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Microsoft AI Brand Strategy

Patrón, Spectrum and Coke embrace AI for marketing

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By Webb Wright, NY Reporter

February 24, 2023 | 9 min read

Thinking about launching a campaign using an AI model like ChatGPT or Midjourney? Before you do, make sure you understand the risks involved. It will also be helpful to keep an eye on the brands that have begun to dabble in AI-powered marketing.

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The launch of ChatGPT in November 2022 helped to bring “generative AI” into mainstream consciousness / Adobe Stock

Artificial intelligence (AI), as you’ve probably noticed, is a hot subject right now.

Though the technology has been around for decades, quietly revolutionizing the way we work and communicate, it seems to have crossed an invisible threshold in recent months. Suddenly, professionals across industries – including, and perhaps especially, marketing – seem to be either celebrating or lamenting the ‘AI revolution.’ More commonly, they're doing a bit of both.

Why the sudden surge in AI hype? One of the big factors has been the rise of what’s commonly referred to as “generative AI,” or AI models designed to produce images, text, code and other forms of content using text-based prompts. ChatGPT, the poster child for generative AI, was released late last year by Microsoft-backed startup OpenAI; it reached its first million users just five days after being launched. (Instagram, in contrast, took around two months to reach that benchmark).

As mainstream culture embraces ChatGPT and other big-name generative AI models like Dall-E 2 (another OpenAI creation) and Midjourney, marketers have been quick to follow suit, often hailing the technology as the future of creativity.

But despite the hype, we have yet to see a tidal wave of AI-generated campaigns that one might’ve expected. This is likely due, at least in part, to a handful of recent and much-publicized controversies that some tech companies have faced upon releasing their own AI projects. Microsoft, for example, recently had to set a limit on the number of questions a user to ask the new, AI-powered Bing per session and per day after it became clear that longer sessions could confuse the system (and lead to some thorny PR issues for the company).

Many brands, in other words, seem to be paying lip service to the power of AI while biding their time and seeing where the chips fall before launching any AI-powered campaigns of their own. There are a small few, however, that are blazing ahead.

Here are three brands that over the past week have taken their first steps towards integrating AI into their marketing efforts:

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Patrón

In celebration of National Margarita Day on February 22, the tequila brand launched the ‘Patrón dream margarita generator’, an AI system that generates images of margaritas based on responses to three prompts: location, flavor and garnish.

“In recent months, the world of AI has led to a wave of cultural conversation, with an increasingly strong interest shown by users,” the brand said in a press release. “The Patrón dream margarita generator authentically embraces this new digital frontier with easy-to-use technology that can be enjoyed by tequila fans.”

Patrón partnered with Becky G for the campaign, giving fans the opportunity to enter for a chance to win two tickets to see the singer perform live in New York City by posting their original margarita images on Instagram and social media using the hashtags #PatronDreamMargarita and #PatronSweepstakes and tagging the brand.

Spectrum

Spectrum Reach, the ad sales arm of Spectrum, announced a new campaign earlier this week in partnership with AI-powered video company Waymark. The campaign leverages AI to help develop affordable TV ads for clients.

The “first-of-its-kind AI-powered platform,” as described in a press release, “allows businesses to produce high-quality TV commercials with AI-generated voiceover, in five minutes or less.” The platform offers 11 different voice options, each with its own timbre, speed and tone.

Coca-Cola

The Coca-Cola Company will be the first brand to be brought into the fold of a new partnership between management consulting firm Bain & Company and OpenAI.

The partnership, announced earlier this week, is being launched in an effort to extend the reach of OpenAI’s technology across the globe. Bain and OpenAI will work together to integrate the latter’s AI models – including ChatGPT and Dall-E (the predecessor to Dall-E 2) – into various components of clients’ business models, including the generation of ad content.

“We are excited to unleash the next generation of creativity offered by this rapidly emerging technology,” James Quincey, chairman and chief executive officer of The Coca-Cola Company, said in a statement. “We see opportunities to enhance our marketing through cutting-edge AI, along with exploring ways to improve our business operations and capabilities.”

Thus far, details of what Coke’s integration with OpenAI’s tech will look like are scant. But the beverage company went to great lengths last year – riding the wave of metaverse and virtual reality hype – to position itself as a tech-savvy and innovative brand, even going so far as to release a pixel-flavored soda. It stands to reason, therefore, to expect that the brand will be similarly experimental with AI in the coming months.

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Still early days

The commercial applications of generative AI are still being fleshed out. We are currently living through the technology’s test-and-learn period, a fact that companies like Microsoft are quick to point out when their AI systems behave in unexpected and embarrassing ways.

Some marketers are clearly eager to experiment with AI models like ChatGPT and Midjourney. Others urge caution, insisting that these tools are too new to be used responsibly and competently on a large scale. “Honestly, I don’t think there’s anyone [using generative AI] in an effective way,” says PJ Pereira, creative chairman at ad agency Pereira & O’Dell. “I think it’s a mistake, actually, to even attempt to do it in an effective way.”

The logic of capitalism makes it virtually guaranteed that brands of varying sizes will work quickly to introduce new AI models and AI-powered campaigns in an effort to keep up with competitors. Time will tell if such haste is wise. For the time being, however, the small handful of brands that are actively experimenting AI-powered marketing can provide those who are still on the fence with an illuminating glimpse into the benefits and drawbacks of this rapidly evolving technology.

For more on the latest happening in AI, web3 and other cutting-edge technologies, sign up for The Emerging Tech Briefing newsletter here.

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