In the last 20 years of digital advertising, technology, it seems, has often been used to squeeze out optimization, efficiency and impact.

But what if it could recalibrate the creative works that make all that happen?

That is what is beginning to happen, as a new generation of AI-driven technology sets its sights on the creative process.

Creative ad-tech rising

In this video interview with Anush Prabhu, MediaCom’s US Chief Strategy Officer and Global Chief Strategy Officer, Creative Transformation, Forrester VP and principal analyst Joanna O’Connell explains the new age of “creative advertising technology”.

O’Connell and her colleagues authored a report on the sector, which includes dynamic creative optimization (DCO) and similar tactics, in Q4 2020, covering companies like Adacado, Bannerflow, Celtra, Clinch, Flashtalking, Innovid, Jivox, RevJet, and SundaySky. She recently delivered this presentation on the topic.

O’Connell says it is made up of “companies that are solving for various parts through the creative process… everything from kind of ideation at the kind of beginning through to having things out in the wild”. And that creates two kinds of benefits:

Production – “Create 1,000, 10,000, 50,000 variations without paying a whole bunch of production people to do it manually. That saves money, that money can be reinvested in people or media or whatever.”

Performance – “Does it work better if I deliver a creative that’s more relevant or more timely or whatever, more resonant?”

Maturation through messiness

So, how big is creative advertising technology, and where will it go from here? Forrester’s O’Connell sees the category is an “awkward teenager”:

Immature stage: “We used technology as a substitute for good thinking.”

Awkward teenage years: “Where you’ve got the really cool kids that have leaned in and are doing the cool things, but it’s still sort of fringy.”

Mature: “Technology as an enabler of creativity, rather than technology as a substitute for creativity.”

AI for cultural understanding

The content of advertising could be revolutionized by technology, including artificial intelligence, some think.

MediaCom’s Prabhu says that includes “equalizing” for diversity. “Tthere is a new majority coming in that is more diverse, more in-tune with what we see America as,” he says. “Data is allowing us to get to know those audiences and talk to those audiences equally and in a better way.”

O’Connell says that is an appealing theory – but complexity will continue to make the reality difficult.

“You can do that in a very basic human way, but you can also do that using technology, using artificial intelligence to look for patterns in massive data sets that would help just generally point you in a better direction in terms of something like the zeitgeist,” she says. “But I don’t want to minimize actually how hard it really is.”

AI will come out of the shadows

Still, O’Connell predicts AI will show itself front-and-center in advertising, not just in the back-end.

“The thing about AI,” she says, “is that it is omnipresent in advertising, we just don’t know it – in everything from planning to optimization to creative (through) natural language processing and … machine learning.”

“(It will go from a) behind-the-scenes, important workhorse to something that starts to also feel like it’s front and center in terms of the consumer experience.

“And I think we’re going to see so much more there.”

This video is part of the Global Forum on Responsible Media produced by Beet.TV, GroupM with the 4A’s.  This track on creativity, advanced technology and advertising is sponsored by IBM Watson Advertising.  For more videos on this topic, visit this page.  For more information on IBM Watson Advertising, please visit this page