Picture this: Mad Men returns for a final season set in the near future. The advertising agency Sterling, Cooper, Draper, Pryce is still a powerhouse though its namesakes have since retired. Actually, the entire human staff has been reduced to just a few account men, managers, and technicians. Where are the creatives? They’re in the computers.

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This scenario seems farfetched but it’s within reason. Times change. Today’s creatives are often bound by pop culture trends, Internet memes, and SEO compatibility. Advertising isn’t what it was in the 60s.

Ad agency McCann Japan realizes this. Tomorrow they’ll appoint what they claim is the first ever artificial intelligence creative director, a logic-based system named AI-CD ß. According to McCann Japan’s press release, AI-CD ß and eleven college graduates are to attend McCann Worldgroup’s new employee welcoming ceremony on April 1 – and no, this isn’t an April Fools joke. For all intents and purposes their roles will be the same. AI-CD ß will have actual accounts just like its colleagues. AI-CD ß will use his in-depth knowledge of advertising to pitch ideas and guide campaigns. AI-CD ß won’t however have a body, friends, or lunch break, but these freedoms will only allow it to meet timelines more efficiently.

ai creative director, mccann japan

McCann Japan’s depiction of their AI Creative Director, AI-CD ß

AI-CD ß is the product of the Creative Genome Project, which is a product of the six-month-old McCann Millennials taskforce, which – like it sounds – is a group of the agency’s members who were born between 1980 and 2000.

Shun Matsuzaka is the founder of McCann Millenials and a creative planner at the agency. He says his team’s decision to develop AI-CD ß was more one of practicality than pure curiosity. “Our team didn’t have a creative director, so we though, why not create one ourselves with artificial intelligence,” he states in the press release. “That’s how the Creative Genome Project got started.” Matsuzaka and the other Millenials hope to implement AI-CD ß across a number of campaigns. And, according Yasuyuki Katagi, President and CEO of McCann Japan, this isn’t the work of some rogue youngsters: “The whole company is 100 percent on board to support the development of our AI employee.”

In order for AI-CD ß to work like a true creative, the McCann Millennials team of researchers equipped the algorithm with data that includes deconstructed, tagged, and analyzed TV shows. As added grist to its mill, AI-CD ß is packed with information about the winners of All Japan Radio & Television Commersion Confederation’s CM Festival for the past ten years, which the system can data mine to identify the most appropriate themes and ideas for a particular product or message. McCann claims this makes AI-CD ß the first logic-based creative director whose direction is based on the historical success of TV commercials.

As a machine learning algorithm, AI-CD ß has been built to refine its future approaches based on evaluation of and feedback from previous campaigns. A successful campaign offers positive guidance for while an unsuccessful campaign steers the system in another direction.

It’s too early to tell whether AI-CD ß will be the next Don Draper. But McCann’s confidence in the system is intriguing. Even more intriguing is the agency’s confidence in their millennial taskforce who – in half a year – created an innovative and potentially industry-changing solution to a fundamental problem. Some creatives will surely worry about having their jobs automated. More will probably insist that creativity is by definition illogical, and thus can’t be supported by a logic-based algorithm. But until we see AI-CD ß in action we can only speculate on its success and admire the innovation of the young team who conceived it.

Image credit: AMC