Software developed by BETC Euro RSCG in Paris, named CAI for Creative Artificial Intelligence, generates ads like this one.
For decades — maybe even since computers began arriving in workplaces in the 1960s — there have been predictions that machines will be able to perform the creative tasks that usually require human beings. An agency in Paris is offering a new twist on those venerable forecasts, to make a point about the creative process.
BETC Euro RSCG, part of the Euro RSCG Worldwide division of Havas, has developed software that can produce elementary advertisements. The software is called CAI, pronounced Kay, for Creative Artificial Intelligence.
CAI can be programmed to produce ads by selecting a product category (say, soft drinks) and type of product (for instance, coffee, energy drinks, fruit juice, milk, tea or water).
Next up are questions about objectives. Do you want to generate awareness? Create loyalty? Increase purchase? Introduce a product? Recruit customers? CAI then wants to know the demographic target for the ad by sex and age.
Last come questions on the intended benefits of the product. For milk, for example, qualities like fresh, healthy and organic are offered. CAI ponders all those requirements, then produces three possible ads that meets them.
CAI can randomly generate an estimated 200,000 ads. In a recent demonstration, the software brought forth bland and formulaic — but perfectly acceptable — ads that could run in magazines or newspapers, as banners on Web sites or on billboards.
And that is the point being made by the executive who came up with the idea for CAI.
The initial response to CAI is “playful,” Stephane Xiberras, president and executive creative director at BETC Euro RSCG, wrote in an e-mail message, as people “try to create campaigns for perfumes or for chips, and it’s true that it generates fun ads.”
“After this first reaction, they get a little scared,” he said, “when they see that a software program can create the same (mediocre) results in just 10 seconds as several hours of strategic meetings and production.”
And that is, according to Mr. Xiberras, “a pretty scary thing.”
Another year of working on CAI “could turn it into a real tool for agencies and clients,” he said, because the software “sometimes leads to random accidents that could stimulate the creative process.”
It also “provides good examples of what not to do,” he added.
Even so, humans ought not to be replaced by software, Mr. Xiberras said.
“Our industry has been living in a paradox for several years,” he explained. “In a world where it is increasingly difficult to get brands’ messages to emerge, there is a growing standardization of advertising.”
The contention that most ads are “no more than a reconstitution of already existing ideas and forms” led to the development of the software.
Mr. Xiberras wrote the copy for the ads for CAI and Claire Maoui, an art director, found the thousands of images. Clarisse Lacarrau, international planner, and Elodie Andurand, account director, handled the strategic planning aspects.
And Abder Zeghoud, Web developer, and Vincent Malone, executive creative director, worked on the programming side.