No chance of your spokesperson causing off-camera scandals if they don’t exist off camera.

Last month, Japanese tea maker Ito En expanded its popular Oi Ocha line with its new Oi Ocha Catechin Green Tea. A month and a half later, they’ve unveiled their commercial for the product, starring an unnamed spokesmodel.

She’s not “unnamed” in the sense that she’s acting anonymously, though, but because she’s an AI-created model.

“The future me starts from now” says the narration, as the model skips through a futuristic cityscape, puts a bottle of Oi Ocha Catechin Green Tea up to cover our field of view, then brings the drink down to show herself at a younger age.

The model isn’t the only part of the video’s visuals that AI had a hand in creating, either. Ito En also used image-generating AI to create the Oi Ocha Catechin Green Tea label. First, the program developed a over a dozen candidates…

after which human designers evaluated and improved them.

These were then evaluated by AI, paring down the field before human designers took over once again and finalized the design.

The abstract label design seems like the sort of thing that wouldn’t be too hard for AI to develop, but the commercial actress is startling lifelike-looking, prompting comment for the video including:

“When the video started, I was thinking ‘I don’t recognize this actress…’, but it turns out she’s AI-made! Modern technology is amazing.”
“We’ve finally made it past the uncanny valley.”
“Looks totally natural.”
“I couldn’t tell she wasn’t a real person until I saw how her lips move when she’s drinking.”
“Hey eye movements at the very end look a little unnatural, but this is still incredible quality.”

Not everyone is sold on the idea of AI models trying to sell them things, though.

“AI seems to be really good at creating forgettable faces.”
“Yeah, the technology is impressive and all, but realizing ‘This person doesn’t really exist’ makes me feel sort of empty inside.”
“I think it’s a bad idea to use AI [models] to sell food [and drink] products.”
“I feel like as AI advances, we’re headed towards a dystopia where everyone we see in commercials, TV programs, and mass media in general is going to be an AI-made model.”

Historically, as technology advances it becomes cheaper to utilize, and there’s been a lot of talk, especially in the show business sphere, about whether it’s now become less expensive to use AI then human performers. Things may or may not have gotten to that crossing point yet, but a number of commenters pointed out another reason AI models might be an attractive choice for Ito En and other companies.

“With AI models, there’s no risk of them getting involved in scandals.”
“I think we might be coming to the end of the era in which companies are willing to take on the risks of hiring human spokespeople.”
“If you’re upset about companies using AI models, you should complain to celebrities who cause scandals.”

It should be pointed out that Ito En hasn’t made any explicit statement that its AI model is an attempt to mitigate the reputational risks involved with from-human endorsements. At the same time, that upside has to be something that marketing teams and advertising agencies are acutely aware of these days. In the wake of the Johnny & Associates sexual abuse scandal, dozens of major companies are scrambling to rework their marketing strategies which previously relied largely on members of the talent agency smiling and looking stylish while standing next to the product, or even just the logo of the company, they were endorsing.

Japanese celebrity endorsement marketing is almost entirely focused on the spokesperson’s image, so when that image becomes sufficiently cracked, it has the potential to take the entire promotional strategy down with it, and it wouldn’t be a shock if the advantage of being able to opt out of all those risks is part of why Ito En is going with an AI model this time.

Source: Ascii via Yahoo! Japan News via Hachima Kiko, PR Times
Top image: YouTube/伊藤園公式チャンネル
Insert images: YouTube/伊藤園公式チャンネル, PR Times
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