Aurora Magazine

Promoting excellence in advertising

Generating Taste

Faraz Maqsood Hamidi on how AI can capture and replicate the multifaceted nature of taste in advertising.
Published 08 Mar, 2024 11:57am

"Intelligence,” said Susan Sontag, “is really a kind of taste: taste in ideas.”

But when it comes to artificial intelligence, more of us are finding that we are generating speed and convenience at the cost of very little that can be evaluated as remarkable, or even acceptable – if we must measure our creative reputations against it. AI is a fascinating suite of tools. But it has blunt edges. 

You may argue that taste is subjective and an intangible concept. Different strokes for different folks, for instance. But we would be hard-pressed to argue that it does not impinge on our preferences and decision-making. As the world of AI advances at breakneck speed, and its generative capabilities expand, understanding taste becomes crucial in determining the choices we make and the results we are after when it comes to harnessing its potential.

Taste, in its broadest sense, refers to an individual’s preferences, inclinations and aesthetic sensibility. Or, as Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Love of beauty is taste. The creation of beauty is art.” 

It encompasses personal judgments and discernments about various aspects of life, including art, fashion, music and more. To live tastefully then, may mean how one aspect informs the selection of the other into a comprehensive and evolving whole that can be identified as a lifestyle. No wonder then that taste is influenced by myriad factors, including cultural backgrounds, cosmopolitan exposure, upbringing, education and personal experiences, making it a complex and unique aspect of human nature.

And while that may be true for your person, it is also true for the brands under your care.

The work you ship out into the world should be beautifully groomed, visually and verbally articulate (or tastefully done, so to speak), so that it can be held to the standards your brand stands for. Most brands adhere to the classical definition of aesthetic standards advertised by Roman architect, Vitruvius (80 BC-15 BC) over 2,000 years ago: “Beauty is produced by the pleasing appearance and good taste of the whole, and by the dimensions of all the parts being duly proportioned to each other.” And yet, performance marketers, who base their content on the changing metrics of an algorithm may disagree, and like Charles Bukowski, contend that “Bad taste creates many more millionaires than good taste.” But even they must be ultimately held accountable.

Ironically, even AI, particularly in its generative capabilities, also relies on algorithms and machine learning to create content – from art and music to text. But, it begs the question: how can AI capture and replicate the multifaceted nature of taste? While AI can analyse vast amounts of data and mimic patterns, it still grapples with, and is limited by, an understanding of the nuanced and subjective nature of curated taste.

For instance, one aspect of taste that influences our decisions with AI is the tension between personalisation and standardisation. AI algorithms can analyse data to create personalised recommendations, tailored to an individual’s taste. However, this raises concerns about the potential for echo chambers and the loss of diverse perspectives. Striking a balance between personalisation and exposure to new ideas is essential to prevent AI from reinforcing existing biases and limiting our choices.

Or take ethical implications. Taste is deeply intertwined with cultural and societal norms, which can be a double-edged sword when it comes to AI’s generative capabilities. AI algorithms, trained on existing data, may perpetuate societal biases and discrimination.

Understanding the ethical implications of AI-generated content ensures that taste and choice are not manipulated or used to reinforce harmful stereotypes.

Moreover, while AI can generate content based on patterns and data, it lacks the intuitive and emotional understanding of taste that people possess. Creative curators, with their subjective discernment and contextual understanding, play a vital role in shaping AI-generated content. They provide the guidance, quality control and brand judgement to ensure that AI aligns with consumer taste and serves as a tool for creativity rather than its replacement.

Of course, AI’s generative capabilities offer unprecedented opportunities for education, creativity and exploration. They can push the boundaries of tradition and challenge preconceived notions by opening doors to new aesthetics, genres and styles. However, creatives must approach this exploration with caution by preserving the essence of human taste – together with the potential for innovation – so that a symbiotic relationship between technology and creativity can then foster something extraordinarily rare in our world. Tasteful advertising.

Faraz Maqsood Hamidi is Chief Creative Officer & CEO, The D’Hamidi Partnership, a worldwide partner agency of WPI.