Using AI, Doritos takes the crunch out of gaming with new ‘silent’ chip
Following a teaser OOH campaign that launched in the UK last week, the chip brand has officially unveiled what it describes as “the world’s first AI-augmented snack.”
Over the past year, brands of all stripes have rushed in to capitalize on artificial intelligence (AI), a technology that has been mesmerizing the world with its capabilities and its breathtakingly rapid development. The marketing world has been overflowing with ’AI-augmented’ and ’AI-generated’ ad campaigns, while industry conferences Cannes Lions and Advertising Week New York have been largely focused on the technology and its implications.
Amid such crowded jostling, it can be difficult for some brands to find their niche in the so-called AI Revolution and create a platform that will enable them to stand apart from and above the crowd.
PepsiCo-owned brand Doritos hopes that it has found its niche.
Today, following a teaser campaign that went live last week, the snack brand is officially unveiling Doritos Silent, which it’s describing as “the world’s first AI-augmented snack.”
The new product – which was launched in the UK today and will ultimately also be released across other markets – has been designed specifically for gamers, a demographic that Doritos has been cozying up with for years. “Doritos’ heartland is gaming,” says Matt Watson, executive creative director at the European arm of Sips & Bites, PepsiCo’s in-house creative agency, which led the effort. “We know how linked snacking and gaming is; it’s such an important audience for us to be understanding and providing solutions [in order] for them to have the best gaming experience [possible].”
Doritos isn’t alone in its reverence for the gaming community, which grew considerably during the lockdown period of the pandemic. Though the number of people who identify as gamers dropped last year following the disappearance of social distancing mandates, the size of the community remains substantial: around 65% of Americans play video games for at least one hour a week, according to the Entertainment Software Association, while some estimates peg the number of active gamers globally at more than 3 billion.
Numbers like that are impossible for marketers to ignore and many brands have eagerly sought to ingratiate themselves with this massive and diverse audience – the inroads to which are multiplying as emerging technologies like augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) evolve and proliferate.
Watson describes the key insight behind the new Doritos campaign this way: while most people like to snack while they game, they also tend to wear headsets, audibly connecting them with other gamers (their “squad,” in gamerspeak), who aren’t so thrilled about the sounds of crunching and lip-smacking that get sent across the airwaves. “The noise of snacking gets in the way [of gaming],” he says. “It’s caused a bit of an issue within that audience … and it was putting people off of snacking on their beloved Doritos – [because] Doritos have the loudest crunch of any snack.”
In response, Doritos trained an AI model – using 5,000 distinct crunching sounds – to recognize the sound of a Doritos chip crunching. In harmony with another AI model that recognizes, isolates and amplifies the voice of the chewer, the sound of the crunch is removed from the audio stream. (The chewer will still hear the crunch, but their gaming comrades will not.)
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“For the first time,” says Watson, “we’re actually giving back to gamers so they can enjoy their love of Doritos without pissing off their squad, which is hugely important.” Himself a self-declared gamer, Watson says that his team has done “extreme and extensive testing” with the “crunch cancelation” technology and that it “works every time.”
The brand teased its new Silent Doritos campaign last week in the UK with out-of-home activations in Piccadilly Circus, Hackney, Liverpool and elsewhere. That teaser campaign was centered on images of Doritos placed inside people’s ears, alongside the text: “You won’t hear it coming.”
To protect against Doritos dust from actually entering ear canals, Watson’s team had the actors wear prosthetic implants within their ears.
“We wanted to create a really big buzz around this,” Watson says of the teaser campaign. “We wanted to be disruptive, emotive and a little bit divisive to create as much intrigue as possible.”
The full campaign launches across the UK today with a new video spot (embedded above) that’s being launched across digital and social media channels. The brand is also partnering up with gaming influencers to promote Doritos Silent. The software can be downloaded for free on the Doritos UK website and is accessible to anyone using a PC.
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