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How Duolingo, Coke and Expedia are harnessing GPT-4

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By Webb Wright, NY Reporter

April 5, 2023 | 9 min read

OpenAI’s new LLM has revolutionized AI and opened up new possibilities for marketers. Here’s a look at how three big-name brands have embraced the technology.

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GPT-4 was released by OpenAI on March 14, 2022. / Adobe Stock

In March, the AI lab OpenAI released GPT-4, the latest version of the large language model (LLM) behind the viral chatbot ChatGPT. Since then, a small number of brands have been stepping forward to integrate the new-and-improved chatbot into their product development or marketing efforts.

To a certain extent, this has required some courage. GPT-4 arrived not long after Microsoft’s newly AI-powered Bing chatbot - which, it was eventually revealed, was running on GPT-4 before the LLM had been officially released to the public - took New York Times reporter Kevin Roose on a bizarre textual ride through the chatbot’s “shadow self,” introducing itself as “Sydney.” The incident highlighted the model’s propensity for “hallucination” and raised fears among many of an impending AI-ocalypse.

Microsoft responded by limiting the number of queries that a user could submit to Bing per session and day. At around the same time, Google’s Bard – an AI chatbot launched largely in response to the upgraded Bing – spun off an erroneous fact during a public demo and cost Alphabet (Google’s parent company) many, many billions of dollars.

It would be a stretch to say that GPT-4 arrived during a PR crisis for AI; very few people would have claimed that the Bing and Bard mishaps spelled the doom of AI as such. But the incidents did set some marketing experts back on their heels.

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Both OpenAI and Google responded to the Roose and Bard incidents, respectively, with a general attitude of: These are early days, and we’re figuring out and fine-tuning these tools in collaboration with our users; we’re expecting the unexpected, and we appreciate the masses poking and prodding these AI models so that we can continue to make them more trustworthy and safe.

OpenAI, for its part, certainly seems to have taken its LLM’s hallucination problem to heart. Though the company admits on its website that the GPT-4 “has similar limitations as earlier GPT models” and “still is not fully reliable,” the new model “significantly reduces hallucinations relative to previous models.” That means that while GPT-4 is still liable to occasionally act in ways that don’t fully align with its training protocol, it probably won’t go full Sydney mode on you.

All of which makes this a very intriguing moment both for AI and for AI-powered advertising efforts. As more and more brands continue to harness GPT-4, in all of its power and unpredictability, the marketing world will be watching with bated breath to see what works, what falls flat and what backlashes spectacularly.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s return to the here and now by taking a look at a few (though by no means the only) brands that are currently leveraging GPT-4:

Duolingo

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Language education app Duolingo was quick to pounce on GPT-4, harnessing the LLM to offer users a more dynamic and engaging learning experience. On March 14 – the very day that GPT-4 was unveiled to the world – Duolingo announced the launch of Duolingo Max, a GPT-4-powered, subscription-based, ad-free offering. Duolingo Max offers two major new features, both of which leverage AI to personalize and enhance each user’s in-app experience: ‘Explain my answer’ (which is fairly self-explanatory) and ‘Roleplay’ (which allows users to engage in text-based conversations with Duolingo’s cast of animated characters).

Duolingo’s partnership with OpenAI began back in 2021 when the language education app first integrated GPT-3 (a predecessor to GPT-4). The platform has leveraged other AI models since it was first launched in 2011.

“Luckily, the ties between OpenAI and [Duolingo] had been pretty strong for a while, and we've always leveraged AI,” says Edwin Bodge, Duolingo’s Principal product manager. OpenAI reached out to Duolingo in September 2022 with an offer to try an AI model that was then referred to as “DV.” But Bodge says: “we all kind of knew it was going to be called GPT-4 eventually.”

Bodge recalls September 24 very clearly: He walked into the office of Luis Von Ahn, Duolingo’s cofounder and CEO, first thing in the morning. Ahn typed in a grammatically incorrect French phrase into the “DV” prompt box, along with a question: “Why is that wrong?” Bodge says the model then “gave this perfect explanation about why [the phrase] was incorrect.” His boss told him to drop whatever other projects he was working on so he could immediately start integrating the new AI model into Duolingo’s platform.

Coca-Cola

Less than one week after OpenAI released GPT-4, Coke announced a contest that leveraged both the new LLM and Dall-E 2, another AI model developed by OpenAI which generates images from text-based prompts.

Titled “Create Real Magic” – a play-off and an extension of the brand’s preexisting “Real Magic” marketing campaign – the contest challenged artists to create their own, Coca-Cola-themed works of art using GPT-4 and Dall-E 2 via a dedicated microsite. Pratik Thakar, Coke’s global head of creative strategy and integrated content, said in a statement at the time that the contest was “an experiment to see where co-creation can take us.”

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Expedia

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Travel planning platform Expedia has become the latest brand to hop onto the GPT-4 and ChatGPT bandwagon.

In a company blog post published this morning, Expedia announced the launch of a new, ChatGPT-powered chat feature within the company’s mobile app. Currently in beta, the feature will enable users to converse with the AI-powered chatbot “and get recommendations on places to go, where to stay, how to get around and what to see and do based on the chat,” Expedia wrote this morning’s blog post. The company writes that its new in-app feature also automatically saves hotels mentioned in a chat to a user’s itinerary – a feature described in the blog post as “intelligent shopping.”

“We know that every trip starts with planning, which at times can be overly long and complex, so we focused on building a trip-planning experience that would [be] easier for travelers,” says Rathi Murthy, Chief technology officer at Expedia Group (Expedia's parent company). “Today, travelers can start an open-ended conversation powered by ChatGPT directly in the Expedia app and get ideas on where to go, what to see and do, how to get there and where to stay.”

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