×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

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.

Popular on Variety

“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):

More Digital

  • Richie Mehta in Macao

    Richie Mehta Advances Macao Project 'The Price of Tea'

    After winning six prizes on Friday with his “Delhi Crime” series, Canadian-Indian director Richie Mehta is again making film project “The Price of Tea,” which was previously pitched in Macau, as his top priority. Having attended the International Film Festival & Awards Macao’s project market with “Tea” in 2017, Mehta is back this year on [...]

  • Billy Magnussen Aladdin

    'Aladdin' Spinoff With Billy Magnussen's Character in the Works for Disney Plus

    Disney is developing a spinoff of its live-action “Aladdin” with Billy Magnussen reprising his Prince Anders character. The unnamed project is in early development for the studio’s recently launched Disney Plus streaming service. Disney has hired Jordan Dunn and Michael Kvamme to write a script centered on the haughty Prince Anders, one of Princess Jasmine’s [...]

  • Bernie Sanders Trump win

    Bernie Sanders Vows to Break Up Comcast, Verizon & AT&T: 'Their Greed Must End'

    Vermont Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders unveiled plans to launch publicly-funded broadband networks and break up big internet providers like Comcast, Verizon and AT&T Thursday. “Their greed must end,” the Sanders campaign wrote in its high-speed internet policy proposal. The campaign argued that high-speed internet access should be treated as a public utility, [...]

  • The Office

    Streaming Wars Heat Up Rerun Market as New Services Stock Up on Hits

    In a year in which more than 500 scripted series are on the air and new streaming services seem to debut nearly monthly, some of the biggest money being thrown around for content has gone to a handful of old TV shows, the kind that for years have hummed along evening television without much fuss. [...]

  • The Irishman

    'The Irishman' Nabs 17.1 Million U.S. Viewers on Netflix in First Five Days, per Nielsen

    Martin Scorsese’s mafia saga “The Irishman” was watched by 17.1 million unique Netflix viewers in the U.S. in the first five days of its streaming release, according to Nielsen estimates. By comparison, Sandra Bullock-starrer “Bird Box” scored nearly 26 million U.S. viewers in its first seven days of availability (Dec. 21-27, 2018) on Netflix, according [...]

  • Amazon, HBO Max, Netflix Dish on

    Amazon, HBO Max, Netflix Dish on Their International Plans

    It’s different strokes for different streaming folks as Amazon, HBO Max and Netflix lifted the lid on their international plans in London this week. Amazon said it’s not in the volume game and talked up a select number of hyper-local shows, while Netflix dished on plans to rev up non-English-language originals. The message from HBO [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content