McCann's AI Creative Director Couldn't Top a Campaign By an Actual Human

When Ordinary People (in Japan) Chose the Best Ad, the Robot Lost

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Man vs. machine at McCann
Man vs. machine at McCann Credit: Clorets

A human just beat McCann Erickson Japan's AI creative director in a challenge for the most effective campaign. Still, there's bad news for creatives worried computers might one day replace them: The race was pretty close.

Back in June, the agency created two commercials for Mondelez brand Clorets Mint Tab and asked ordinary people to vote online on which one communicated the product message better.

One ad was dreamed up by Mitsuru Kuramoto, a creative director who is also a TV writer. The other was suggested by AI-CD ß, a project conceived by millennials who work at the agency. The human won 54%-46%.

Both creative directors were asked to conceive a spot to communicate the idea that one mint freshens breath immediately, with the sensation lasting 10 minutes. The Japanese campaign ran online from June 6 to Aug. 28; people didn't know which creative did which commercial when they voted.

The winning video was impressionistic (especially for a breath mint ad), involving blue sky, a barefoot calligrapher and the sound of a paintbrush on canvas.

The commercial from AI-CD ß was about a shaggy dog-man who pops a breath freshener and then flies through the air with minty green sparks coming out of his mouth.

To be fair, AI-CD ß had a lot of help from people. It's basically a data program that analyzes past creative work and proposes a general direction for a new campaign. Its suggestion in this case was pretty abstract: "convey 'wild' with a song in an urban tone, leaving an image of refreshment with a feeling of liberation." Humans took over from there.

McCann Japan is getting a lot of mileage out of the robot-as-creative-director concept (or stunt), announcing with great fanfare back in March that an "AI creative director" would join its staff, and then pitting it against a human to create a campaign.

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