Ashwini Gangal

Adfest 2016: Of Artificial Intelligence, Big Data and Farting Squirrels

A quick round up of some of the interesting sessions of Day One at Adfest 2016.

Did you know that client briefs in China tend to be as obscure as this one? - "Be cute."

Or that consumers in Taiwan barely ever use their mobile phones to shop?

Markets, and the behaviour of consumers therein, can be so starkly different regardless of the geographical proximity of said markets. The 'other' market the speaker was comparing Taiwan to, was China, not India. (India came up a lot in the context of Facebook and Free Basics).

These are a few of my big takeaways from Day One at Adfest 2016, Pattaya, Thailand. The seminars brought with them some interesting insights about - and from speakers who hail from - oriental markets, a whole of ad films that the speakers played during their presentations, and alas, one too many clichés about technology meeting creativity.

Few months back, at Spikes Asia, Singapore, a Tokyo-based speaker who works at an advertising agency called AKQA, during the course of her talk on the implications of Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) on the creative fraternity, asked the audience to entertain the idea of reporting to an algorithm, instead of a CEO.

At Adfest, Eric Cruz (ECD, AKQA, Shanghai), in a session titled 'Creativity in the age of the superhuman', spoke about the rise of A.I. and how it could actually render its creators - humans - redundant, in the long term. Could robots take over jobs in the creative industry? If the job is repetitive and menial, then yes. Not if creative intelligence and human imagination are the core elements that drive the job and the work it entails.

But then again, South Korea's Lee Sedol, a professional player of a complicated board game called 'Go', was beaten by Google's A.I. company DeepMind, at the same game.

So are creative folk facing unemployment or not? Turns out, though cloud computing and robotics are growing, they can only take over about half the jobs in the advertising industry; the other half will still require the human brain at its creative best. This was like a cautionary message to lazy CDs in the audience.

Eric also spoke about the importance of big data to the modern day adman. If iron in the industrial age is what land was in the agricultural age, then in the information age, i.e. today, the three-way analogy leads us to data.

The amalgamation of A.I., that is, automation, and Gen-Z, a generation of youngsters driven by passion, leads to the rise of what experts call the 'leisure economy', where work is pleasure.

In a separate presentation, Jason Chang (creative director, Cheil, Shanghai) and Eric Hu (executive producer and founder of computer graphics firm Republic Studios, Shanghai) spoke about how advertising professionals must use technology to bring their creative ideas alive in a "playful" manner; they were referring to the pleasure of watching simple, animation-based images in ads, as opposed to dull images of, well, 'real people'.

Then there was an entire discussion around the digital landscape in China and how it affects "marcom creativity." Esther Wong (ECD, TBWA, Hong Kong), Jennifer Hu (CCO, O&M, Taiwan; she spoke Chinese and used an interpreter on stage) and Maureen Sherrard (creative producer at a Beijing-headquartered creative agency called Goodstein), in a session moderated by Mengfei Zhou (features editor of a Chinese magazine called Longyin Review), spoke about why there's no need to wait for the client brief at all. That's because, today, "data" - the big kind, yes - "is the brief."

While indeed dig data helps adwomen like them create targetted advertising that's meaningful to the consumer, it, nevertheless, comes with a downside - people feel stalked; privacy policies must be taken seriously, they all agreed, by the end of their session.

The last session I attended was one by Sergio Spaccavento (ECD, Conversion Agency, a digital marketing firm in Milan), who spoke about viral marketing and the importance of humour in commercial messages.

Of course, humour comes at a price - censorship. And censorship in Italy, where Sergio's from, is bizarre. Sample this: An ad for breath mint brand Vigorsol was banned in Italy, because it shows an animated squirrel passing gas. In the sanitised version of the commercial - the one that's aired in Italy - the squirrel burps.

While we're on the subject of humour, here's a look at some of the funny ads Sergio showed the audience.

Adfest 2016: Of Artificial Intelligence, Big Data and Farting Squirrels
Adfest 2016: Of Artificial Intelligence, Big Data and Farting Squirrels
Adfest 2016: Of Artificial Intelligence, Big Data and Farting Squirrels
Adfest 2016: Of Artificial Intelligence, Big Data and Farting Squirrels
Adfest 2016: Of Artificial Intelligence, Big Data and Farting Squirrels
This year, Adfest is a four-day-long festival; usually, the organisers call it a wrap after three days.
Have news to share? Write to us