Chris Celletti
Digital, Cannes 2018
Tham Khai Meng: An AI Tussle, Cannes and Obi-Wan Kenobi

It’s June, which means another Cannes Lions is nearly here.

But this time, things are a bit different on advertising’s grandest stage. The Lions will still honor the best in creativity, and like any year, incredible work will be honored at the Palais. But the 2018 edition sees the creation of five new categories which more accurately reflect our current age, where traditional marketing designations and siloes are quickly eroding. This year, someone will take home for the first time Lions in Creative eCommerce, Industry Craft, Sustainable Development Goals, Brand Experience & Activation, and Social & Influencer. And something related to that last new category that has piqued the interest of Tham Khai Meng, Ogilvy’s Worldwide Chief Creative Officer.

A few weeks ago, two popular Instagram influencers began feuding on the social network. The reason this particular tussle made waves is because the two influencers are computer generated. This might seem on one hand absurd and another quite frightening. Not only do these beings exist only in the digital world, but they’re massively popular. And now they’re fighting. (Can the Singularity be far behind?)

But to Khai, we needn’t be shocked nor worried. In fact, as we approach advertising’s biggest showcase, this non-analog brouhaha represents a future that will only become more and more real.

“As the example of Lil Miquela makes clear, we are all hurtling headlong towards a new reality. All the big tech giants are involved in creating new digital worlds for us to visit,” Khai writes in The Drum.”

And these digital worlds present brands and marketers with a tremendous opportunity. These alternative realities are a blank canvas for brands operate in and provide people experiences that they really want. AI will mean the services of storytellers will be more in demand than ever before.

“We will be the purveyors of these alternative realities, we will be more like dream-sellers,” Khai says. “We will take fantasies, which hitherto had been unachievable, and make them available to the audience. Commercials will be more like vacations in parallel universes.”

For Khai’s full thoughts on these brave new worlds, read the full piece in The Drum.

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