Vermeer The Milkmaid expanded 2022

Where prediction meets the past

A lot of the AI conversation is about where the tech will take us in the future, but it is also reinvigorating the art of yesterday, says Wunderman Thompson global CCO Daniel Bonner

Over the next month or so, we will see plenty of articles and blog posts predicting what’s next for advertising in 2024. And if you’re anything like me, when you see the headline ‘Top Five Trends for AI in Advertising’, you’re going to read it. We all like prediction.

But prediction has entered the advertising world from another direction, and it’s led to some of the most interesting and consequential campaigns in recent years. I’m not talking about our long-standing use of AI for targeting, personalisation, and optimisation. I’m talking about using predictive technology to reimagine the work of long dead artists, writers, and musicians.

In a range of campaigns stretching back at least five years, advertisers have been using generative AI to compose classical music, finish incomplete artworks, give voice to unread literature, and create entirely new paintings based on pre-existing ones. Often, the works emanate from the most iconic names in cultural history, like Rembrandt, Dvorak, and Hemingway.

A good example is Nestlé’s recent ‘outpainting’ of Vermeer’s The Milkmaid. The campaign was for La Laitière, a French yogurt brand that has long used milkmaids as part of its iconography.