As ad creatives, celebrities and media types wandered around the Cannes Lions Festival this year, an AI helper was on hand to guide them. From Google’s machine learning to Omnicom’s creative chatbots, this was the year that robots took over Cannes.
Bots have become increasingly popular over the past year, and are often seen as more convenient than apps. At this year’s Cannes Lions Festival they were at centre stage.
A key advantage of chatbots on smartphones is that they don’t require the user to download anything other than Facebook Messenger or Kik—two popular messaging apps that have helped raise the profile of the emerging type of technology.
We look at some of the major chatbot players in Cannes this year:
Chatbot guide from IV.AI (and ‘smart’ bartenders)
For the annual advertising and awards event last week on the French Riviera, attendees could use Facebook Messenger to access the official Cannes Lions bot to get a schedule of awards, plan out what to wear or find directions to the next talk.
The bot, created by IV.AI, a Los Angeles-based artificial intelligence platform and sponsored by media agency PHD, understands both various prompts it provides and also questions typed in by the user, creating a more natural back-and-forth between human and bot.
To create the bot, IV.AI used the Cannes Lions API to access data about the festival while also ingesting data related to frequently asked questions and the answers that go with them.
It also uses data from Google Maps, local intel and other information about the agencies and individuals receiving the highly competitive and highly coveted awards. (This is the first year Cannes has an official bot, which IV.AI’s office in London created in just six weeks.)
IV.AI also built a “smart” bartender at the festival, which serves attendees cocktails based on their social media posts. When they order a drink, the AI platform serves them one based on their social profile. The platform also uses a camera to analyse each person’s emotional reaction and determines the person’s next drink based on how they liked the last one.
How Google machine learning is re-shaping ad creativity
At one key noote speech at Cannes, Google explained how Machine Learning is providing insights into human behaviour, and how passionate engineers and policy experts are using this knowledge to reimagine products, foster creativity, and even combat online extremism.
Speaking at Cannes, David Singleton, VP of Engineering at Google, discussed how some of Google’s components are being made available to businesses and researchers, such as Google CloudML, a set of APIs that anyone can access to make use of simple machine learning on the Google Cloud.
Meanwhile TensorFlow is an open-source machine learning library that is available for individuals, institutions and enterprises to use on their own machine learning projects outside of Google.
“These tools have already helped businesses large and small make significant savings on some hugely time-consuming tasks,” Singleton said. “From automating the sorting of cucumbers in Japanese farms, to helping Airbus Defence and Space automatically remove cloud formations from their satellite imagery, TensorFlow and CloudML have already taken over many arduous, complex tasks, freeing up time and mental resources that can then be spent on the kind of imaginative and creative tasks where the human mind excels.”
The firm also showcased its creative app quickdraw, an amazing AI-assisted doodle tool:
Ginger the Robot wows crowds with comedy
Can a social roboticist calm any of the base fears about a cyborg uprising? Social roboticist Dr Heather Knight brought her robot assistant Ginger along to show the importance of ‘coding for kindness’
Knight appeared at the ‘Can data make you funnier?’ session at Cannes Lions Innovation, joined by Chris Clarke of DigitasLBi. At the outset, Clarke framed the discussion about bringing more humanity into our tech: “How do we code for kindness, for empathy?”
Knight wants to make our devices more charismatic, and robot sidekick Ginger, who joined her on stage, certainly ticks that box. The audience laughed as she (Ginger is female) treated them to an impromptu wellbeing session, and told a couple of self-effacing jokes.
How do these two worlds of science and creativity intersect? Knight sees an inversion: “As an engineer you’re trained to make things break and make them robust, that’s your goal. You give an artist technology and they imagine what’s possible.”
She continues: “Artists work with the tools of their time and so working with tech is an incredible opportunity to work with society. What creatives do really well is ask questions. Working with them is mind-expanding, because they push the potential of what the tech can do, whereas we look at what it can’t.”
Meet Omnicom’s newest data scientist: A chatbot
Announced at Cannes, Omnicom-owned Annalect launched an internal chatbot called Annalect Utility Bot Interface (or AUBI) that produces data faster than the agency’s team of data scientists can handle.
The aim is to make Annalect’s data more readily available to anyone within Omnicom—from creatives, media buyers and strategists—that works with Annalect.
“Chatbot technology has arrived as a form of artificial intelligence to facilitate automated exchange between a user and an entity,” said Slavi Samardzija, global CEO at Annalect. “We said how about we build a chatbot to bridge this gap between a super powerful data scientist and an end user—a strategist, a creative director, a planner, a buyer.”
For example, Annalect database includes stats called “clickstream journey” that tracks which websites someone goes to before and after they buy something. A car brand, for instance, could see that a 34-year-old in Dallas shops at Amazon.com in the morning, goes to TripAdvisor in the early evening and watches Hulu at night.
“To use this historically, you had to contact a data scientist,” said Anna Nicanorova, director of Annalect Labs. “We’ve created this choose-your-own adventure where the bot is trying to guide you to what’s available and what’s not.”
“Everyone talks about data-driven marketing, but that really comes down to a series of questions: Who is my audience? What are the insights about that audience? What’s the optimal mix? How should we measure? What’s your content strategy?” Samardzija explained. “Each one of those questions sits on one or more data sets, a bunch of lines of code and algorithms to deliver that. Any of these utilities can take an hour to explain—now we have a bot that sits on top of it.”
To launch AUBI at Cannes, Annalect showcased how the technology works by answering questions like “Where can I get food in Cannes?” In addition to recommending a restaurant, AUBI also pulls in a map.
Tencent gives WeChat an AI boost
The Chinese maker of the popular WeChat application has a machine learning agenda that rivals Google and IBM. Last year, Tencent built an AI lab with 50 scientists doing AI research and 100 engineers who could apply it. The spokesperson said that’s actually small compared to similar teams at Google and Chinese search engine Baidu, but it’s a start.
At Cannes, the firm announced that WeChat wants to build expertise in machine learning across a range of functionalities: advanced speech recognition (understanding spoken language); natural language processing (understanding the context behind unstructured text or speech); and computer vision (facial, image and video recognition). All of these capabilities are built on a machine learning foundation, so the systems are designed to improve with use.
The lab lets Tencent apply AI technologies quickly across its entire portfolio, and it’s already pushed image recognition into its QQ app to improve photo transfers.
Eventually, Tencent wants to offer its AI through a platform model so that if another vendor needs an instance of gaming AI or intelligence for a chatbot, it can get the core tech from Tencent. It’s very similar to how IBM has been offering Watson through Bluemix.
Finally- Publicis quits Cannes to focus on AI
If any more evidence were needed on how marketers were prirotising AI over old-fashioned creativity, one of the biggest players made a shock announcement. Ad giant Publicis Groupe shocked the marketing world by declaring it would pull out of the event next year. Publicis is currenly the third-largest ad agency network. Instead of spending money on award entries and hotel rooms at the festival, it will now invest the same money on a new AI product.
At Cannes, the network announced it will begin work on Marcel—the very first professional assistant powered by AI and machine learning.
Arthur Sadoun, the new CEO of Publicis Groupe hinted at the news when he took over the role from Maurice Lévy at the start of June. In a video address to employees, Sadoun noted that he wanted to shift Publicis from a network to a platform.
“There is no way we are going to be a platform if we don’t build one. We want to build a platform at the core of our organization that will totally transform the way we interact, in that it will actually change the way we operate and give another meaning and another future to our talents,” Sadoun said.
By putting AI development ahead of a creative festival, it seems the future really is with the robots.