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Innovation by automation – how far do we go?

In a world of increasing innovation, what role do you think automation will have in future creative strategies?

My opening question to some of the industry’s best at an event I went to, kindly hosted by the APG. The response? Well, as you’d expect… polarised opinions. Not necessarily just in reference to my question, but also as to how much of a douche I was to ask a such a wanky question. I apologised. However, I do think it raises some interesting questions.

A similar question was raised at a recent Penguin Live talk: ‘If the process of creating can be automated, can creativity be automated?’ Your response will most probably be no and, much like most of the people I’ve asked, your reasons are probably based around a feeling that what automation misses is in fact… feeling. I’m inclined to agree and to be honest, I’m not here to argue the rights or wrongs of one school of thought over another.

Instead, what interests me is the possibility. Our jobs are grounded with insight into our customers. An understanding of the emotions that drive behaviours. On the whole, the more truthful the insight, the more relevant the solution.

Behavioural retargeting (…bleugh) of brand comms already exists through a tonne of channels, from Amazon to on-demand TV services to our weekly shop at TESCO. You know, that one tub of Uranium Ore or that Gangster Rap Colouring Book (both actually purchasable things) you viewed that ONE time but now wont stop following you around as you surf the net. They get a bad rep, and rightly so. But this is really only because the retargeting is largely predictive and based only on what content has been previously viewed / accessed / bought.

Instead imagine we had a neurological understanding of each and every individual so powerful that it went far beyond being just a predictor of behaviour based on previous activity. So powerful that it even went beyond the level of insight into customers which neuroscientific agencies like Walnut offer in a research setting. So powerful that it acted as a guarantee of our action in the real-world; a certainty of behaviour. Less of a predictor, more of a truth.

Now, imagine we could track this neurological understanding of our customers in real-time and link that up with branded content. The result? Information that is always relevant to each individual. Where Amazon advertises products relating to our current circumstances, where TV ads appeal to our current interests and supermarkets advertise offers in line with our current moods. In other words, communication from brands that we’re always going to be interested in as they will always relate to the way we are feeling at any one time.

That’s an idea worth pausing on for a minute. Communication from brands that we’re always going to be interested in as they will always relate to the way we are feeling at any one time. So, back to my initial question. I think there is a possibility that we could build this feedback loop of human emotion // branded communication into an algorithm and automate it. However, how real this possibility is solely depends on our willingness to be examined to this extent.

Does being continuously served-up only relevant branded communication come at the cost of free will, and is that too high a price to pay? Is it just a little too Big Brother and in fact is having the choice to think how we wish to, free of being ‘monitored’ in a manner to be capitalised on, a basic principle of being human? Whichever school of thought you lean towards, the debate on the next era of innovation is well worth having.


As seen in Sore Thumb Thinking - here

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