21st November 2018
World's first TV advert scripted entirely by AI
Luxury carmaker Lexus has used IBM's Watson to create the first television advert scripted entirely by artificial intelligence.
Lexus – in partnership with two London agencies and Oscar-winning director Kevin Macdonald – created the new "Driven by Intuition" film shown above, using a bespoke AI with access to multiple data sources. IBM's Watson, which became famous in 2011 for winning the Jeopardy! quiz show, looked at past award-winning luxury adverts and intelligence on human emotional responses. The resulting story was then brought to life by Macdonald, whose credits include 2006's "The Last King of Scotland", Whitney Houston biopic "Whitney" and the Oscar-winning documentary "One Day in September".
This world-first collaboration between artificial intelligence and a renowned craftsman aimed to test the boundaries of how humans and machines can work together in harmony – exploring the importance of intuition in the relationship between the two.
The advert, an engaging short drama, shows responsive features of the new Lexus ES executive sedan. The minute-long film tells the story of a Lexus Takumi Master Craftsman who completes his painstaking work and releases the new vehicle into the world, only for it to be taken away and threatened with destruction. Just at the crucial moment, the car’s automatic emergency braking system cuts in to save the day, demonstrating the value and effectiveness of the intuitive technology built into the car.
According to Lexus, "this innovative and creative approach to the project is perfectly aligned with the qualities of the new ES." In real life, the car is constantly aware of and instantly responsive to the driver's intentions, as well as changing road and traffic conditions. Its safety systems can recognise hazards and automatically initiate braking, steering and driver alerts to prevent an accident, or reduce the consequences if a collision does occur.
Lexus' creative agency, The&Partnership London, collaborated with technical partner Visual Voice to create the AI scriptwriter, using IBM Watson to analyse a range of external audio, text and visual data and extract insight on what makes content award-worthy. From this, the AI could contribute to the creation of a script outline that would be emotionally intelligent and entertaining for the audience. Once this process had evolved, Kevin Macdonald was approached to direct the work and bring the story to life.
To produce the original story, the AI was "trained" with 15 years' worth of car and luxury advertisements that have won prestigious Cannes Lions international awards for creativity. It was also primed with emotional intelligence data, from video marketplace Unruly, to learn which moments connected most strongly with viewers and understand how actions, objects, locations and emotions are used in different combinations and sequences to communicate the desired messages.
In using so much information about previous adverts, it was important to avoid the risk of producing something that felt familiar, or too mass-market in tone. Thus, additional data on the Lexus brand and the project guideline were input into the AI, to keep the script original and on-brand.
Macdonald explains that he was immediately intrigued by the concept and realised that it required a different approach from a conventional film: "When I was handed the script, the melodrama of the story convinced me of its potential. The fact the AI gave a fellow machine sentience, placed it in a sort of combat situation, and then had it escaping into the sunset was such an emotional response from what is essentially a digital platform. The charmingly simplistic way the AI wrote the story was both fascinating in its interpretation of human emotion, and yet still unexpected enough to give the film a clearly non-human edge."
"This was both a highly challenging and deeply fascinating project to have had the privilege to be a part of. From the outset, it was almost impossible to know what level of quality or intelligibility the AI would produce," said Alex Newland, Co-Founder of Visual Voice. "To see the project brought together with such a rich finished piece is extremely satisfying and exciting to witness. We believe this project moves AI-generated content into the beginnings of true, stand-alone creative merit."
"I thought I'd be writing an ad with the assistance of AI," said Dave Bedwood, Creative Partner at The&Partnership London. "Instead it took over and wrote the whole script: a machine telling the story of a machine coming to life."
"We applaud Lexus, Visual Voice and The&Partnership London for being first movers in harnessing the power of Watson AI and analytics as a springboard for the creative process," said Reece Medway, Media and Entertainment Specialist, IBM Watson, UK and Ireland. "The magic of storytelling will always come to life in the human creative process – and using Watson to identify the common attributes for award-winning creative work is an example of how man and machine will collaborate in the AI era. It was a privilege to be part of this process."
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