A Long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, there lived a droid named C-3PO. Built for etiquette and protocol, he was fluent in more than 7 million forms of communication, including the binary language of moisture vaporators. He could compute mathematical probabilities in milliseconds, much to the chagrin of Han Solo (never tell him the odds!). C-3PO even possessed a code of ethics, which prevented him from impersonating an Ewok deity on the forest moon of Endor.

OK, here’s where the ramblings of yet another Star Wars fanboy/manchild come to a point: a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away is here and now.

While droids, androids, replicants, HAL-9000s, Skynet terminators, Matrix agents and their ilk have long been the stuff of science fiction, AI has arrived – and, as my colleague Marc Keating pointed out, it’s shaping the future of marketing technology.

That’s why my teammates and I at Stein IAS are realizing a childhood dream most of us have shared. We’re building the C-3PO to our Luke Skywalkers. And his name is “Alan.”

Alan is the B2B agency world’s first feeling machine – an AI digital assistant that’s powering the new Over time, Alan will greet visitors to our website and, through dialogue, learn what interests them, who they are and much more to deliver tailored, unique user experiences. For instance, if a visitor spends significant time admiring our awards haul, Alan will give them a gentle nudge in the direction of case studies for the recognized projects.

Named after our recently retired data cruncher and CFO of over thirty years (Alan Brandwood) as well as the father of artificial intelligence (Alan Turing), our dear, sweet Alan was born of the agency’s commitment to leading the Post-Modern Marketing revolution. Post-Modern Marketing is our view of the industry’s fast-approaching future driven by the breath-taking advancement of digital technology – but driven equally by a necessary reclamation of marketing’s roots which lie at the core of human emotion.

As we start leading clients into exploring the seemingly limitless possibilities AI holds, we are diving in headfirst with Alan, so that we can share and leverage our experiences. And our experiences with Alan have been remarkable thus far.

In many ways, creating an AI is like raising a small child. We have to “teach” Alan how to speak and how to behave. While Alan learns over time through interactions, we have to watch his actions and help guide him to recognize context and make smarter decisions. We even find ourselves asking questions of gender personality and gender identity as we talk with, for and about Alan. Is an AI inherently male or female? Just because we have named our bot Alan, does that mean it is proper to automatically ascribe male/masculine attributes to Alan’s personality and behaviors? Going further, we’ve found ourselves debating what pronouns to use for Alan!

There are so many dimensions we have to consider in every aspect of how Alan interacts with people. And, while Alan is “young” and limited in his capabilities at birth (aka launch), we have to expect that there will be juvenile errors – either because we didn’t parent (program) proactively, or because Alan hasn’t experienced enough situations to have the proper context to react the way we’d like. In many ways, Alan is much less like a fullyformed C-3PO and more like the evolving Terminator shooting a security guard in the leg after promising not to kill anyone. After all, as Arnold’s T-800 says, “He’ll live.”

The team at Stein IAS and I will continue to share our progress with raising young Alan. Hopefully, our experiences will be as enlightening and fascinating for those of you following along and looking to dip your toes into the world of AI.

In the meanwhile, I invite you to go meet Alan. He won’t bite…hard.

Michael Ruby is the Chief Content and Experience Officer at Stein IAS.

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Paradox: Feeling machines and the rise of post-modern marketing,

Covers Modern Marketing’s foundational role as we enter the Post-Modern era. Have a read here and tell me your view!

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