M&C’s Kemp foresees AI taking over from copywriting

My thanks to Business Insider, via George Parker’s Adscam, for this one.

camilla kemp 2.jpg.pngCamilla Kemp (left) newly-ensconced as COO of M&C Saatchi, speaking about an “artificially intelligent” billboard the agency has installed in London’s Oxford Street, says:

“God, if the sophistication behind that really takes off, you might not need copywriters any more. You’re basically getting a very intelligent computer to figure out what to say and even who to say it to. So it might be able to recognise who you are and say, ‘we know people like you…'”

“We have a partnership with Queen Mary University of London and they have some very clever people who sort of create things that nobody else knows how to do. One of the things that was created last year was an AI billboard. What that did was it essentially learned over time what combination of image, text, product, and individual words got the most attention with people walking past the billboard.” Camilla has a BSc in psychology.

M&C Saatchi has form in these matters, of course. Last year it announced it had cracked the sectret of effective advertising via this algorithm:


Although we’re heard remarkably little about it since. Maybe the volleys of rotten cabbages hurled at the agency upon this revelation have put them off.

Anyway, what to make of Camilla’s prognosis for the business? Let’s be kind, first off, and suppose she was just trying to give Business Insider an interesting quote – in which she clearly succeeded. And posters can be clever things these days, perhaps worryingly so. As for copywriters…thought they were extinct anyway.

But M&C might do better to stick to its last – human-produced advertising presumably – for a while without seeking miracle cures for problems which probably don’t exist.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.