Some of the world’s biggest advertisers, from food giant Nestlé to consumer goods multinational Unilever, are experimenting with generative artificial intelligence software such as ChatGPT and DALL-E to cut costs and boost productivity, executives said. But many companies remain wary of security and copyright risks, as well as the danger of accidental bias in software’s raw information, meaning humans will remain part of the process for the foreseeable future.

Generative artificial intelligence (AI), which can be used to generate content based on past data, has become a buzzword over the past year, capturing the public’s imagination and sparking interest across many industries. Marketing teams hope it will provide cheaper, faster and virtually unlimited ways to advertise their products.

Investments are already ramping up in anticipation that artificial intelligence could forever change the way advertisers bring products to market, executives at two of the top consumer goods companies and the world’s largest advertising agency told Reuters. The technology can be used to create seemingly raw text, images or even computer code based on training, rather than simply classifying or identifying data like other artificial intelligences.

Mark Read, chief executive of WPP, the world’s largest advertising agency, said the company is working with consumer goods companies such as Nestle and Oreo maker Mondelez to use generative artificial intelligence in advertising campaigns. “The savings can be 10 to 20 times,” Reed said in an interview. “Instead of flying film crews to Africa to shoot commercials, we’re doing it virtually.”

In India, WPP partnered with Mondelez for an AI-driven Cadbury ad campaign with Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan, creating an ad featuring the actor asking passers-by to stop by during Diwali Shop at 2,000 local stores in between.

Small businesses use microsites to generate ad versions featuring their stores that can be posted on social media and other platforms. According to WPP, about 130,000 ads were created for 2,000 stores and garnered 94 million views on YouTube and Facebook.

Read said WPP had “20 young people in their early twenties working as AI apprentices” in London, and had partnered with Oxford University on a course focused on the future of marketing. According to the WPP website, the Diploma in Artificial Intelligence for Business provides training in data and artificial intelligence for client leaders, practitioners and WPP executives.

The team works under the leadership of artificial intelligence expert Daniel Hulme, who was appointed WPP’s chief artificial intelligence officer two years ago. “It’s much easier to think about all the jobs that will be disrupted than all the jobs that will be created,” Reid said.

Nestlé is also studying how to use ChatGPT 4.0 and Dall-E 2 to help market its products, Aude Gandon, Nestlé’s global chief marketing officer and former Google executive, said in an emailed statement.

“The engine is answering campaign briefs with great ideas and inspirations that are entirely based on brand and strategy,” Gunden said. “Then the creative team develops those ideas further and ultimately becomes the content that will be produced, such as for our website. “

While lawmakers and philosophers continue to debate whether content generated by generative AI models is equivalent to human creativity, advertisers are already using the technology in promotional campaigns.

imagined scene

For example, a research team at the Rijksmuseum used X-rays to reveal new hidden objects in Baroque artist Johannes Vermeer’s painting The Milkmaid, which went viral on September 8, 2022 . Less than 24 hours later, WPP used OpenAI’s generator system DALL-E 2 to “reveal” its imaginary scene outside the frame in a public YouTube ad for Nestle’s La Laitière (or Milkmaid) yogurt and dairy brand.

After nearly 1,000 iterations, the video for Nestlé’s version of The Milkmaid generated €700,000 ($766,010) in “media value” for the Swiss food giant. Media value is the advertising cost required to generate the same public exposure.

WPP said the content was produced at no cost. A spokesman for the Rijksmuseum said it had an open data policy for copyright-free images, meaning anyone could use its images.

Nestlé isn’t the only company conducting such experiments.

Unilever, which owns more than 400 brands including Dove soap and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, has its own generative artificial intelligence technology that writes product descriptions for retailer websites and digital commerce sites. The company’s TRESemmé hair care brand has used its AI-powered content generator to generate written content and its automated tools to generate visual content on Amazon.co.uk.

But Unilever is concerned about copyright, intellectual property, privacy and data, Aaron Rajan, Unilever’s global vice president for market technology, told Reuters. The company wants to prevent its technology from reproducing human biases, such as racial or gender stereotypes, that might be embedded in the data it processes.

“It’s really important to make sure that when you feed in certain terms, these models come back with a non-stereotyped view of the world,” he said.

Nestlé’s Gandon told Reuters the company “puts safety and privacy first”.

Martin Sorrell, executive chairman of advertising group S4 Capital and founder of WPP, said consumer goods companies are using data from retailers such as Walmart, Carrefour and Kroger to power their artificial intelligence tools. “You have two types of customers: those who are all-in, and those who say ‘let’s try it out,'” he said.

Some consumer goods companies remain wary of security risks or copyright infringement, industry executives said. “If you want a rule of thumb: Treat everything you tell an AI service as a piece of really interesting gossip. Do you want it leaked?” said Ben King, vice president of customer trust at Okta, an online certification service.

“Do you want other people to know about your situation?” he added. “If not, don’t tell the AI.”

© Thomson Reuters 2023


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