Zara Kok
Jun 30, 2023

From data to humanity, AI tops the chatter and creativity at Cannes Lions 2023

Though there is no putting the AI genie back in the bottle, with an open mind, we can look forward to an exciting new age of creativity, because AI-powered or human-made, a good story always wins.

Zara Kok, The Secret Little Agency
Zara Kok, The Secret Little Agency

We’re back from Cannes, contemplating our supposed looming demise (or rise, depending on who you ask) against the machines, with a tan from La Croisette or the 5-day baking glare of a screen.

This year, A.I. has undoubtedly made its presence known and continues to take us on a whole rollercoaster ride of emotions—excitement, curiosity, confusion, fear, worry, fatigue… excitement again. It’s wild. And, of course, it is AI (artificial intelligence).

Out of this creeps in the sort of nervous conversations that come with a constantly changing unknown. I can’t help but notice that our visceral reaction is less about the threat it poses to our jobs and more so a reflection of how our industry responds to newness. But perhaps it is time we stop jumping the gun, and unnecessarily spooking ourselves over unpredictable conditions.

Looking back, we can see that advertising has survived multiple death scares. We thought television would kill print, but it didn’t. The internet would dent TV ads, but it didn’t. We have since dealt with going mobile and the rise of social media and streaming entertainment, but we’re still standing today and much stronger for it. So, if history is anything to go by, we are hardwired to not just survive but also thrive.

Yes, in the case of AI, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the rapid pace at which it is evolving. But we can keep up if we remind ourselves to practice an open mind, keep experimenting, and embrace the spontaneity of the journey.

Sure, the road to ‘new’ is messy and unpredictable. But here’s why it’s worth doing.

Ironically, AI will make us more acutely aware of our humanity. It was never a competitor—it is an ally. And it will give a fresh dimension to the work that never existed before.

Its very existence will push us to reach deeper within ourselves to bring out even more unique stories that hit at the heart of the lived human experience. AI’s super brain will uncover unexpected results and connect data points in innovative ways. However, it will still rely on us to tell the story to each other in a meaningful and powerful way.

Let’s look at the work at Cannes Lions 2023 that did just that. 

Campaign: The Artois Probability
Award: Creative Data Grand Prix

Stella Artois was first brewed in 1366 in Belgium, 657 years ago. The Artois Probability did this by combining their own historical data with art history data to draw an imaginative connection between an epic brand history that felt far removed to art pieces that the world already knew and loved—making it feel all too real for us today. It almost felt like we were starting to think of the brand as a person who existed all those years ago. Pinpointing the brand’s presence in art history gave the campaign a surprising realism and exemplary of what the blend of science and art can do.

Campaign: Hunger Station - The Subconscious Order
Award: Creative Commerce Grand Prix

The body knows you faster than you do. Hunger Station’s use of eye tracking technology, advanced algorithms and proprietary food topic modelling, made for a very intuitive idea that spoke to hungry people facing choice paralysis everywhere. Using a range of AI-powered tools, The Subconscious Order was able to build a concept around a very distinct type of indecision that is relatable and typical of the oh-so-fickle human being.

Campaign: Shah Rukh Khan My-Ad
Award: Grand Prix for Creative Effectiveness

Shah Rukh Khan-My-Ad used machine learning and face mapping technology to empower small businesses in a way that levelled the marketing playing field and made them feel truly heard. In doing so, it acknowledged a very human experience of being a business owner: The perseverance to keep going as a David among the Goliaths.

If we continue to market to actual human beings, there will always be a need for ideas with that undeniable humanity that comes from someone reaching into a lived experience.

We see that in British Airways’Outdoor' campaign, with powerful reasons to fly such as ‘Because I made a promise,’ ‘I still love her’ and ‘Life is short’ written in a beautiful way that carries the subtle weight of a real life lived.

Or how Skinny chose to keep it personal and anchored the thought that people still get a kick out of hearing their voices on the radio—no matter how technologically advanced we get.

There will always be room for a good story—AI-powered or not. What matters is creating that magical space for different types of ideas to take shape.

What an exciting time for us to experience technology, opening a world of creative possibilities beyond our wildest imagination. And while we still indulge in the entertaining debate of AI versus human creatives, let’s also just take a beat and not get too distracted. The mission here is to stay open-minded to the challenges that come with anything new and evolve with it to tell even more meaningful and impactful stories.

If we ever need a reminder, we can look back at history and remember that the bravery to seize and shape newness already exists in our industry DNA.

We have reinvented ourselves before, and we will do it again.

So, bring it on. 

Zara Kok is the creative director at The Secret Little Agency.

Campaign Asia

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