In the real world we may fear AI; but in marketing it inspires

Fresh off of the back of the Westworld Season 2 finale this week, there has been fresh discussion on what a real, AI enhanced world could be like.


In the past, high profile scientific voices like Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking have expressed concerns about the extreme impact AI could have upon the human race. Unlike the multi-layered, vengeful bots of Westworld though; the initial threat seems to be quite straightforward.  Hawking said: “The real risk with AI isn’t malice but competence” – driverless cars will have fewer accidents, robotic surgeons will make fewer mistakes and AI enhanced telemarkers will be more consistent. Robots will simply outperform people, qualifying themselves as our replacement.


However, one area forecasters have claimed to be ‘safe’ from AI takeover are the creative industries. As yet, machines which are great at replicating and improving on what already exists, struggle to stretch their knowledge into new spaces. A machine might be able to paint perfectly in the style of Rembrandt, but it could not push the boundaries of art into new directions to originate something worthy of a Turner Prize.


Despite its creative limitations, AI is having an impact on marketing though;  but less as a threat and more as an inspiration. By accident or design, when tasked with the subject of AI, agencies seem to push their work into some very fresh spaces.


Take Channel 4’s campaign for ‘Humans’. Across series 1 and 2 the campaign incorporated hoax commercials, fake product recalls, kinetic technology, interactive shop fronts, Ebay auctions and even a ‘human test’ on Alexa. The ideas played on the theme of AI paranoia and bagging them a D&AD, as well as other numerous creative awards, in the process.


Humans Campaign for Channel 4


At SXSW one of the most talked about experiences was for Ready Player One. Through mind-blowingly rich, interactive VR, their event brought to life the alternate reality at the heart of the film.  Similarly, the launch campaign for Westworld pushed VR to the limits, allowing people to ‘step into’ the park and even look at it from the perspective of a ‘host’, supported by a microsite with fictional sales and booking information for guests (now adapted to show that the hosts have taken over!)


Working with Audible, we understand the power of pushing your marketing to be as immersive as the content it seeks to promote. Our experiential campaigns for Content launches are designed for people to sample, in the richest way possible, the difference audio performances can make to a story. Be it via state of the art sound effects, a piece of immersive theatre or intense special effects, the aim is always to put the content first and celebrate it in a way that challenges perceptions of what an audio book is.


Our 3D audio experience for Quidditch Through the Ages placed Harry Potter fans at the heart of a virtual stadium; whilst X-Files cold cases brought the supernatural to life


As an industry, marketing tends to be a very early adopter of technology, trialling and testing well ahead of the mainstream. Last year, to promote Universal Channel’s new hospital drama ‘Pure Genius’, PrettyGreen tapped into the acceleration of medical technology featured in the show, by conducting a medical first of our own. We created ‘Robodoc’ and took him to the streets of London. The concept was a motorised, telepresent robot which brought real GPs (like Dr Hilary Jones) out to the public to offer virtual consultations – something that has the potential to become ‘the norm’ of the future.


Whilst the conversations around the ultimate impact of AI and robotics are debated more widely, for now, and in our industry, technology offers us new opportunities and encourages marketing to up its game. This, perhaps because deep down we are all a bunch of geeks, makes for exciting times.


Robodoc for Pure Genius, Universal Channel