Those who are engaged in marketing today get the impression that machines could soon take over their job, right? But according to Ketchum Pleon’s Chief Creative Officer, Petra Sammer. that’s so far not quite true.
The expert in storytelling writes in one of her articles that the once chaotically acting creative industry is already looking for the workflows of the process-optimized IT industry, raising the provocative question when there will be the first robot to win a Cannes lion?
Well, thinking of AI, AR, VR, chatbots, programmatic planning, etc., who knows if that will really happen sometime soon? The fact is that ING Bank won last year several Cannes lions with a project that creatively staged the topos "human” vs “machine”: In order to position itself as an innovative bank, ING had scanned in all portraits the Baroque painter Rembrandt had ever painted. With this enormous amount of data, a new portrait was then produced by a 3D printer. Hence, “The next Rembrand" was not a copy but a newly created work and even sent creatives into transports of delight. The core of the discussion the project triggered was the question: If you can teach a machine to create a creative work, will human creativity be superfluous in the future?
Well, the rapid advances and technical possibilities that artificial intelligence (AI) will provide soon is spurring not only discussions among artists but inspires and boosts the advertising and communications industry, too. For instance, Saatchi & Saatchi already presented the first AI-video, music studios composed the sound for commercials using algorithms, media planners allowed computers to decide on the placement of ads, press offices fancy answering questions automatically via chatbot, and IBM's Watson proved during Wimbledon 2017 that it is possible to do without a whole editorial team.
The advantages of the machine compared to the human being are simply manifold and quite impressive: AI programs are faster, more effective and in the long term much cheaper. It is therefore no wonder that storytellers from marketing and corporate communications are particularly interested in this technology. Because the art of storytelling offers some aspects that can be easily automated. For example, the structure of a story (beginning, middle, and end) or e.g. the Aristotle’s seven golden rules of storytelling, a computer can quickly capture and an algorithm automatically create. Prefabricated text modules can be put together in a smart and flexible way, as we already see in robot journalism today, not to mention that Netflix adapts stories constantly to the audience's taste - by means of users’ behavior, when they switch on/off or just the channel.
AI storytelling is still in its infancy, but will be a success model in the long run, since the automated form of storytelling provides solutions for three problems that marketing is facing today:
- Big Data: Already today we have a lot of information at our disposal, but don’t know how to tell this amount of data. AI can help us filter citing stories out of the “Big Data”. The use of IBM's Watson during Wimbledon 2017 is just a recent proof of how data-driven storytelling can look like.
- Dynamic and Fragmented Markets: AI enables people to tell stories flexibly in a constantly changing environment and to adapt content agilely to different target groups. With AI-storytelling you can communicate targeted in the most fragmented markets. The machine calculates how and where effective content is placed (programmatic planning) and adapts the content in real time, according to the notions of the target groups addressed.
- UBX (Useful Brand Experience): In the future, however, the inclusion of the recipients in participatory forms of storytelling will be the most exciting part. New techniques, such as AR or VR, combined with AI, offer the opportunity to let customers participate in brand stories. Recipients are no longer spectators or listeners, but are right in the middle, witnessing and co-designing stories. It’s the undertaking of a completely new brand experience and consequently brand loyalty.
We are for sure still at the beginning of this kind of storytelling, although Samsung, for example, invites us already to climb onto skyscrapers to overcome our fear of heights or Lufthansa flies us virtually to San Francisco. All these are insights and outlooks, show and wow projects, but no stories yet.
It will be the task of marketing and corporate communications to inspire us here in the future with exciting stories, not only to take us along, but to participate, too.
However, as much as the enthusiasm for new technologies and the future possibilities of artificial intelligence is, it is also crucial to recognize the limitation of AI storytelling: Although chatbots can give us, for instance, answers to the most frequently asked questions, they can’t tell immersive and empathic stories, Petra Sammer emphasizes in her article.
Many elements of a story can be automated, but the magic of a story comes ultimately not from an algorithm. On the contrary, the unforeseen, the surprising, the human is what fascinates us with stories and makes us immerse into it. As much as AI is a work relief in marketing and corporate communications, the need for creative, inspiring and human stories will remain, she concludes.
This results in clear requirements for the composition of marketing teams and communication departments: It takes colleagues that hurl themselves deeply into bits and bytes to be constantly familiar with the technological prerequisites and changes; and some others must know the magic and success of good stories which they can present all the time in a new and inspiring way.
By Daniela La Marca