Big Brands Experiment with Generative AI for Advertising

Big Brands Experiment with Generative AI for Advertising
Content wall showcasing AI generated content from Typeface

Major consumer brands are starting to dip their toes into the possibilities of using generative AI tools like ChatGPT and Midjourney to boost marketing productivity and cut costs. However, concerns around security, bias, and intellectual property mean humans remain indispensable in the process for now.

Advertising executives indicate early experiments by the likes of Nestle, Unilever and Mondelez in collaboration with ad giant WPP show generative AI's potential for slashing the time and money required for marketing campaigns. The technology can rapidly generate text, images and other creative assets that appear original while adhering to brand guidelines.

For example, WPP worked with Mondelez on an AI-powered Cadbury campaign featuring Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan in India. Without needing to film new ads, they generated over 130,000 social media ads tailored to specific local stores merely using existing Khan footage and AI-generated scripts. This gained 94 million video views for just a fraction of a traditional ad spend.

WPP CEO Mark Read claims the cost savings from using generative AI in this way could be "10 or 20 times." The agency is actively training specialists in AI applications for marketing and collaborating with Oxford University on educational programs.

At Nestle, global CMO Aude Gandon told Reuters that AI tools are efficiently "answering campaign briefs with great ideas and inspiration," which are then refined by humans before release. Unilever has its own in-house AI content generator creating product descriptions for online retailers. This has already been deployed for brands like TRESemmé.

Ogilvy: Nestlé’s The Milkmaid: Re-imagining the work of the old masters using AI

Ogilvy's campaign for Nestlé's The Milkmaid yogurt in France demonstrates the creative potential. When Vermeer's famous The Milkmaid painting was in the news after hidden details were revealed via X-ray, Ogilvy used DALL-E 2 to generate AI-imagined extensions of the original canvas. The buzz around the painting allowed the AI-powered video to go viral for the brand without any media spend.

PepsiCo also had success collaborating with Synthesia for their Messi Messages campaign to create personalized video messages featuring footballer Lionel Messi for their Lay's brand. With just 5 minutes of Messi footage, they trained an AI model that generated 650 million personalized video variations in 8 languages - showcasing the massive personalization potential.

Virgin Voyages also tapped into AI by creating a personalized cruise invitation tool featuring their Chief Celebration Officer Jennifer Lopez. The website allows potential cruisers to generate AI-powered video invites from JLo to encourage friends and family to join their celebration trip.

Startups like Typeface are also emerging to provide dedicated generative AI platforms for enterprises to create customized, on-brand content at scale. This allows companies to leverage AI while maintaining data security, brand guidelines, and IP ownership.

For enterprises concerned about intellectual property and data leakage, Typeface offers a sanctuary. AI models, tailored to individual brands, are hosted in isolated environments, ensuring data sanctity. And for those businesses keen on reinforcing their brand guidelines or tone of voice, Typeface's platform offers a fine-tuned control that ensures consistent brand messaging.

However, risks around biased output, piracy, and security gives big brands pause. Unilever wants safeguards against reproducing stereotypes buried in AI training data. Nestle stresses the need to prioritize privacy and security. Advertising these days leaves vast data trails that fuel generative AI, heightening concerns.

While no creatives or marketing experts expect AI technologies to fully replace human creativity and strategy, smarter use of data and AI productivity tools appear inevitable for brands looking to reach consumers in an increasingly fragmented media landscape. The rise of platforms like TikTok with huge volumes of new content pose new creative and budget challenges that AI could help alleviate.

But in the rush to jump on the generative AI bandwagon, brands would do well to carefully consider risks versus rewards. What cost savings from AI productivity gains outweigh brand safety hazards if an AI system makes an offensive blunder that goes viral? Or if a new AI-generated slogan too closely matches another brand?

Generative AI remains an emerging frontier. While its long-term impacts are far from clear, one thing is certain—it will require human judgment to steer it responsibly, at least for now. But for brands under margin pressure in challenging economic times, AI's siren song of doing more with less may be difficult to resist.

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