Some say that in the very near future, we’ll need to either adopt artificial intelligence (AI) or be made redundant by it or by others using it. If this is true, artists, designers and other creatives are more at stake than most. So, it is interesting to see big companies like Coca-Cola choosing to kickstart their own generative AI journey with projects directed at including and enabling creatives. The company has recently appointed a global head of generative AI, Pratik Thakar becoming one of the first major multinationals to do so. It's a sure sign of how important it thinks the technology will be.
In addition, it has won acclaim with a stunning AI-generated advertising campaign that really shows how AI, combined with human talent, can bring the wow factor. Running through its other initiatives is a theme of empowering independent creators and small studios with the opportunities of generative AI. The message seems to be that artists have nothing to fear from AI and should instead embrace its power to enhance their own skills.
Which sounds great but does it actually hold water?
Here’s an overview of some of the ways that the world’s most famous soft drink company is using (or planning to use) generative AI. These are use cases that, while technically excellent, raise interesting questions about how AI will change the relationship between technology, artists and the corporations that put the money on the table.
Coca-Cola appointed Pratik Thakar as the global head of generative AI. Speaking to The Drum, he said that he believes AI will bridge the gap between human creativity and brand identity. He said, "Coca-Cola has always bridged the divide … how do we make it more approachable … more palatable and something which is useful to everyone?” Thakar believes that the democratization of AI means the democratization of Coca-Cola or its brand identity, at least. The plan is to achieve this by making tools that let anyone play around with new ways of communicating that identity.
Ethics are an important aspect of AI, and you’d hope they would be a concern for the man in charge of it across operations as huge as Coca-Cola’s. It is reassuring that he has made a commitment to ensuring his company carefully selects its technology partners based on knowing that their models are trained “in the right way.”
In line with Thakar’s stated belief in helping creatives to unlock the power of AI, Coca-Cola held its first Real Magic Creative Academy this year. The event helped it to build connections with the independent art and design community. By fostering these relationships, it hopes to unearth the talent and inspiration it needs to follow up Masterpiece. It’s an extension of the brand’s Create Real Magic campaign, which invited artists to use its digital platform to create images using Coke’s platform and assets, with the winning images going on display on billboards in New York and London.
Staying on the theme of empowering creatives, there’s also Coke Studio. This is a free music-making platform, now augmented with generative AI capabilities. Hosted at various festivals around the US, visitors are able to create songs, music videos and even album covers by answering questions posed by a ChatGPT-powered bot. Once they've completed the process, which involves being filmed in a green room studio and inserted into their video, their creations can be downloaded and shared.
It’s clear that the brand wants to be associated with AI and the upcoming generation of artists and creators that it believes will use it. Of course, it probably is not a coincidence that many of them, because of what they do, are likely to be identified by marketers as influencers.