Once upon a time (for that's how all good stories begin), a video made in France travelled through the digital byways of WhatsApp groups to India. And that's how I came across Orange France's AI ad – created using Marcel, an Artificial Intelligence (AI) tool created by the Publicis Groupe.
The video, while not exactly new, manages to resurface frequently, sparking fresh discussions.
At first glance, the video appears to be a typical sports ad – the kind that's become a staple of television and online media. A team of footballers, drenched in sweat, passionately battling it out on the field while an ecstatic audience roared in approval. It was a scene we'd all seen countless times before.
But here's the twist – it wasn't the men's team, as everyone's initial assumption led them to believe. Instead, it was the women's football team, transformed into men using AI tools, such as VFX and other aspects of Marcel.AI. Deepfakes but for a good cause, essentially.
This revelation didn't just stop at the surface level of creativity. It delved deeper, raising a multitude of questions about the world we live in, the role of technology in shaping our perceptions, and the inequalities that persist even in the realm of sports. Talk about one stone killing multiple birds.
The Impact of the Orange France Ad
Gender disparity in football is a long-standing issue – one that has plagued the sport (and every other sport) for decades. The unfortunate truth is that women footballers have been subjected to unequal opportunities, limited media coverage, and an enduring pay gap when compared to their male counterparts.
However, what makes this campaign so exceptional is its ability to make us challenge our own biases. The enthusiasm we feel for the men's team is palpable – and then, we discover it's the women's team we've been cheering for all along.
And then, the point hits home – no one ever cheers for the women's team this loud. This impactful AI-led subversion serves as a compelling reminder about the inequalities and personal biases that are prevalent everywhere. It tells us that we are a part of the problem. And it encourages us to do better.
This campaign – with its transformative approach – effectively shattered preconceived notions and ignited discussions about the urgent need for equal representation and recognition of women in the sports world. It boldly challenged the status quo and demonstrated that when given the opportunity, women athletes can shine just as brightly as their male counterparts, if not more so.
It was a clarion call for change, a powerful reminder that it's high time we level the playing field and recognise and celebrate the remarkable achievements of women in sports.
This led me to think, what else is AI capable of? What other biases can it challenge?
The potential of AI-generated content extends beyond the sports arena, reaching across genres, industries and regions. Its capability to morph and create visual content with such precision opens doors to a world where traditional norms can be subverted and new possibilities explored.
Think of AI-led worlds where children run nations (they'd probably do a better job) or where men gave birth, for instance.
However, as we delve deeper into this realm of alternate reality, we must also be mindful of the ethical implications and responsibilities that come with wielding such transformative power.
Addressing Biases in AI
AI, like any other human creation, is susceptible to biases that exist in the data it learns from. This can lead to skewed representation and reinforce gender and racial disparities. Recognising and rectifying these biases is crucial to ensuring that AI serves as a tool for promoting equality, rather than perpetuating discrimination.
The Marcel.AI ad campaign showcased a captivating form of alternative reality where women's football is celebrated with the same fervour as men's. By presenting this transformed version of reality, AI enables us to envision a world where gender disparity in sports no longer exists.
However, as we explore these possibilities, we must tread carefully.
Striking a balance between celebrating diversity and promoting equality without erasing genuine differences is paramount in this pursuit of an alternative reality.
Beyond the fascinating possibilities offered by AI, we must not lose sight of the ultimate goal of a world with reduced gender gap. This vision extends far beyond the realm of sports, with potential positive impacts on society, the economy, and culture.
Marketing for Equality
Let's circle back to Marcel.AI. Marcel is not your average AI system. It's an innovative platform that has redefined the way people work in the world of advertising and marketing. In an industry known for its constant hustle, it brings a refreshing change, aiming to connect and empower its global network of creative professionals like never before.
Marcel's journey to prominence was punctuated by its celebrated appearance at the prestigious Cannes Lions Festival. This was a pivotal moment, where the project emerged from relative obscurity to take centre stage in the world of AI and marketing.
In the past, discussions about AI often carried an air of apprehension and scepticism. People were concerned about job losses, privacy implications, and the potential dehumanisation of industries. But Marcel decided to confront these apprehensions head-on.
Marcel's presence at Cannes was a resounding message to the naysayers. It proclaimed that AI isn't something to be feared of but celebrated. It demonstrated how this technology can be a valuable tool for fostering creativity, innovation, and collaboration.
It effectively broke through the stigma surrounding AI, showcasing its potential to enhance human creativity and productivity.
Marcel has the potential to reshape how marketers approach their campaigns, ensuring they are more representative. Marcel's ability to generate fresh, innovative content with an AI-driven edge has created a buzz in the advertising world.
It has proven that AI can be a powerful ally in the quest for creativity and effectiveness, rather than a threat to human creativity.
Empowering Change Through Inclusive Marketing Campaigns
In today's digital age of social media, marketers wield an even greater influence in shaping public perceptions and attitudes. With the vast reach and immediacy of platforms like Facebook, X, and Instagram, their messages can go viral in an instant, making it crucial for marketers to use their power responsibly and ethically.
The content they produce has the potential to not only shape brand perceptions but also influence social discourse, making their role in fostering inclusivity, breaking stereotypes, and promoting positive change more vital than ever before.
By embracing inclusive marketing campaigns, marketers can play a pivotal role in breaking down stereotypes and promoting gender equality. Even before the advent of AI, there were remarkable examples of successful marketing campaigns that positively impacted key causes like gender disparity for instance.
One such ad I love is "Run Like a Girl" by Always, which challenges the negative stereotype associated with doing something "like a girl." By featuring young girls and women confidently showcasing their abilities, the campaign redefined the phrase "like a girl" to represent strength and determination, empowering young girls and challenging gender norms. Another powerful initiative was Ariel's "Share the Load" campaign, which addressed the unequal distribution of household chores.
The ad portrayed a father encouraging his son to take on equal responsibilities, promoting a more equitable division of labour at home. Nike's "Dream Crazier" was another campaign that celebrated female athletes and inspired women to break barriers and dream big in sports and beyond.
Brands like Pantene and Unilever also joined the movement by challenging stereotypes and advocating for inclusivity in their "#LikeAGirl" and "Unstereotype" campaigns, respectively.
As marketers harness their power responsibly, they have the potential to create a domino effect that reaches far beyond the realm of advertising, ultimately leading to a more inclusive and equal society.
So, do marketers need AI to create impact? No. But can we use AI to create alternate realities that deliver even more impact? If used wisely, yes, absolutely.
With great power comes great responsibility. By leveraging AI and marketing responsibly, and by collectively advocating for causes that matter, we can break barriers and pave the way for a more inclusive future. A future where dreams and opportunities know no gender boundaries and AI-led campaigns are simply our reality.
(Ankita Mahabir is a strategist, a writer and the founder of Socially India – a Delhi/NCR based creative digital agency. As both, a marketer & a writer, she is driven by the power of well-written, stereotype-free content. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)