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How can the advertising industry keep the he‘art’ alive in AI campaigns?

While AI is in the nascent stage, brands are still experimenting and trying to fit the technology into their narratives. This experimentation is leading to similar-looking ad campaigns which raise concerns of creativity being hindered. Creative experts in A&M industry speak to us on the use of AI in enhancing visual storytelling, its templatisation, measures to remember and more.

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Shamita Islur
New Update
AI campaigns in advertising

It is said that technology can be both a friend and a foe. This can clearly be seen in the last year as Artificial Intelligence (AI) gained prominence across texts, images, videos, audio and more. So much so, that the total entries of campaigns utilising AI made up to 12% at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity this year.

Take the global campaign “Adoptable. By Pedigree” as an example. In collaboration with Nexus Studios and Colenso BBDO, Pedigree used its AI-powered model to put real, adoptable shelter dogs in the brand’s ad placements into an ad for a shelter dog in the locality. Combining technology with the brand’s global ad reach resulted in becoming a friend of the advertising industry and local dogs. 

Following Adoptable’s launch in test markets, 50% of featured dogs were adopted, with a sixfold increase in shelter visitors, within the first two weeks. 

This is a use case of AI where it helped connect with consumers through visual storytelling and imagery. Similarly, the technology has helped brands go back in time to drive emotional connections with potential consumers - all by using video as the means. 

When the automobile brand, Volkswagen wanted to commemorate its 70th anniversary, it joined hands with AlmapBDDO. Utilising AI and deepfake, the brand reunited one of Brazil’s greatest singers, the late Elis Regina, with her daughter Maria-Rita, a singer with 8 Grammys. 

In the ad campaign titled, “VW 70 Years Campaign”, Maria-Rita drives in a 100% electric version of the Volkswagen Kombi, as her mother drives alongside her in the classic Volkswagen Kombi model. It gets them to sing as a duet for the first time, blending past and present into the video production.

Both campaigns show the use of AI to forge emotional connections and maximise its potential. In India, this concept of going back to the past was utilised in 2022 by Airtel as it recreated the experience of Kapil Dev’s famous 175 not out vs Zimbabwe, during the 1983 Cricket World Cup. The “175 Replayed” ad campaign brought the key moments from the match to life, which had no video footage due to a strike by TV technicians. 

While AI is in the nascent stage, brands are still experimenting and trying to fit the trend into their narratives. However, with the surge in AI-powered ad campaigns since 2023, it has started reflecting one another.  

Are AI campaigns too templatised?

Yogesh Kothari, Global Business Head- PivotConsult, PivotRoots- A Havas Company notes that AI has significantly changed the way advertisers craft visual stories, making the creation of personalised images faster and enhancing the understanding of audience preferences.

"But relying too much on AI can make ads look the same and lose the human touch that makes stories connect.”

Yogesh Kothari

Kothari believes that it can't replace human creativity, especially when it comes to showing complex emotions.

“The best way to use AI is to let it help people tell better stories, not to let it tell the stories itself.”

- Yogesh Kothari

While grabbing attention for an advertisement is key, the ad creation and design tools powered by AI still lack experience since they learn from existing data. This raises the question of whether it is delivering original content with meaningful storytelling. 

Shivani Kamdar, Associate Creative Director, SoCheers says that humans won’t be replaceable with AI for the sheer lack of emotional resonance from technology. 

However, Kamdar points out that we will experience a fatigue period unless there are any upgrades in storytelling with AI. Even with similar storytelling concepts, she notes that there’s scope to be creative. 

Shivani Kamdar

“AI enhances the visual in ways we wouldn’t have imagined, now creatively how we want to leverage, that’s at our disposal. So sure, the widespread use of AI can lead to a trend of similar ads, but let’s remember, that AI is just a tool, creativity still lies in human hands.”

- Shivani Kamdar

Benefits & risks of using AI in visual storytelling 

While creativity lies in the hands of the creator, it is important to use the technology wisely or it could become a foe, raising concerns about creativity and ethics.

Manika Juneja, Managing Partner, Dentsu Creative comments that letting humans add their unique flavour to make ads can add creativity and uniqueness. Otherwise, everything is just another “prompt-based not-so-creative-CREATIVE” which has been quite noticeable across various brands and campaigns these days, she continues.

This templated approach could lead to potential hindrances in creativity. “The most obvious hindrance is sacrificing originality and emotional impact. For example, prioritising click-through rates over storytelling can lead to generic ads.”

Manika Juneja

If used thoughtfully, the potential of AI in visual storytelling is vast. Research indicates that effective storytelling directly impacts conversion rates by enabling marketers to craft messages that align with customers' desires, highlight product benefits, and create a sense of urgency.

Juneja mentions, “Relying on AI for visual storytelling in advertising offers enhanced personalisation, efficiency, and creativity by quickly generating high-quality visuals, optimising content based on data, and predicting trends, making campaigns slightly cost-effective.”

Additionally, Amaresh Godbole, CEO of Digital Technology Business at Publicis Groupe India, emphasises that human oversight is currently essential.

“Hallucinations, data security, and brand safety are all top of mind. We are routing all our work through our enterprise-level AI systems which work with partners such as Microsoft who understand enterprise and are providing these tools in environments that solve for it.”

Amaresh Godbole

Use cases of AI in visual storytelling

According to a report, visual AI is increasingly being incorporated into various marketing activities, including automated graphic design, photography enhancements, and content creation. Moreover, 57% of respondents when it comes to the growing use of visual and video AI creation tools. 

Rohan Mehta, CEO, FCB Kinnect and FCB/SIX India notes, “AI has become a good starting point for referencing and storyboarding. Being able to try and test multiple visual treatments in a fraction of a time, visualise and create highly produced visuals with bare minimum resources.”

At FCBKinnect, they have 16 AI enthusiasts who are finding more AI platforms that can be used in the production pipeline. Mehta shares that they trained the office to use Boords (a storyboarding software) and ChatGPT's Runway for storyboards, concept sketches, and basic animations, to help save effort and time. 

Rohan Mehta

AI helped the agency craft HDFC Bank’s “Lulumelon EOSS” campaign which is now a Cannes Lions winner. In the ad, HDFC Bank’s fraud-fighting influencer, Vigil Aunty, posed as actor Nora Fatehi using deepfake AI to scam people with fake offers. It revealed audiences' gullibility to AI scams. 

“Using AI in storytelling let us experiment and balance automation with creativity effectively,” Mehta continues. 

Amaresh Godbole of Publicis Groupe India comments that they are now producing work for clients that was previously not possible. 

“At the top funnel, AI is helping us to implement creative personalisation at scale using synthetic video, voice etc. For example, we can implement creative personalisation at scale using synthetic video, voice etc.” 

He cites the "Say it with Oreo campaign" as an example, where AI facilitated personalised voice messages from Farhan Akhtar to millions of users, crafted and voiced in Akhtar's style by ChatGPT and Resemble AI, respectively, with brand safety ensured by Webpurify.

In the mid-funnel, Godbole notes the rise of purely digital influencers powered by AI and the use of GPT models trained in on-brand content and product catalogues. This enables natural language interactions on marketing and commerce platforms, offering curated recommendations and enhancing purchase decision-making.

He also discusses the potential of GPT-powered customer service agents using voice and synthetic video. These agents are designed to provide consistent and effective customer support, potentially indistinguishable from human interaction. 

“AI models can also be used for improving customer loyalty and rewards, and predictive modelling to design new products and services with a higher likelihood to succeed.”

- Amaresh Godbole

Measures to consider for effectiveness

While AI is being used as an experimentation tool, maintaining uniqueness and engagement in advertising and preserving the human element of creativity is important. 

Despite templatisation, how can advertisers ensure that their advertising remains unique and engaging?

Dentsu Creative’s Manika Juneja states, “Set clear rules for how AI can be used in advertising and invest in experimenting with it. It's important to allow room for failure and playfulness to figure out what works and what doesn't.”

This approach will help advertisers optimise the use of AI for effective campaigns, she notes.

Shivani Kamdar of SoCheers highlights the role of human creativity in storytelling despite the efficiency brought by AI. She says, “In ‘Effective Storytelling’, AI takes care of the efficiency, but storytelling and emotional connection remain our domains.” 

She continues that it’s on the users on how they strategically use the tool, even for templates. 

“Use it as a starting point but give it your creative spin, that human touch, infuse some emotions, the brand identity and own your story/campaign.”

- Shivani Kamdar

Whether AI will enhance creativity in visual storytelling or hinder it depends on the creativity expressed by the ideators of the campaigns, as per experts. While technology can be both a friend and a foe, striking a balance between technological efficiency and human creativity remains paramount to crafting impactful and engaging campaigns.

 

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