Advertising Science

I went to school for Graphic Design. I took great joy in hanging out with my friends and their classmates. My husband is in IT, I have two friends in electrical engineering, one in accounting, one is in EMS school to be a fire medic, and one’s in vet school. Living near a college town, I still identify as an art student and take almost daily joy in watching people try to figure out how to deal with talking to someone they have no idea how to relate to.

The secret? I’m a Graphic Designer, I actually learn how to relate to everyone.

Graphic Design is a fundamental part of advertising, because it’s what makes ads look pretty. I know a fair share of people who buy products simply because the advertising has spoken to them, or grabbed their attention. There’s a reason for this, because an even bigger part of advertising is science. I know, we’re just artsy people, right? Well, not really. As advertisers, we need to be more than just art kids, we need to be able to understand our audience so we can make ads that will speak to them. This often requires learning about the product, the audience, and the lifestyle associated with them.

With all of that out of the way, I just stumbled across this amazing concept: The Artificially Intelligent Poster.

This is both an amazing and terrifying concept to me.

On the one hand, this is possibly the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen. It validates what I’ve always thought: that advertising is both artistic and scientific. That there are scientifically quantifiable reasons why one font works better than another, that this color combo is better than that, and how layout can affect the message. The creators of the Poster have developed a “genetic code” so that a faux evolution can occur. The better ads survive, and influence a new generation of ads, each better than the last.

This is a terrifying concept. If ads can create themselves, and a computer program can manage the placement and choices that go into ad creation, what am I doing with my life? How do I compete with a computer program? I know I can’t think that fast, and I know that it’s gathering data sets of who interacted with what ad, and how quickly it saw responses. How is this going to change the world of advertising?

Honestly? I don’t think it’s there yet. This machine may be able to see your face and deliver an ad closely tailored to your gender, mood, attire, or whatever. It may be able to see how quickly you respond to something, or if you even enjoyed the ad. Most importantly, it has no idea why something influenced you. What happens here is art with empty science. It knows that you reacted, but not why. It knows that you smiled, buy not why. It knows that you liked the layout with a large header, but not why. This is the single most important reason why you need a human designing ads for humans. As a designer, I can look at the ads we’ve designed and I can say that people like this one because it speaks to their need, their desire, their dream. I can piece together a person’s dream and build ads that talk to that. I can speak directly to your emotions and your hopes and your ambitions. A machine can only speak to your face.

So, keep researching, keep learning, keep creating, you scientists. But never forget, people need to talk to people. That’s what Baker Street is all about.

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2 thoughts on “Advertising Science

  1. I think ALL of the technological advances we’ve witnessed recently are simultaneously exhilarating and terrifying. For instance: the self-driving car. How freeing for the blind or handicapped person to be able to drive to the store when they need to. Yet, how frightening that the rest of the drivers on the road are interacting with a machine that takes its direction from algorithms pre-programmed for, we hope, any possible scenario. Since technology must move forward, we must move forward with it, bringing human ethics fully to bear on each situation. Excuse me a moment (yes, Google, I will take another case of PG Tips tea. Go ahead and send that to my home, you have the address…)

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    1. I know! And there’s a long history of technology replacing jobs, making life easier, but also making whole industries no longer necessary. It’s fascinating that technology is capable of so many things. It certainly makes my job possible.

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