Following on from the success of campaigns like The&Partnership’s 2015 Lexus Hoverboard Project, ‘Driven By Intuition’ aims to highlight Lexus’ credentials as a brand at the cutting edge of technical innovation, testing the boundaries of humans and machines working together.
By exploring the importance of intuition between man and machine, the campaign aims to showcase the uniquely responsive features of the new Lexus ES executive sedan – a car that responds intuitively to the driver’s intentions and changing road and traffic conditions.
The script for the 60” film was written by The&Partnership’s first “AI creative” – a specialist automated script-writer built in collaboration with tech partner Visual Voice. The AI was given a unique understanding of human intuition which helped enable it to create a car advert to rival all others.
The AI, built with Visual Recognition support from IBM Watson, was ‘trained’ with 15 years’ worth of Cannes-Lions-winning car and luxury advertisements, and was primed with emotional intelligence data from Unruly to teach it which moments of those adverts connected most strongly with viewers. It was then coached in intuition via a bespoke experiment for The&Partnership by applied scientists MindX, based at the University of New South Wales. The study explored what makes somebody intuitive, as well as how people with high levels of intuition respond to car adverts.
The AI then produced the script for the campaign: a narrative rich in genuine human emotion and undistinguishable from something written by a human, bar some unexpected details. For example, the AI gives the character of the car sentience and surprising emotional depth - a machine telling the story of a machine coming to life. Alongside each line of the script, the AI produced a highly detailed data key, providing references spanning the 15 years’ worth of adverts it had studied to back up the effectiveness of each twist and turn in its storyline.
Some of the key findings from the AI in terms of the ingredients for a perfect car advert were that: the car doesn’t need to drive at all, unless this is part of the story; the driving should be peripheral to the story; characters in the story should have an emotional designator, for example a husband or father over driver or engineer; and the use of children helps increase the emotionality of an advert. Additionally, strong facial expressions are more powerful than strong language; ads are most effective where use of the spoken word is limited; use of a midpoint or twist is important to keep the story moving and to maintain interest; and the midpoint should involve an unexpected event, for example a crash or near miss.
The result is an unusual and engaging short drama: a 60” film telling the story of a Japanese Lexus Takumi Master craftsman who, having worked painstakingly on the new Lexus ES, releases his finished car out into the world – only for it to be kidnapped and nearly destroyed. At the crucial moment, however, the car comes to life to avoid its own test crash – demonstrating the engineering and design that make the new ES Lexus’s most intuitive model to date.
Tell us about your role in the creation of this work.
I wrote the initial concept and creative directed it into existence along with the rest of the Lexus team at The & Partnership, Visual Voice, IBM, Carnage, and of course the Lexus client.
Give us an overview of the campaign, what is it about?
Actually, despite all the ‘far out’ technology, at its heart this is a traditional approach to advertising. It’s a product truth dramatized. The Lexus ES is an ‘intuitive’ car, its safety features work alongside the driver – a driving experience made better by man and machine working together. So the idea was to dramatize that by getting man and machine to work together and create the advert.
Tell us about the details creative brief, what did it ask?
The creative brief was very simple: this is an intuitive car, for intuitive people (business people who prize intuition, having it, and living by it). We didn’t just want to say that, we wanted to create something that was a product of that process.
Which insight led to the creation of this piece of work?
Intuition. It is an interesting subject. What is it? How do you improve it? Are some people more prone to having it? This eventually led us to a company called MindX of the University of New South Wales who we commissioned to do a study into intuition. They tested people’s responses to different stimuli, words, images, sounds, to see what appealed to the intuitive part of their brain.
This would form the primary data set for our A.I, helping it create an ‘intuitive’ advert.
We also taught our AI the conventions of car advertising with 15 years’ worth of Cannes Lion winning ads – as well as feeding it with 15 years’ worth of Cannes-Lions-winning luxury advertising (because Lexus is a luxury brand and car ads tend to be weighted more towards the mainstream). Emotional data was added via Unruly, which had analysed thousands of car adverts. And finally it was also given Lexus brand guidelines, to ensure we didn’t just produce a generic Frankenstein monster of an ad.
Can you share with us any alternative ideas (if any) for this campaign? Why was this idea chosen?
There were several, but they mainly focused on ‘talking’ about intuition – whereas this idea lived it, was a creation of it. On top of that, this idea felt more daring. The client had to take a big leap into a relatively unknown area, and to trust that the process would create something that spoke of Lexus, and its ES being at the forefront of technology.
What was the greatest challenge that you and your team faced during development.
Just not knowing what we were going to make, which I suppose was also the most exciting thing. But it’s very hard to get a director on board without a script; impossible for a producer to plan and cost it; and difficult for a client to know what they are going to actually get.
What did you enjoy most about seeing this campaign through? Did you learn anything new from the experience?
Everyone who worked on it remaining truthful to the idea. It was an experiment, one which made me look at creativity in a different way. To value it even more. This was never about AI replacing humans; it was to see how AI and humans working together can create something neither would create on their own. It’s this that makes it interesting – not whether the advert itself is better or worse than all the ads that have gone before it.
Where do you see this campaign going in the future?
There were many findings we gleaned from the process. Some of these will help us in the creation of our next campaigns. But it’s not the intention to have AI ‘write’ ideas: this was just a relevant execution for this particular car. That said, there were lots of findings and insights that this process unearthed. In that sense, because of data’s empirical nature it can give a very trusted starting point, acting as a springboard for human creativity. The more it can help unleash our own creativity, the better.