An ad agency exec has written a novel about AI

PJ Pereira, the founder and creative chairman of Pereira O’Dell, told us he’s been studying AI for nearly a decade.
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PJ Pereira

· 4 min read

It seems like everyone’s a founder these days, but not all founders are writing novels in their spare time. PJ Pereira is.

Pereira, founder and creative chairman of ad agency Pereira O’Dell, started studying AI about seven or eight years ago, he told us, with the intention of writing a book about it. It became clear to him even back then that the tech was “going to transform the agency business,” he said.

His research on AI from both a fictional and real-world perspective has given him a unique take on the topic—or takes, plural, considering he has different philosophies on its future.

“There’s a lot of fiction and reality [content] on AI, and I’ve been dabbling with both,” Pereira told Marketing Brew. “The fact that I’m both an executive and a writer allows me to fearlessly dive into both with no prejudice. Because fiction is drama, people read the fiction and get afraid, and they don’t go into the reality of it and the professional side of it.”

Meanwhile, professionals can “ignore the fears” and “become irresponsible” with AI, he said. “I think it’s actually important that we look at both sides without prejudice, without anything. Don’t rush to form an opinion.”

Jab, cross, book

Pereira has 40 years of experience “getting my face smashed and punched,” he said. That is to say, he’s been training in various combat sports since he was 10, including boxing, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and karate.

The main character of his upcoming book, The Girl From Wudang, grew up learning to fight in the mountains of China before moving to the Bay Area with the intention of making a name for herself as a pro fighter by beating men in underground MMA matches, Pereira said.

But she suffers from debilitating headaches, and when two scientists approach her with a solution that involves linking their brains to hers via nanobots (think Elon Musk’s Neuralink, which Pereira said served as part of the inspiration for that bit of plot), she faces a conflict: If she agrees, the headaches go away and she gains access to their knowledge, but they can also tap into her skillset and see inside her head, including “family secrets,” Pereira said.

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Despite the key role AI plays in the plot, Pereira, who’s written several other books, said the writing was all him (no help from ChatGPT or AI interns). He had some assistance from AI proofreading tools, but when it came to the writing, it was “so personal, I didn’t want any computer to interfere with it,” he said.

Pereira also used AI for some of the marketing, he said, including to animate this Instagram post:

The book is set to publish Oct. 17, he said, under his novelist name, PJ Caldas.

Four roads diverged

Pereira looks at AI through four different lenses, he said: As an individual, as an agency founder, as part of the broader ad industry, and as a member of society as a whole.

On a professional level, Pereira said he’s embracing AI tools like Midjourney, which he uses during brainstorming sessions to visualize ideas in real time. Pereira said he doesn’t really discuss the use of AI with clients, though, since it doesn’t play a large role in creating the final product.

“For the first time, technology is improving the creative process itself,” he said. “It’s not replacing it, it is just improving it, because you can visualize things before you go much further, so you don’t lose momentum.”

On a more personal level, Pereira said the dangers AI presents are enough to make him want to “kind of run for the mountains.” Still, even with all his years of research, he said he still hasn’t been able to reach a solid conclusion about it, given its nuances.

“It can cure cancer, or it can allow us to find other planets. It can solve climate problems, but it can create a species that will enslave humans. It can be the first time that…we’re no longer the top of the food chain. But is that necessarily good or bad? I don’t know,” Pereira said. “I think the short term is good. On the macro level, it’s dangerous. It’s not bad; it’s dangerous.”

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