A Japanese ad agency invented an AI creative director — and ad execs preferred its ad to a human’s
LONDON — In 2015, ad agency McCann Japan’s creative planner Shun
Matsuzaka set himself a task he called the “creative genome
project”: he wanted to create the world’s first AI creative
director, capable of directing a TV commercial.
And last week, Matsuzaka showed off his creation at the UK
advertiser trade body ISBA’s annual conference in London.
Here they are:
Matsuzaka and his team in a newly-created division called McCann
Millennials first began their project by breaking down a TV
commercial into two parts:
The creative brief: The type of brand, the
campaign goal, the target audience, and the claim the ad should
The elements of the TV ad: Including things such
as tone, manner, celebrity, music, context, and the key takeout.
They then assembled a database of deconstructed ads from all the
winners of some of Japan’s biggest award shows from the past 10
years — mapping and tagging each of the elements of the ads to
help determine what made them successful.
Confectionery giant Mondelez was the first client willing to put
the AI creative director to the test.
McCann pitted the robot against human creative director Mitsuru
Kuramoto to create an ad for Clorets Mint Tab that conveyed the
message: “Instant-effect fresh breath that lasts for 10 minutes.”
The client was asked to fill out a form with all the elements
they wanted to appear in the ad. The AI robot then scrambled the
database for ideas (humans were required to actually produce the
The two spots would then be thrown to a nationwide poll, where
consumers could vote for which ad they preferred.
See if you can guess which ad was created by a human and which
was created by a robot:
Ad Number One:
Ad Number Two:
Answer: The first was created by the AI creative
Fortunately for McCann’s human creative director, his ad narrowly
won 54% of the public vote.
However, when the 200-or-so advertising executives at the ISBA
Conference were asked which they preferred, they voted for the
crazy dog spot, directed by the robot. Clearly those advertising
executives were not the target market for this particular
campaign, but the experiment appeared to demonstrate just how
creative — and funny — AI can be.
Matsuzaka told the audience he has two big predictions: “The
future [ad] agency evolution will be based on its algorithms,
which are created by humans,” and “innovation only happens when
the traditional barriers of partnership are broken down.”
Next up for Matsuzaka’s trusty robotic steed? “Japanese Idol”.
The McCann Millennials team are now building out a commercial
database for the music industry to see if it can create the next
pop smash hit.