. Sometimes as creative directors we encourage our teams to treat user-generated content as the right stimulus. In this case it’s correct that there was no human way of doing that amount of responses with that accuracy without artificial intelligence. So this was the perfect case in which we creative directors have to understand that we are not always the story writers or storytellers, we are the curators with the help of technology that is inspiring

It's moving from being the ones who create the story to the observers and stories are growing, generated by the stimulus. I don’t think we as creatives should be afraid of that; we should be prepared to use it properly.
What we’ve seen from AI is that we understand the potential but so far it’s been over-promised. I saw some panels in Cannes and they’d talk about things like how it could learn your mood from the way you walk - that’s good if it’s true, but I’m not so sure. It will come but it’s still something that people ‘want’ to do.

Steve Sirich, GM at Bing Ads
What is the role of technology in creativity, especially when you start to introduce things like artificial intelligence? People do say, ‘do you think that greater creativity will be fostered by technology’ and I think you have to say a resounding ‘yes’. Creativity is just a function of information and an insight from that information – that’s what unlocks or fosters creativity. Certainly in marketing now, there’s the ability to harness rich data and put it through deep analytic algorithms to understand what’s going on. There’s creativity in that.


AI: Are We There Yet?


Gregory Roekens, Future Technology Officer, Europe, Grey
AI is like the world wide web 20 years ago. It’s a field of technology still in its infancy that has the potential to unlock huge opportunities to create all sort of new type of digital experiences. The main challenge though is that it is not as open, as accessible and as standardised as the world wide web which means the rules of engagement for businesses are less ubiquitous. At Grey we are mapping out these worlds of AI to help our clients identify the growing opportunities emerging from this exciting field, whether to help automate certain processes, bridge existing API’s or all the way to the construction of conversational interfaces, being chatbots, Google Home actions or Alexa skills.

We are also uniquely placed to advise on ‘the personalisation of brands’, a new phenomenon we’ll start to witness where people will engage on a one-to-one relationship, conversing with brand’s virtual assistants as if they were talking to a real human being. This means it will be increasingly important for brands to ensure that their brand’s values and tone of voices are carried through the conversations these new AI based interfaces will have with people.

Steve Sirich, GM Bing Ads
In the conversations I’ve had – and I can’t say it’s hundreds but in the last six months it’s maybe been 20-25 – I would say my general take away is that there’s a level of intellectual curiosity, they recognise the importance of the early adopter advantage. There might be some caution because they recognise AI is not yet perfect, but it’s moving so fast and technology is accelerating every year at a rate that is faster than the year previously.

They recognise that they have to get in and experiment. Most cultures are adopting the technology and this idea of ‘fail fast’. They’re embracing failure because they understand that’s the way to drive innovation and creative thinking and unlock these opportunities. 

Nick Turner, CCO EMEA, SapientRazorfish
It feels like there is a lot of noise but not a lot of examples of it being used to its full potential and that’s because it really is in its infancy. Everyone’s talking about what we might be able to do with it but I imagine that potential is ten or twenty years away. It’s ‘what can we do with it now?’ We’re almost like children just playing with what it’s going to do. There will be some successes and some failures and it’s for the creative industry to push the potential of what it can be. With all of the AI campaigns, they will always split people’s opinions. The Next Rembrandt last year, that split opinions of whether it was or wasn’t a good use of AI. As long as we’re continually talking about it and experimenting with it I think it’s really exciting.

As creatives we’ve been trying to imagine and talking about what the future means, and some of the things we were talking about eight years ago are just starting to happen.

Steve Savic, ECD, Calgary, Critical Mass
I’m really curious to see where this is all going to go because a couple of years ago it was exciting just watching how you can point your camera at something and recognise it to a certain extent. Two years later and it can pretty much recognise anything. Camera AI, voice recognition, even Shazam - these are wonderful tools to take users from one place to another very quickly. What I don’t think we’ve seen quite yet is how creatives are going to be packaging this thing inside something that might be more of an experience - not just driving a user down a path to product connection. What kind of packaging are we going to see that’s going to be entertaining? Something like that what I think we’re going to start seeing from AI use in the next year or two. That will begin driving those emotional values of creativity, because right now AI is very much a powerful engineering tool that seems to be driving people quickly from point A to point B. But I think in the next couple of years we’re going to see people use it to really feel something, in a more experiential way. And AI will be a foundation that people won’t see, it’ll be driving a bigger message. 

Norman Wagner, Managing Director, MediaCom Beyond Advertising Germany
When we go back to the history of artificial intelligence, there was already a huge hype in the ‘50s - in 1957 there was the first chip produced that understood language. The vision was to build computers that work like a brain. It didn’t work at the time and was forgotten for some time but in the ‘90s AI became a proper research field, and I think now we are already on a productive level in many areas - Google search, self-driving cars, but also when you look at creativity. Just look at The Next Rembrandt from ING bank - this showed that you can use machine learning to understand the style of Rembrandt, so why should it be too complicated to look at the past 200 ads of an advertiser and create something that looks similar. It’s less complex than talking about Rembrandt. 

The industry will change very fast because it’s not a ‘next’ thing, it’s already there. I think when we sit here next year in Cannes there won’t be a player that isn’t using AI.

Grant Owens, CSO, Critical Mass
AI has changed a lot in the last year. We just did a study with folks using digital assistance. Voice assistance is what we’re most interested in - we think chatbots are interesting but they’re probably just a step to natural language interfaces, and that will predominantly be voice. AI as the backing engine of that has improved a lot. Alexa came out about three years ago, whereas Google Home came out in the fall - there was a step change there between Google Home now recognising context of a statement and linear progression through a conversation. That right there changes the way we interact with them. But there’s still a long way to go because we’re not at natural language yet. We’re about 75% of the way there, but once that happens things are really going to take over, but that’s two to three years. 

Elizabeth Cherian, Director of the Innovation Group, J. Walter Thompson London
One of the biggest implications of AI on the ad industry is the eventual shift away from the screen and the appropriation of voice technology. More consumers will be spending their time searching the web and purchasing items via voice user interfaces (VUIs) powered by digital assistants over smartphones, smart speakers, and even connected retail display units, digital signage and packaging.

In fact, in the Speak Easy research we produced with Mindshare, it is shown that 67% of global regular voice tech users would like to be able to communicate with their favourite brands via their voice assistants, while 69% love the idea of able to repurchase items just by voice. The new voice-activated world opens up significant opportunities for advertisers to directly engage with their audience in a new way. A few things for advertisers to consider:

- Brands that develop useful content can meaningfully engage with their consumers via a new channel.
- Brands can strengthen consumer relationships by defining their (literal) voices.
- Brands should consider adding voice interactivity as these capabilities expand to new devices.
- Advertisers will need to reappraise relationships with voice assistant providers as VUIs strengthen their role as consumer gatekeepers.
- A key challenge in a world intermediated by voice assistants will be ensuring your brand or content is chosen by the assistant. Algorithm optimisation will become the new SEO.

Voice technology is sweeping the world, as assistants like Amazon’s Alexa and smart speakers like China’s “Little Fish” capture our imagination. At our beck and call, talking computers - once seen only on the silver screen - are becoming an everyday reality as developments in AI transform our relationship with them.  In our Speak Easy report, early adopters report that they “wouldn’t be without Alexa” as she becomes “integral to my daily routine”. ComScore forecasts that half of all searches will be voice searches by 2020. Meanwhile, Chinese YouTuber Jing Jing has accumulated 6.5m views of herself playing Eighth Note, the voice-activated smartphone game taking Asia by storm. The age-old medium of voice is fast becoming in vogue. The opportunity is ripe for businesses to get immersed in the voice-activated world.

AI Alone is Not a Creative Idea


Nick Turner, CCO EMEA SapientRazorfish
One of the things I really liked was AIMEN, for the launch of the Young Pope. That was using AI to its potential because it was listening to what people were saying on Facebook, Youtube and Daily Motion.it pings back with a passage from the bible and it sent out in a month a million responses. As humans, we could never do that, it’s using technology as an enabler. The idea isn’t ‘it can tweet a million times’. A lot of award entries I’ve seen said ‘we used IBM Watson’. Watson isn’t the idea. It’s the enabler. Technology enables but should be invisible.

Eric Salama, CEO, Kantar and President of the Creative Data Lions
I’d contrast two entries [in the Creative Data Lions category]. We looked at an entry for diagnosing melanoma, from Australia. People used IBM Watson, they took photos of skin marks and melanomas and fed that into Watson to help Watson better diagnose what was going to be a threatening melanoma and what was just a skin mark… It’s a wonderful thing to do but it didn’t really feel like it had a creative idea at its heart. It’s great that it’s being done, my brother’s a doctor and he’s seen that the whole way through his hospital but I contrast that with the AIMEN one where the use of AI was completely in tune with the brand, which was The Young Pope. It did something in the use of AI that no human could have done in terms of responding with humour and intelligence in a million different posts. It felt like an idea that was really in sync with the brand and supported by AI rather than AI for the sake of it.



AI: A World of Opportunities in Health Care... and Beyond


Graham Mills, Global CCO Publicis Health, Digitas Health LifeBrands, Publicis Life Brands, and Heartbeat Ideas
There was only one AI project in the Pharma category, which I was slightly surprised by. It was a really lovely one, actually. Basically it was a Facebook chatbot – Chat Yourself, which won Bronze. It’s for early onset Alzheimer’s and you load it up with your stream so it learns where you live and everything about it. So if you’re lost, it can give you directions home and help you out with information. It’s an incredibly beautiful idea; some people struggled a little bit because there wasn’t much to look at, but I loved it. 

AI in healthcare is really exciting. We had a interviewed some medical students about it and they’re really excited. You’ve got not enough doctors to go round and way too many patients and in the exam room you get a seven-minute conversation if you’re lucky. AI can do a lot of the heavy lifting, so now you have more time to be a doctor. Suddenly those 7 minutes is 20 minutes, and you can do real doctoring, not just renewing prescriptions.

The consequence of that is voice as well. How do brands exist in the world of voice? If you’re saying, ‘hey Alexa, get me my medicine, renew my script’, if you don’t specify a brand, Alexa will use an algorithm to decide which is the best one for you. Which one has the highest rating, which has the lowest cost, which is available on prime delivery? And so does a brand exist in the voice world?

Everyone is super excited about it. They don’t really think of it as AI, but every time you ask Siri to find you something, that’s AI. I don’t have an Alexa at home though – I find it a little disturbing!

Susan Lyne, President and Managing Partner at BBG Ventures and President of the Innovation Lions
If you step back, AI is actually creating an entirely new class of businesses that wold not exist were it not for the existence of AI. We awarded a Lion to a company that’s called Ada Health who create a product called ‘I’m Ada, I Can Help’. It’s a diagnostic tool that is driven by bot and is built on a very sophisticated AI platform that was contributed to by hundreds of doctors that will bring a first level diagnostic tool to people and to countries where it is very difficult to find medical care. Instead of googling your symptoms and hoping to find someone who has something similar who was maybe in a chat room five years ago. This is a very focused way of of being able to get closer and closer to what your problem is. I think there is a massive new category that is emerging of people who are using AI for a variety of different challenges. They are solving problems with AI that are going to create new opportunities for creatives as they create solutions for consumers.

Genre: Creative technology , Digital , Strategy/Insight