Can AI Pass The Nike Test?


There is often a significant gap between efficiency and creativity, and that’s playing out now in the world of artificial intelligence (AI), and could have impacts on payments and commerce.

The first stop on this small tour of ongoing AI developments involves Nike, the iconic global shoe brand. Jean-Baptiste Le Divelec, who on his website describes himself as a “meme dealer/gamer/creative copywriter,” recently unveiled what he calls “A Nike Commercial Generated by a Neural Network.”

The approximately 1-minute video is, on its surface, just a strangely mechanical but also human-like recitation of various encouraging slogans culled from what a machine learned from at least seven years of Nike commercials. A typical slogan from this experiment is “If you can’t beat him, legend that thing.” It might sound odd, but it does sound at least a bit like a Nike slogan.

Smart Enough?

Le Divelec explained his reasoning on his site.

“As AI continues to make headlines by automating anything from warehouses to call centers, creative professionals find solace in the claim that the technology will never be smart enough to be a truly original thinker,” he wrote. “I’ve always been fascinated by neural networks and deep learning, so with some friends I fed a neural network a decade’s worth of Nike commercials to see if it could write something original and inspiring.

He also looked to the future of AI-enabled marketing, even if this particular not-real-advertisement might cause more amusement than inspiration among many people. “The result — which I named ‘AI and Kennedy’ — is a schizophrenic journey of motivation bordering on the unintelligible. But between these absurd lines, I observed, with a chill, a touch of genius. Maybe the claim that an AI can do it, isn’t so crazy after all.”

Maybe, maybe not. But no matter the story in marketing and creativity, artificial intelligence is certainly making broader strides in the business world. The latest example of that comes courtesy of CNBC. According to a report this week (Nov. 19) Wang Xuepu, vice president of Chinese online video streaming company iQiyi, said that “artificial intelligence has enhanced the company’s efficiency in all aspects of the business.”

As the report said, “he said that the company is using AI across its business like adding subtitles or integrating multimedia more quickly. Wang added AI has increased efficiency in the company’s operations in many ways, including content creation, approval processes and market distribution.”

AI Payments

When it comes to payments, artificial intelligence does indeed hold the promise of bringing more efficiency to a variety of areas, not the least of which is online security.

In fact, Sudhir Jha, Mastercard senior vice president and head of Brighterion, told Karen Webster in a recent conversation that the study shows AI is a powerful tool when it comes to fighting risk — both in the ways we typically think of in the world of payments and commerce and in the much, much wider definitions that exist across verticals like retail or medicine. And that AI’s potential, wherever it is applied, is going beyond the constraints of the systems and tools of the past — to a future that manages to both have fewer risks and create less friction for the consumer.

In the world of financial services, where Brighterion does most of its work currently, escaping the systems of the past means getting beyond rule-based systems that have the dual downsides of rejecting too many good transactions while still allowing too many bad ones to go through. The future, and what Brighterion has focused its development on, Jha said, is building and leveraging AI solutions that can respond dynamically to risk factors as they unfold, without necessarily inserting a host of additional stumble steps that slow down the customer’s front-end security.

The progress, he noted, has been steady in the last several years, and in the last 18 months, it has even been picking up steam. And while the headline use cases have been in the world of fraud and compliance protections, the reality, he said, is that the application of AI tools is expanding.

“As the evolution of payments is ongoing, and more elements are being tied in,” he said. “We are realizing that these tools can also be used for things like customer retention — not only in the financial services industry but other industries as well.”

The coming years and the coming decade promise to bring so much more advancement by artificial intelligence — maybe even a higher level of marketing creativity.