August 14, 2023

Pushing the limits of creativity

Interview with: Paul Caiozzo
We had the pleasure of talking to Paul Caiozzo, the CEO and creative mind behind the renowned Supernatural Creative Agency, known for revolutionizing the advertising industry. Their groundbreaking approach to creative storytelling has captured the imagination of clients worldwide. In our conversation with Paul, we explored the transformative power of AI in advertising. From its journey of reinvention to collaborative work dynamics and data-driven decision-making, Supernatural has embraced AI to deliver more innovative and effective campaigns. As technology continues to evolve, Paul's approach reminds us that creative storytelling, backed by AI insights, can unlock endless possibilities in the world of advertising.
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Hatidža: Paul, what inspired you to disrupt the traditional advertising industry and create an original approach to creative storytelling?
Paul: Right about seven years ago, I started my own agency, initially following the traditional path of branding, design and advertising. However, over time, we witnessed a decline in project sizes and struggled to find solutions. Just as I was considering leaving the advertising industry, I was introduced to AI about four years ago. I saw its potential to address the challenges we were facing, enabling us to work faster, create better content, and reduce costs. Inspired by this newfound possibility, I closed my agency and devoted a year and a half to learning about AI.
Hatidža: It must have been quite a journey of education and adaptation. How did you navigate the technical aspects?
Paul: Absolutely. I had to learn the basics first and collaborate with technical experts who understood the intricacies. We started with basic AI tools and developed a strategy engine that rapidly processed massive amounts of data from various sources. This allowed us to define audiences, assess competition, and create consumer models in seconds, resulting in predictive and effective strategies. What previously took months could now be accomplished within a day or two.
Hatidža: When you first started collecting data, how large was the sample you worked with?
Paul: The data journey at the beginning was quite a challenge. As a startup, we didn't have access to the vast world of data. However, our brilliant builder, Mike, made strategic choices. We tapped into renowned data libraries like Yougov and brand index, merging search, survey, and social data. While it wasn't a small amount, it was a smart selection. We focused on quality over quantity, realizing that bad data is worse than no data at all. Our data stack is similar in size to that of a big agency, but not the largest out there. We learned that Yougov's weekly surveys provide fascinating and diverse data points. For example, as we're working on an Iron Maiden documentary, we discovered intriguing insights about their fans' preferences, such as being hopeless romantics who love junk food but also strive to stay fit. Currently, we're teaching the machine to recognize and rank tensions in data, like, when someone values health but smokes or cares about appearance but is overweight. It's an ongoing challenge, but with the rapid advancements in AI, we've made significant progress. In fact, I've rewritten this presentation numerous times in the past month due to game-changing announcements, like Adobe integrating generative AI into Photoshop just last week. The pace of AI innovation is exhilarating.
Hatidža: It sounds like a significant shift in the creative process. How has your work routine transformed?
Paul: My day begins with a few hours of uninterrupted creative work in the morning. Later, around 2-3 o'clock in the afternoon, I engage in regular work activities with my New York-based team. The AI landscape evolves rapidly, so we spend the mornings keeping up with the latest advancements and discussing how they can enhance our roadmap. It's fascinating how these innovations allow us to accelerate our progress. AI even codes itself, enabling our developer to utilize Chat GPT to write and debug code. It's an exhilarating and ever-evolving journey.
Hatidža: The possibilities seem endless. How do you capture and maintain audience interest amidst this dynamic landscape?
Paul: Educating clients about the potential of AI has been crucial in capturing their interest. However, as AI becomes more prevalent, it will no longer be a unique selling point. Ultimately, we focus on delivering innovative and effective advertising, highlighting the results rather than solely relying on the tools we use.
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Hatidža: Your approach is indeed compelling. Could you share any unconventional techniques you use to refresh creativity within your team?
Paul: Our process differs significantly from traditional agencies. In our first meeting with clients, we conduct a strategy session using AI. This allows us to provide them with valuable insights about their audience, competitive landscape and relevant cultural trends. By leveraging AI objective recommendations, we eliminate human biases and produce more effective advertising. To involve clients further, we present the top three options generated by AI, empowering them to choose while still benefiting from data-driven decision-making.
Hatidža: Balancing client expectations can be challenging. How do you navigate this?
Paul: At Supernatural, our core vision is to bring more interesting ideas into the world. AI supports us in realizing this vision by de-risking creative ideas through data-backed insights. However, convincing clients to embrace innovative concepts still requires persuasive communication. AI is not a silver bullet; it is a tool that aids in decision-making. Ultimately, we continue to navigate the delicate process of selling ideas and addressing client concerns just as in any creative agency.
Hatidža: Collaboration is often an essential catalyst for creativity. How do you foster collaboration within your team?
Paul: AI has fostered a more collaborative work dynamic within our team and with clients. Unlike the traditional workflow, where different teams work in isolation, we now involve creatives in strategy sessions with clients from the very beginning. This allows them to gain valuable insights and generate ideas faster, utilizing generative imagery and writing. The strategy provided by AI guides the creative process, ensuring precise targeting and eliminating much of the uncertainty. Furthermore, we've developed tools that enable direct interaction with AI-generated target personas, making the entire process more informed and engaging.
Hatidža: If you could bring one cartoon character to life for an advertising campaign, who would it be?
Paul: That's a fantastic question! I would choose Woody Woodpecker. His simplicity and distinctive sound would resonate well on social media. By utilizing his sound as a mnemonic device, we could create memorable campaigns that capture attention and engage viewers.
Hatidža: Thank you, Paul, for this fascinating and insightful conversation.
Paul: It was my pleasure. This was fun, and I appreciate the opportunity to share our journey at Supernatural. Let's keep pushing the boundaries of creativity!