Tom Ollerton, founder of Automated Creative doesn’t believe artificial intelligence will replace human creativity but argues that it can bring clarity and much needed objectivity.

We're all biased. We can’t help it. We have likes and dislikes, preferences and priorities. In marketing, this can be a problem. What makes a planner or a creative tick might not be right for the intended target audience. 

So, without a clear and objective view, how will we ever be able to make our work as effective as possible? Enter AI. While it's well documented that AI can help marketers work more effectively in terms of pure performance, there's one less talked about area that AI is shifting - overcoming bias. 

AI-led creative might not be the most popular concept in marketing, but it will have some significant implications. Our industry, ironically for somewhere that’s usually focused on selling en masse to broad demographics, can be very inward looking. We enjoy patting one another on the back at award ceremonies, and celebrating creative ideas without any reflection on whether they provided ROI for the client. 

In contrast, AI provides a far more objective view. One that is often very different from the expectations.

We’ve seen marketers proven wrong many, many times over. At Automated Creative we always ask our clients to take a guess as to which of their ads will perform best in its first sprint of activity with us. They are almost never right, but it’s usually a consolation that neither are we - until tech steps in.

Sometimes gut feel can lead you completely the wrong way - for example, when we worked with Mahabis, the content that the team initially disliked was the best performing, and we also found that stills worked over video for certain audiences, something the team was not expecting. 

For Fairtrade, AI generated a few sets of surprising results; click-bait style content performed badly in its digital marketing. The stand out performers in Fairtrade’s case were buying and product-focused messages, along with content that promoted living ethically. And bananas - a product often associated with Fairtrade - were outstripped in performance by the likes of coffee, cocoa and flowers.

A well-known alcohol brand we worked with was able to discover that the reason the product was bought for a gift was to say ‘sorry.’ This dumbfounded everyone - we’d predicted that birthday or Christmas messages would have been the winner. But the thousands of ads tested proved otherwise. 

This doesn't mean AI is going to take all the creative jobs. I’ve yet to see an AI that can come with a brilliant show stopping idea that makes the hair stand up on the back of your neck. However, neither can many creative agencies.

True brilliant creative ideas are rare as hell; there are a lot of people trying to have them and not many succeeding. The promise of AI is that it can give creatives a better foundation for bigger and better ideas, and to create ads that can scale, morph and adapt to the only people whose opinion really matters - their intended audience.

For me, the future of marketing is a hybrid of strategic human thought and AI-led insights at scale. Part of this process will rely on overcoming creatives’ fear of data. There’s nothing wrong with leaning on data-led insights to improve your work. It doesn’t detract from the ‘big idea’, it just makes that idea work harder. Data helped create some of the world’s most iconic and creative advertising, after all. We also need to create a better parity between media and creative. Treat the two as the feedback loop they should be. 

It’s time to listen to our audience, rather showing them what we think they should like. The industry will be better off for it.