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AI Takes Center Stage At Cannes Lions

From blockchain’s ability to build greater trust in advertising, to the experience transformer that is augmented reality, there has been no shortage of inspiring tech stories at this week’s Cannes Lions, where CMO.com’s EMEA team has been in attendance.

The darling of the France-based festival, though, has undoubtedly been artificial intelligence (AI).

“The potential to combine human creativity with computational power is infinite,” said Chris Duffey, head of AI innovation and strategy at Adobe. “The ability to use it as an assistant, a peer, or a muse to inspire ideas is a really exciting opportunity.”  

The technology’s ability to supercharge the creative process for the industry, while providing the most relevant experiences to consumers, has made it the event’s go-to conversation topic. Whether providing agency creatives with better briefs or delivering original and empathetic content at speed, the triumphant tales of AI utilization were abundant. Below is a deep dive into some of the biggest AI trends from the show.

Preserving Brand Heritage
Adobe’s Duffey and Microsoft partner executive Doug Gould co-presented a Cannes session on humans and machines in the age of co-creation. They outlined the development of AI use and focused on the technology’s growing importance, highlighting how AI can fuel content velocity, drive personalized digital experiences, and enhance human creativity.

They cited Braun, a German consumer products brand that is using an AI tool to record the shape of every product it has made over the past 70 years. AI identified core shapes and geometric compositions to create an alphabet of shapes, which developed into a “design language.” A deep learning algorithm was then trained to speak that language, so it could observe all future designs and provide suggestions to ensure new designs are infused with Braun’s core design ethos. The technology is safeguarding Braun’s proud design heritage and ensuring that consumers globally will continue to recognize the company’s work in a crowded marketplace.  

The pair also touched on the incredible efficiencies the technology can offer creatives working under increasingly tight time constraints. Gould commented that AI would be crucial in meeting “the need for content that is high-quality, high-volume, and created at high speed.”

Citing the technology’s far-reaching influence into experience creation, he added: “AI is integrated into how you live, work, and communicate in the world. It’s the standard by which you evaluate your digital interactions with brands.”

Enhanced Storytelling   
Another big theme at this year’s conference was AI’s role in the creative relationship between brands and their agencies they collaborate with to create campaigns. In one session, Deloitte Digital CMO Alicia Hatch and Amazon Advertising director Anthony Reeves discussed the results of a study they conducted that pitted traditional creative briefs against AI-created documents.  

The pair laid out the fundamental differences between the two documents. The traditional brief, they pointed out, has three key components: target audience, single-minded proposition/unique selling point, and key message. The AI-driven piece has four very different elements: customer intent, customer voice, search habits, and what customers want to hear.

Among the key findings from the study was the AI-driven brief’s ability to increase the diversity and number of ideas created by 57% compared with the traditional format. The creatives involved in the study also reported that using data-driven facts helped them to eliminate their own biases and perceptions.

These findings were underpinned by four core insights:

  • AI removes a significant portion of creatives’ skepticism that briefs are shallow or based on incorrect thinking.
  • AI enhances our storytelling by offering more and diverse briefs.
  • AI accelerates speed to concepts.
  • AI can improve subjectivity.

Fueling Creativity
Brands and their creative agencies often draw inspiration from artists--those at the cutting edge of creativity who take the greatest risks, unencumbered by messaging frameworks or corporate values. Representing the artistic community at Cannes Lions was Mario Klingemann, a Munich-based artist who uses AI and machine learning in unique ways to create video installations. (According to his website, his “preferred tools are neural networks, code and algorithms.”)

“One metaphor I like to use is that I’m a musician who builds his own instruments and has to work out how to play them as I’m going along,” Klingemann said in describing the journey he takes to create his work. “You have to learn how to give [the algorithms] the data in a way that they understand and ensure that they know what your intention is.”

Elaborating on his process, he added: “It’s about classifying things, using data sets to create tools that create lots of images, just as an example. Then you have to create a tool that allows you to curate all the things the machine gives you. When I run a model making images, I wake up in the morning faced with 10,000 choices, so I have to have another model, which learns my preferences.”

Jamie Myrold, Adobe’s VP of experience design, joined Klingemann on stage to discuss his work and AI’s in the creative process.

“Artificial intelligence can help creatives by taking away some of the mundane tasks,” she said. “That allows us to really focus on the more creative, unique aspects of concepting and coming up with ideas. It’s this new idea of creativity that’s coming out in work like Mario’s.”  

Also on stage with the pair was Natasha Jen, partner at Pentagram. Echoing the Braun example used in the earlier session, she spoke of the potential for AI-assisted tools that can help creatives build an “identity system”—beyond just a company logo and font—that would work across many touchpoints.

“This is something I’m looking forward to … but then it comes down to that decision: What are we making here?” she said. “I still [have to have] the ownership over that.” 

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