Spikes Asia 2015: What if your CEO were an algorithm?

By Ashwini Gangal , afaqs!, Singapore | In Digital | September 14, 2015
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Given the breakneck pace at which Artificial Intelligence is being researched and developed, this might not be that far-fetched an idea, after all.

If we had to single out a buzzword that dominated the conversation, both on and off stage, at Spikes Asia 2015, it would have to be - not digital, not creativity, but technology. Speakers from across the globe spoke about how the future belongs to the brand that can successfully integrate technology into creativity to produce engaging campaigns.

Taking the tech conversation a step further, was ad agency AKQA Tokyo's group creative director Claudia Cristovao. Over a span of 30 minutes, she spoke about the concept of Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) and the role human creativity can play in an era dominated by machines.

By 2020, it is predicted, 85 per cent of all customers will manage their relationships without any interaction with a human being, at any stage of the purchase cycle. Also, by then, the most engaging brand experiences will be delivered to humans by machines, goes the second part of the prediction. The question Cristovao attempted to both ask the audience, and answer, was - how will creativity evolve in this age of "seismic technological and cultural transformation?"

Creativity, she predicted, will evolve accordingly. Just like it did from the bygone "broadcast era" (dominated by radio, print and then television) to the current "digital era" (one she insisted we're in, but are rapidly exiting). We're headed towards what she calls the "era of Artificial Intelligence."

While the broadcast era was characterised by one-way communication between brands and consumers, the digital era allows for two-way communication between them. The era of A.I. will afford an even more seamless way for brands and consumes to interact with one another. And technology will be the enabler of this change. "Until say, two or three years back, technology was a rough, clunky, mostly behind-the-scenes thing. Now, that's starting to change," said AKQA's Cristovao.

After talking about more predictions to the tune of machines out-thinking humans, she threw a fascinating question to the audience - How long before we have a creative director or a CEO who is not a human, but an algorithm?

She then went on to share some facts to remind us how much human adoption of technology has grown over the decades: In 1997, the total number of internet users was 120.7 million. In 2015, that number is 13.1 billion. In 1997, there were 1.1 million websites. In 2015, that number is 1.1 billion. "The more connected we are, the more fragmented we are..." she said.

How best can a creative agency equip itself to face this new tech-driven era? To answer that, Cristovao fell back on some of the basic tenets of AKQA. "Embrace youth, target 'the five per cent' and trust your intuition," she said.

In the context of the first suggestion, she went on to talk about her agency's Creative Technology internship programme called 'The Future Academy'; each quarter, thinkers across disciplines are chosen to spend 12 weeks at AKQA, in a move to keep the agency's talent pool mentally fresh and young.

As regards the 'five per cent' rule, she explained, "It takes just five per cent to influence the entire pool," saying brands ought to focus on targeting the top five per cent of its consumer base, that is, the pool that comprises existing and potential loyalists who can then go on to become influencers and ambassadors.

She ended with a quote that reminded the audience that no matter what one says about the impending domination of machines and technology, the greatest power in the world is human imagination.

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