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First AI-Scripted Commercial Debuts, Directed by Kevin Macdonald for Lexus (Watch)

Computers aren’t going to replace creative pros — but machine learning and artificial intelligence can be powerful tools in the storytelling process.

That’s the takeaway from Lexus’ newest ad, which it’s billing as the advertising industry’s first commercial scripted by artificial intelligence. The 60-second spot was directed by Oscar-winner Kevin Macdonald, working from a script that was developed by IBM’s Watson AI system. (Watch the ad below.)

To produce the spot for the Lexus ES executive sedan launching in Europe, the automaker enlisted its creative agency, The&Partnership London, along with technical partner Visual Voice. The agencies collaborated with the IBM Watson team to use AI to analyze 15 years’ worth of footage, text and audio for car and luxury brand campaigns that have won Cannes Lions awards for creativity, as well as a range of other external data.

Watson identified elements common to award-worthy commercials that were “both emotionally intelligent and entertaining,” according to IBM. But it’s not like the machine did all the work: The AI engine formed the script flow and outline, from which the creative agencies built the story.

The ad tells the story of a Lexus Takumi Master Craftsman who releases the new Lexus ES into the world — only for it to be taken away and threatened with destruction. At the crucial moment, the car’s automatic emergency braking system cuts in, a plot twist that Watson determined would demonstrate the value and effectiveness of the vehicle’s built-in technology.

“When I was handed the script, the melodrama of the story convinced me of its potential,” Macdonald said in a statement.

“The fact the AI gave a fellow machine sentience, placed it in a sort of combat situation and then had it escaping into the sunset, was such an emotional response from what is essentially a digital platform,” added the director, whose credits include “The Last King of Scotland,” Whitney Houston biopic “Whitney” and Oscar-winning documentary film “One Day in September.”

The Lexus ES “Driven by Intuition” campaign launches Monday, Nov. 19, with the spot to be released across digital, social and cinema channels across Europe. As of now, it’s not scheduled to run on TV. Lexus also is releasing a companion behind-the-scenes short on the making of the ad.

In creating the storyline, IBM Watson also was primed with data by online-video marketplace Unruly to learn which moments connected most strongly with viewers. In addition, the AI was further coached with data from a custom experiment conducted by MindX, the applied science division of the University of New South Wales in Australia, which analyzed how people who have high levels of intuition respond to car advertising.

Ultimately, “the magic of storytelling will always come to life in the human creative process,” commented Reece Medway, media and entertainment specialist for IBM Watson in the U.K. and Ireland. “Using Watson to identify the common attributes for truly award-winning creative work is an example of how man and machine will collaborate in the AI era.”

Watch the Lexus “Driven by Intuition” spot (or at this link):

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