Best of 2018 Digital/Integrated No. 4: The Times of London and Rothco Help JFK 'Deliver' His Final Speech Via A.I.

Amibitious project was the brainchild of executive creative director at Irish agency Rothco

Published On
Jun 20, 2018

Editor's Pick

Through New Year’s on Creativity, we’ll be counting down the best work and ideas of the year in various categories: TV/Film/Branded Content, Print/Out of Home/Design/Experiential and Digital/Integrated/Social.

At No. 4 in digital/integrated, Irish agency Rothco and the Times of London leveraged data to "enable" late President John F. Kennedy to deliver the speech he was meant to present in 1963 in Dallas had he not been assassinated. The agency teamed with an audio tech company to analyze more than 800 of JFK’s analog recordings in order to reconstruct his words--which prove to have startling resonance in today’s current political environment. The campaign went on to win the 2018 Cannes Lions Creative Data Grand Prix.

Original story:

Fifty five years after he was assassinated, President John F. Kennedy has delivered his final speech--thanks to artificial intelligence.

The Times of London has brought the ambitious project to life, using technology to recreate his voice speaking the words he was set to speak on the day he was killed in Dallas. The speech aired on the Times website as a 22-minute video today.

The project was originally the brainchid of Alan Kelly, executive creative director at Irish agency Rothco, who had a lifelong fascination with Kennedy. "I was watching a documentary about the president's Dallas trip and I had never really thought about where he was on his way to when he was shot," he told the Times in today's article. He discovered the existence of the speech, looked it up online and "was blown away by how prescient it is to today."

Rothco and The Times worked with CereProc, a British audio tech company, to analyze recordings from Kennedy and build a database to deliver the words of the Dallas speech. The process included reviewing 831 analog recordings of JFK speeches and interviews, applying spectrum analysis tools to improve acoustic environment and match them across samples and isolating 41 phonemes for American English (the sounds that can be used to make any word) and stitching the small units of speech back together.

The speech was be supported by a wider campaign including cutdowns, teasers and promotional material on social, radio, digital, and print.

The campaign went on to win the 2018 Grand Prix for Creative Data at Cannes.

Bas Korsten, creative partner of JWT Amsterdam, who chaired the Creative Data jury, said that the complexity of the project, the impact of the campaign in wider media and the fact that the technology is now being used to help ALS patients all contributed to its win.

He added that there was some debate over whether the project was a commercial or an editorial one--if the latter, it would not have been eligible. However, because it was part of the Times' "Find Your Voice" campaign, it was allowed.