Mind Matters News and Analysis on Natural and Artificial Intelligence
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Winning Tag Lines Are Hard Enough To Write…

But AI really flops at that

Can you name the companies with these brand tag lines?

Here are some more of the historical best tag lines ever.

“Just do it”

“Where’s the beef?”

“Think different”

“What’s in your wallet?”

That wasn’t hard, was it? (I’ve included the answers below, just in case.*)

Creating catchy tag lines is a billion-dollar business that drives many more billions of dollars to a brand. And, says a prominent ad exec, it’s not something AI does well. Trevor Robinson identifies two elements that are difficult to replicate: contingency and connection

The right slogan…

Perhaps more often than ad agencies admit, serendipity or being in the right place at the right time, matters. The winning strategy of an ad—the tag line, the script, the visuals—often flows from unpredictable interactions between team members or even unexpected events.

The agency is worth its fees if it recognizes the dead-on right phrase when it crops up. Their value is knowing a good line when they hear it.

But what guides that insight? For Robinson, it is the need to create a connection:

A slick campaign or commercial is like a beautiful magazine cover: It can appeal to an audience’s aesthetic sensibilities and get them to look, but what will make people pick up the magazine and buy it? For this, you need to be communicating more than functionality, relevance, or convenience.

True craft is about connection.

Trevor Robinson, “Giving Artificial Intelligence Creative License Leads to Uninspired Advertising” at Adweek

I have no doubt that, fed enough slick lines, a machine learning algorithm can spew variants. I also don’t doubt that buried among those variants may be lines worth using. I could probably find similar “gold” by randomly joining words together in a kind of algorithmic free-association exercise.

Yet, in both cases, it is the human who sees the “gold.” AI is only digging methodically through the dirt.

AI can help generate ideas and spur our imaginations. It is humans, however, who know the difference between fool’s gold and the real thing. AI does not have the “Imagination at Work” to tell them apart.

That is what tools do: They help us do things better, faster, or more efficiently. But they lack the mind needed to know when “I’m loving’ it” is the winning slogan—and stop there. And not complicate the picture.

*Note: Here are the companies who sponsor the tag lines above:

“Just do it” — Nike
“Where’s the beef?” — Wendy’s
“Think different” — Apple
“What’s in your wallet?” — Capital One
“Imagination at Work” — General Electric
“I’m lovin’ it.” — McDonald’s

And here are still more of the historical best tag lines ever.


Also by Brendan Dixon: Could AI authentically create anything? The first question posed to me as an artist was “What are you trying to say?”


Brendan Dixon

Associate Fellow, Bradley Center
Brendan Dixon is a Software Architect with experience designing, creating, and managing projects of all sizes. His first foray into Artificial Intelligence was in the 1980s when he built an Expert System to assist in the diagnosis of software problems at IBM. Since then, he’s worked both as a Principal Engineer and Development Manager for industry leaders, such as Microsoft and Amazon, and numerous start-ups. While he spent most of that time other types of software, he’s remained engaged and interested in Artificial Intelligence.

Winning Tag Lines Are Hard Enough To Write…