Photo by Peter Cox
The Best Part of Possibilities: Advertising Made by a Bot
Advertising seeks to transform products from virtual possibilities into physical reality. In that sense, the goal of advertising is to produce consumers rather than products. Marketing campaigns strategise to make certain goods real and competing products virtual, constantly changing the design landscape. But in recent years, the quantity and variety of products, vendors, and consumers on Alibaba has led to a specific demand—for engaging, intuitive, and user-specific advertising generated through artificial intelligence. Scientists at Alibaba’s research centre are developing AI tools, including neural networks, to achieve that goal. In that sense, Alibaba is becoming both designer and producer—a consumption machine, blurring the boundaries between virtual and real.
But what lies behind these artificial campaigns, and how does this virtual tool create demand in a physical world? The Best Part of Possibilities is a self-named neural network bot that has been trained on thousands of American advertising slogans from the past 100 years. These amusing, nonsensical, and cliché phrases, assembled into new phrases using machine learning, reveal the uncanny yet irrational pattern and syntax of advertising which we have assimilated in the era of broadcast and interactive media.
Machine Learning & Production: Aidan Crank
Production: wowl, Yannick Soller
Scientist consultations: Ma Xiao, Kevin Yang, Jun Liu, and Zhen Zhang
Alibaba suppliers: Zhongshan Yide Lighting and Guang-zhou Anka Inflatables for custom signs
Read an interview with Allison Crank on The Artificial Intelligence of Advertising Link
Allison Crank explores the intersection of art, technology and architecture for public and commercial spaces. She is currently head of digital experiences at wowl, an XR studio, and was previously a design researcher at the EPFL+ECAL lab. She recieved a Masters of Advanced Studies in design for digital innovation from EPFL+ECAL and her MA in contextual design from the Design Academy Eindhoven (cum laude), where she also received the Gijs Bakker Award for excellence in design research and the Keep An Eye Award given to top new talents in the Netherlands.