Honestly, nobody knows for sure. Some believe that Artificial Intelligence (AI) will take the communications sector by storm. Others think that is just nonsense and that people are overreacting. Whether you like it or not, you will probably have to deal with AI. On the job or at home, AI will find its way into your life. Like myself, every professional who spoke at Evolution Lab 2017 had a rather positive outlook on AI. Except for one man. Ogilvy’s Rory Sutherland made sure to keep our feet on the ground at the end of the conference.

AI spices up your job

AI as we know it, is not what you see in the Terminator movies. In communications, we currently use the term AI to describe self-learning algorithms. These codes notice patterns and adapt to them. As you can imagine, these algorithms thrive in a data rich environment. You might not like what I’m about to tell you. Your job is going to change. A lot!

At the Evolution Lab Conference, ‘Advertising in the Age of Artificial Intelligence’, there were many examples of how AI will impact the job market in the advertising industry, but the following ones stood out to me.

Liam Brennan, Global Digital Director at Mediacom, gave us a simple example. Analysts would normally require 72 hours to compile a bunch of data – AI could do it in 30 minutes. Does this mean those analysts are out of a job? No! They will now have more time to analyse the data instead of wasting all their time compiling it.  Don’t see AI as a threat. See it as a potential ally. You no longer need to go through all those boring Excel files and compile the data yourself. Let AI handle the boring bit, while you focus on making an actual analysis of what it is generating for you.

In my opinion, this is a good thing. In times like these, you have to be fast and agile. Things are constantly changing and we cannot afford to waste time. Besides, it makes the job a lot more engaging and fun. This might be what the industry needed to attract more young people to enter this job market.

However, data isn’t the only field where AI will bring about a massive change. If you’re a creative person, you might’ve been thinking that you’re safe from all of this. I mean, AI being creative? Your jobs should be safe, right? Wrong!

Samuel Ellis, former Innovation Director and Consultant for M&C Saatchi, told us about their experiment with creative AI together with the Japanese office of McCann. The latter made an algorithm that functioned as a creative director in order to produce a creative ad campaign. The algorithm actually won the competition, beating a human creative director! Don’t believe me? Check out their ads here.

“Hold up. AI as a creative director? I thought you said AI was not a threat to us!” I hear you think. That’s because it isn’t. AI can’t generate original ideas. All those small ads can be handled by the AI, while we focus our attention on the big jobs. AI can be that little digital sidekick you’ve always wanted. Or is that just me? Radoslaw Brzuska, Chief Innovation Officer at Dentsu Aegis Network Polska, summarised it well: “AI augments our reality, it doesn’t change it”.

Rory, the killjoy

Who could not help being excited after hearing those professionals talk about the endless possibilities of AI all day? They had me convinced. AI is the future and we will have to deal with it. Enter Rory Sutherland, who proceeded to give everyone a much needed reality check. According to him, AI on its own is just like economics: borderline useless.

I can almost imagine your faces right now, disbelief written all over them. However, Rory made a good argument. Both AI and economics assume that the human being is rational. That they will always make a decision because it’s the best option. But let’s face it, we are far from rational. This is where he referred to his almost legendary TED talk about perceived value, which you can watch here. A human will always make decisions based on what they feel is right. Perception and emotion are two things that AI simply cannot take into account. Humanity is just too fickle and unpredictable for AI to be accurate enough to operate on its own.  This is why, at least according to Rory, AI will never endanger our jobs.

This is where I will have to respectfully disagree. For now, he is right. AI is unable to fully predict a human’s whims. What we have to keep in mind though, is that AI is still in its infancy. I predict that there will be rapid advances in the field of AI in the coming decade. In a few years, we might laugh at what we call AI today. You simply cannot afford to ignore AI now. If you ignore it now, you won’t be able to catch up when it breaks through. This is when you will be left behind by the competition. The ones that thought ahead.

What about the students?

Our industry is changing. Some even call this the fourth industrial revolution. AI will partially take over your job. However, this doesn’t mean you will have to look for a new job. On the contrary. Your current job will be freed of the little inconveniences and be more enjoyable than before.

“When times change, change along with them.” That’s my message and my goal. Two friends and I will be starting our own agency called “guapa” once we graduate. We plan to integrate AI right from the get-go. This is why I’ve already picked up some classes in Python. A good coding knowledge is going to be an incredibly valuable skill in the future, which is why I am trying to acquire it as soon as I can.

Even if you don’t have to write it yourself, you’ll still have to be able to work with it. If you have a basic knowledge of coding, you’ll be able to do so much more with it. In these competitive times, you have to make sure to use every opportunity. Knowing how to code might just be what gives you the edge over the competition.

That’s my advice to my fellow students. Don’t stop learning where your classes stop teaching. Look for trends such as AI and try to own them. You don’t have to be afraid that it will be a waste of time if the trend doesn’t break through. Place yourself in the shoes of a future employer. Who would you rather hire: someone who stays in their lane and does nothing or someone who shows initiative and is eager to learn new things?

As you might’ve noticed I am very enthusiastic about AI and the possibilities it will bring along with it. Whatever you decide to do, take this last bit with a grain of salt. I might be a little bit too positive or value AI too highly. What can I say?

I’m just a dreamer. Let’s just hope that I’m not the only one.

Brecht Beertens
Brecht used to be a design student. Simply designing something wasn’t enough. He wanted to know everything there was to know about brands and advertising. Back to school it was. This time at PXL University College. He’s currently working on his own start-up with two friends. When he’s not in school, you can usually find him reading, planning a trip or playing video games.