Brands shying away from crypto, the metaverse and ChatGPT during Super Bowl LVII
The bold technological adventurism which characterized a handful of ads from Super Bowl LVII seems to have been replaced with a wait-and-see sense of caution.
Super Bowl LVII will take place this Sunday, February 12. / Adobe Stock
Avocados From Mexico revealed that it would no longer be integrating ChatGPT – the viral AI model from OpenAI, which generates text from text-based prompts – into its upcoming campaign for Super Bowl LVII. The about-face from the brand reflects a broader trend as brands adopt a cautious posture towards emergent tech, a sharp departure from the buoyant enthusiasm that surrounded cryptocurrency and the metaverse during last year’s Super Bowl.
Avocados From Mexico originally planned to include a QR code in its upcoming Super Bowl spot, linking viewers to a webpage where they could generate tweets using ChatGPT. The company still plans to include a QR code, but it will be linked to a branded online experience called the “Goodness Hotel” – not to ChatGPT.
It isn’t clear at this point why Avocados From Mexico got cold feet about using ChatGPT in its Super Bowl LVII campaign. But there are clear risks. "Using ChatGPT is a bit of a legal nightmare," says Bert Marissen, creative director, TBWA\Chiat\Day LA. "Who owns the IP? Where did the AI draw its inspiration from? Can you be sued because of that? It's an exciting technology, but legally it's in a gray area for brands. Playing with ChatGPT for a social activation versus a Super Bowl campaign requires a certain risk appetite from the brand’s legal team that I don't think a lot of brands will have, including Avocados From Mexico."
Generative AI, a technology still in its infancy, has occasionally demonstrated a knack for replicating human bias - sometimes bordering on hate speech. Yesterday, Twitch removed an AI-powered Seinfeld episode after the virtual title character declared that it was "thinking of doing something about how being transgender is actually a mental illness."
The downward spiral of the cryptocurrency industry may have also been a consideration for companies. This time last year, crypto was a shiny new toy, much as AI is now. It was also a recurring theme during Super Bowl LVI: Coinbase made waves with an ad featuring a wandering QR code; Matt Damon wore a tight-fitting t-shirt and tried to make crypto skeptics feel like cowards. Feels like a simpler time, doesn’t it?
Things are going to be a bit different this time around. Mainstream crypto, once so full of promise, is now working to rebuild its reputation in the wake of the “crypto winter” and the inglorious fall of Sam Bankman-Fried and FTX.
What about the metaverse, that vague virtual universe that brands were so eagerly hyping up last year? During last year’s Super Bowl, Meta dropped an ad featuring a down-and-out and confusingly sentient animatronic dog who eventually connects with the good ol’ days of jamming with his fellow robots through an Oculus virtual reality (VR) headset. Can we expect another ad from Meta this year, or from any other companies trying to establish themselves as early movers in the metaverse?
At this point, it doesn’t seem likely. Though Meta’s latest earnings report seemed to signal a change in fortune, the tech giant's stock plummeted last year when it was revealed that some investors were growing skeptical of brand CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s strategy and that consumers were not flocking to Horizon Worlds (the company's VR platform) in anything close to the numbers that had been hoped for. This year, the company has said its strategy is to double down on AI.
"The Super Bowl is all about hype, and the peak cycle has passed for brands to be promoting crypto and the metaverse on such a massive stage," says Geoff Renaud, chief marketing officer for web3 marketing agency Invisible North. "The crypto winter and slow metaverse adoption, as well as major legal and compliance risks, give brands very few incentives to engage. I do believe that long-term, you will see use cases that will make these technologies relevant again, but for now, there's no upside and too much risk and negative sentiment."
Still, the metaverse hasn’t entirely receded from view. Earlier this month, the National Football League (NFL) announced that rap superstar Saweetie would perform a virtual concert in Warner Music Group’s Rhythm City, a virtual experience in Roblox. Though Roblox isn’t a VR platform, it's become roughly synonymous with the metaverse, as have other massive online multiplayer gaming platforms like Fortnite and The Sandbox.
Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) will also be making an appearance during the Big Game. Blockchain game developer Limit Break will air a 30-second ad featuring a QR code which will connect viewers to a collection of free virtual tokens. Reddit is also getting in on the gameday action by releasing Super Bowl LVII-themed NFTs in partnership with the NFL. (The platform is referring to these blockchain-based digital assets not as "NFTs" but as "collectible avatars.")
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