Many agencies are dealing with artificial intelligence in one way or another, whether driven by brand requests or as creative solutions to business problems.
One agency recently decided to tackle AI head on and created a separate division dedicated to cognitive technology.
I caught up with Keith Pine, COO of Organic and co-founder of Synthetic, the new division, for some insight into the agency’s AI approach and what drove the decision to create a separate entity devoted to AI exploration.
“We could wait for client opportunity or develop the skill set proactively,” says Pine. “It’s a bit of the chicken or the egg kind of thing. For us, we felt very strongly that it was important for us to purposefully step into this space in a really big way and develop a capability before people were really asking for it specifically, because we believe that companies that see a white space and leap toward it get met with a tailwind behind them and those that wait get left in the dust really quickly.”
Pine sees AI as a revolutionary time for marketing.
“This is like the dawn of the commercial internet,” says Pine. “It’s more than just a small shift in how people are interacting. This is real material change of how all facets of humanity in our lives are going to be impacted.”
One or the main drivers of AI is the growth in the amount of data and the increasing ability to harness it.
“There’s more data available now than ever before, and that’s ultimately the fuel for all cognitive technologies,” says Pine.
Of course, the processing power of computers also has grown exponentially over the years.
“These are machines that get better through training,” says Pine. “The more data you put in through the pipes, the better it’s going to get. And it’s not just about quantity, it’s about the quality of the data.”
Much like many suppliers added the word ‘mobile’ to what they offered when the mobile storm arrived, many now are adding AI to their offerings, though it often means different things to different people.
“Right now, we are in the world of what is called narrow AI, which is really about performing very specific tasks that are fueled by typically highly tagged or labeled data sets,” says Pine. “The advancements and the worries that people have around cognitive technology is around something called general AI, which is more like a human brain can think to understand abstract tasks and be able to move from one to another and be able to learn based on simple directions.
“The way we think of this at Synthetic is really about how we can solve business problems and how can we create better user experiences with cognitive technology being the undercurrent of everything that we do. That goes to finding insights from unstructured data sets, automating tasks that are easily repeatable by a person to help free them up to think about more important things and also about providing really hyper, natural and personalized interactions.
“We’re doing two things. We’re creating purposeful experiments and subsequently looking at how we can bring these to our clients. It’s ultimately designed as a utility to learn, develop capabilities, experiment and then bring it to the client to have them apply this to their business.”
The Synthetic division focuses on exploring potential new AI approaches and solutions as well as tapping into current AI market trends, which puts the agency in a position to act early and quickly.
“We worked with Quaker to be one of the first brands on the Amazon Alexa platform,” says Pine.
“People want interactions that feel natural. It’s about experimenting and trying to see how we can push the boundaries, how we can make things happen and then iterating and evolving those findings for more practical applications.”
Organic’s Synthetic is living in the world of AI.