First AI-scripted commercial tugs hard at our heart strings -- for a Lexus

The script for the Lexus ES ad was developed by IBM's Watson artificial intelligence system. Watson basically figured out how to hook us emotionally.

Sean Keane Former Senior Writer
Sean knows far too much about Marvel, DC and Star Wars, and poured this knowledge into recaps and explainers on CNET. He also worked on breaking news, with a passion for tech, video game and culture.
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Sean Keane
2 min read

The first AI-scripted commercial has debuted, and it's for Lexus.

IBM's Watson artificial intelligence system developed the ad script for the European launch of the Lexus ES. It's directed by Oscar-winning filmmaker Kevin Macdonald, Lexus said Monday.

The commercial shows a Lexus ES leaving the factory and the emotional craftsman who made it. The ad then jumps to a "crash test" scene where the car is being dragged toward a truck. As the concerned craftsman watches, the car saves itself with its automatic emergency braking system.


The ad shows the bond between a Lexus craftsman and the car he created.


The ad was a result of a partnership between Lexus creative agency The&Partnership London, technical partner Visual Voice and the IBM Watson team. They used AI to analyze 15 years of award-winning car and luxury brand ads, along with other data, and picked out the common elements to create a script outline.

Its human collaborators then built the commercial's story from that outline.

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"The fact the AI gave a fellow machine sentience, placed it in a sort of combat situation, and then had it escaping into the sunset was such an emotional response from what is essentially a digital platform," Macdonald said in a statement.

"The charmingly simplistic way the AI wrote the story was both fascinating in its interpretation of human emotion, and yet still unexpected enough to give the film a clearly non-human edge."

The ad comes days after Google's AI chief highlighted its limitations -- noting that it isn't good at creative thinking -- and China's state media debuted a creepy AI anchor.

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