Cannes Briefing: As generative AI plays out, OpenAI believes AI development is a ‘shared responsibility’

Digiday covers the latest from marketing and media at the annual Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. More from the series →

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CANNES, France — Throughout the Palais, the various beaches, cabanas and walking down the Croisette, it’s impossible to go anywhere in Cannes without overhearing someone talking about AI. Or joking about how AI is everywhere. You’ve probably also seen clear signifiers that a company is not only using AI but has been for some time; Meta’s Beach, for example, has a timeline of the company’s AI innovations dating its first use of an AI-enabled feed back to 2006. It’s almost as if the industry is playing defense, ready to say, “Hey, don’t worry! We’re on top of it!” to anyone worried that the ad world is somehow behind when it comes to AI. (Though the introduction of new technology and ad land embracing said new technology with arms wide open — even if it’s a dud — to let clients know they’ve got it covered is a regular occurance.) 

But for all the conversations, jokes and signs, much of that chatter is still surface level. On panels and in conversations there’s a common refrain that AI is simply a new tool in the latest line of tools for creatives to do more, do it better and do it faster. Comparisons to previous systems of working that have since evolved with the introduction of new technology, like say how illustrations were swapped for photography or noting that AI is akin to the introduction of Photoshop, happen with a startling frequency. Much of what’s said is focused on the need for humans as well as the new technology. There is a seemingly unshakable optimism about what AI can do for the ad world if the ad world learns to use AI as a tool — despite the many lingering questions about what AI will do to creatives or if there will be harm to the ad world. 

“AI is a tool, but an incredibly powerful one,” said Brian Yamada, chief innovation officer at VML. “Some have compared it more to fire than photoshop. But I would not underestimate its ability to supercharge us and transform both our ways of working and elevate and enhance our work.” 

What that AI transformation looks like is, of course, still being determined. Again when many of the conversations noted that the emphasis that AI is dependent on how humans use it was another repeated notion. “AI should be used to unlock creativity in ways we haven’t been able to before. It’s still a people/platform partnership and requires human intervention to ensure emotionality, connection and accuracy,” said Jessica Vo, global lead, marketing orchestration at Rapp. “I believe AI should be included alongside traditional approaches, as long as it’s used with transparency.”

Many of the panel conversations commented on as much including Monday afternoon’s highly sought after panel with Accenture Song CEO David Droga and OpenAI’s CTO Mira Murati at the Palais’ Debussy Theater where Murati said it’s a “shared responsibility” in figuring out how the technology comes into the real world. 

“Even when we think about job displacement or how we elevate certain skills, roles, that’s quite dependent in how we shape the technology and the way we shape it will shape our society,” said Murati. “I don’t see [it] as a predetermined outcome.” 

The potential job displacement doesn’t scare Droga as there’s always been an evolution in advertising as departments change with new technology. “The necessity to create things that connect us and are meaningful – that’s never gone out of style,” said Droga. 

“People want to be black and white about this but my thing is that not all creativity is worth saving,” said Droga. “That sounds like a crazy thing to say as a creative person … but the majority of advertising is not creative. It’s written by something far more dangerous than AI, which is research.” 

The optimism that some have at Cannes for AI in advertising is that it will take away the menial tasks and help creatives with the big ideas. Whether that will be the case and what impact that will have on the ad land, which has already reduced the mentorship younger creatives receive as the shifts in work given the pandemic have continued, remains yet to be seen. 

While there may be a shared responsibility in how advertisers use AI and that then shapes what AI develops, it’s clear that there are ambitions for OpenAI to take part in many of the creative elements of traditional advertising with ripple effects that could be harmful for creatives, agencies, production shops.

The OpenAI panel kicked off with a black and white video created by Sora showing various AI generated people decked out in the glitz and glamour typically associated with the Cannes’ Film Festival rather than the Cannes Lions’ Festival of Creativity dress linens. While the video was obviously generated by AI – the quick cuts of many faces and lack of continuous movement are clear AI tells – Murati and Droga noted it for attendees who clapped at the notion. As Sora continues to develop it’s clear that OpenAi wants to showcase that development to advertisers as well as agencies.  

The intro video wasn’t the only demonstration. Later in the panel, Droga, who noted for transparency that he has been asked to use Sora as an early creator, played another AI-generated video. This one was a music video created for a street busker. Again this video had the clear tells of AI-generation: drone shots, few shots of people’s faces, an animal (this time a fox) as the main character followed through bizarre places and situations. The video is intercut with footage of the busker with an Accenture creative talking about making the music video. 

OpenAI is far from the only AI offering that people are talking about at Cannes Lions but it was the most name-checked company. On a panel early Monday at Yahoo, one marketing executive name checked OpenAI CEO Sam Altman as simply “Sam” noting that every time “Sam drops another AI release” it’s clear the technology has advanced and advertisers will have to advance with it.

Even with all the chatter focused on AI much of it was surface level with many lingering questions and answers yet to be determined. 

“One of the questions our industry (and regulatory bodies) will struggle with is ‘what percentage of something needs to be “created with AI” for it to be considered AI work?’,” asked VML’s Yamada. “ Is that only for fully generative experiences or outputs? What if it’s only the background or a portion of the asset? Or just the voice and lipsync but not a fully generated avatar?  We need better definitions to determine how and where to label.”

Digiday Cannes Lions 2024 video studio

Digiday kicked off the first day of Cannes Lions 2024 with day one of our week-long video series with sponsor Blockboard at their villa as the heat of the day and bustle and anticipation of the festival began to rise from the Boulevard de la Croisette just a few 100 meters below. Our first two guests were Cavel Khan, chief growth officer at Group Black and Tressie Lieberman, CMO of Yahoo. — Jim Cooper

Khan discussed the importance of reaching Black and diverse audiences at scale with a blend of creativity and technology — including generative AI — pointing to the just released news of NBCUniversal and Group Black expanding their relationship to launch a new content package on Peacock called E!+, which keys on programming created for multicultural viewers and will debut launch later this year.

Lieberman pointed to the importance of bridging the divide between brand and growth for Yahoo by focusing on the “power of and” pointing to the recent relaunch of it social channels as a more dynamic service for consumers as an example. She also discussed not underestimating the power of consumers as influencers in their own right and how AI can “accelerate thought partnership” in marketing.

Cavel Khan, chief growth officer, Group Black

Tressie Lieberman, CMO, Yahoo

Elsewhere from Cannes

Overheard

“There are so many AI panels this year that it almost feels like AI programmed the entire festival.” — Overheard in line for coffee early Monday morning

What to do

10 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. Hear from Marcel Marcondes, Global CMO of AB InBev at the Lumiere Theatre, The Palais.

11:45 a.m to 12:15 p.m. SNL cast member Kenan Thompson; Hellmann’s senior marketing director Benjamin Crook; VML’s global chief creative officer Debbi Vandeven and VML’s Global CEO Jon Cook talk about the return of comedy at Debussy Theatre, The Palais.

1:45 p.m. to 2:15 p.m. Edelman’s Richard Edelman and Bozoma Saint John chat with Axios publisher Nicholas Johnston and Prof Scott Galloway on society change meeting progress at Debussy Theatre, The Palais.

Nightcap

5 to 7 p.m. Cognitiv pink party aboard the Cognitv Yacht.

7 p.m. BE Legendary party at Equativ Yacht.

7 p.m. to 9 p.m. 2024 Lion winners will be announced including Industry Craft Lions, Digital Craft Lions, Film Craft Lions, Design Lions, Entertainment Lions, Entertainment Lions for Gaming, Entertainment Lions for Music and Entertainment Lions for Sport at Lumiere Theatre, The Palais.

8 p.m. RTL Beach Party featuring DJ sets by GET A ROOM! and Busy P and a live performance by Lilly Wood and the Prick at RTL Beach.

8:30 p.m. iHeartMedia and MediaLink’s annual VIP executive dinner featuring a performance by Lenny Kravitz at Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc.

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