Kerala Technology
Kerala’s AI ad milestone creates a buzz

None of the models in this ad that appeared on Mathrubhumi newspaper are real people and the images were generated by AI. Photo: TikTalk Newsletter

Kerala’s AI ad milestone creates a buzz

PV Harikrishnan By PV Harikrishnan, on August 21, 2023
PV Harikrishnan By PV Harikrishnan, on August 21, 2023

The date 12 August 2023 should probably be recorded as a milestone in Kerala’s technology scene. This was the day when the use of artificial intelligence (AI) was publicly acknowledged in a major mass advertising campaign.

A full-page image in Mathrubhumi Daily, showing a group of people rejoicing, was used by Kalyan Silks to announce their Onam festival offers.

The basic elements of the Kalyan ad, created by Ernakulam-based Maitri Advertising Works, were generated with the help of a program called Midjourney, and none of the models in it were actual people; they were images generated by AI.

This immediately sparked chatter on the internet, with a Reddit thread about the ad generating over a hundred comments, most of which were aimed at the quality of the image and concerns about job losses due to AI. Tweets about it received several reposts and were viewed by thousands, with many comments pointing to potential job losses caused by AI.

Jobs of models, cameraman and light assistants gone with one click, said one Reddit post while another message reflected the anxiety of a user who had just joined a fine arts college.

Many comments on social media referred to the odd positioning of hands in the image, a common challenge for AI-generated programs. The lack of any Kerala attire and other local elements was also mentioned.

Still, the use of generative AI, which can seamlessly produce a range of elements from ad copy to visual designs, including simulated models and settings, offers an intriguing glimpse into what could be the future of advertising innovation.

Will AI avatars and models eventually replace real-world models? Will programs like Midjourney produce images in future rather than photographers?  More importantly, will the reduced budget to create an ad campaign with AI sound the death knell for some creative agencies?

Ideation Director at Maitri Advertising, Venugopal R Nair, says the main factor behind the decision to use AI for the Kalyan ad was the time limit they faced after securing the order. Since the time constraint was a factor, the agency presented the idea of using AI to create the campaign and their client accepted it.

“They were ready to experiment and were happy with the outcome of our work.”

Midjourney was used to generate the image, but it was later refurbished with some other tools. The initial creative process was done internally and then the correction was outsourced.

Nair acknowledged that from a professional point of view, the advertisement image has its flaws but considers it a success considering the time in which it was created.

The buzz the ad created on the internet forums and the attention it got in the mainstream media shows the campaign was more than successful in getting the eyeballs.

While the time factor may have been the decisive element here, one cannot ignore the logistics and economic aspects of this. Creating an image with a group of people involves a whole chain of processes, including locating a venue, booking models, setting up lighting, engaging camera units, and processing the obtained photos. Each step of this process consumes time and money.

So, when an alternative process involves only the use of an AI program to generate such an image in a fraction of the time required, it becomes tempting for many agencies and clients alike.

But the impact of AI goes beyond the budgetary aspect. It also opens up new horizons for creativity, as AI can generate the image of a model needed for a particular campaign and place that image on a backdrop that exists only in the artist’s imagination.

So, the next advertisement for a tea shop could very well be an image of the shop on a lunar surface, getting ready to welcome our Chandrayaan-3 when it lands on the moon, reminiscent of the old joke about a Malayali tea vendor welcoming Neil Armstrong to the moon in 1969.

This potential scenario could have a significant impact on the roles of models and photographers, two integral components of the creative process. While AI presents both opportunities and challenges, it may reshape how these professionals contribute to the industry.

Naturally, this raises concerns about the value we place on real human representation and the potential loss of jobs in modelling and related industries. In some ways, this is inevitable, but not everyone believes that AI can completely replace humans in this field.

“While AI can generate content, it lacks the depth of human emotions and cultural nuances. The power of human thinking will eventually be the differentiator,” says Roy V Mathew, vice chairman of Kerala’s leading advertising agency, Stark Communications.

“The rise of AI-generated content brings forth challenges. The authenticity and originality of creative work will be under scrutiny. It’s imperative for agencies to ensure that human creativity remains central, blending it seamlessly with AI capabilities.”

With AI, the democratisation of advertising will be accelerated. Smaller businesses, previously constrained by budget limitations, can now harness AI to generate high-quality campaigns. This not only levels the playing field but also introduces a diverse array of voices into the advertising ecosystem, according to Roy.

It also introduces an element of cutting corners. The ease of generating a campaign image will likely attract newcomers to the field and they could lure some tight-fisted clients whose priority is the budget than quality in such campaigns.

With AI poised to play a significant role in creating advertisements, the industry will require new skill sets and a re-evaluation of traditional roles. Ensuring that the workforce remains competitive and relevant will depend heavily on training and adaptation. 

“Artists and photographers can adapt to the rise of AI image generators in several ways,” says Manzoor Ahmed Hameed, a former New Media Officer with Mathrubhumi. He closely follows advances in the field of AI and occasionally dabbles in creating images with it, sharing them on his Facebook page as a pastime.

“One way is to learn how to use these tools to their advantage. For instance, artists can utilise AI image generators to preview their own work and experiment with different concepts before creating a final piece. They can also employ AI image generators to generate new ideas and find inspiration for their work.”

“Additionally, artists and photographers can continue to enhance their skills and knowledge in areas such as graphic design, photography, and art terminology. This will help them remain competitive in the industry and continue producing high-quality work that stands out from AI-generated images,” he says.

The role of AI in marketing campaigns won’t be limited to just a few ads. It will assist in analysing data to gain insights into consumer behaviour, preferences, and trends, enabling the creation of more targeted and effective ad campaigns. This process will also facilitate resource reallocation, encourage experimentation, and explore new creative approaches.

Social media posts indicate that AI-generated ads have appeared in Kerala's mainstream media before, but the Kalyan ad is the first acknowledged instance of a full-page ad featuring virtual people. The internet buzz it generated is likely to pave the way for wider AI adoption in the advertising sector in Kerala.

Nair from Maitri Advertising agrees. “We will continue to use AI in the future, but with quality human intervention.”

Jumbo AI plan reported

When a temple in Thrissur, Kerala used a robotic elephant for its festival, it grabbed the news headlines. Now comes the news that a team headed by KP Unnikrishnan, co-founder and chief scientist at US-based AI startup E-Neuro Learn is planning to create an AI-enabled elephant robot that has sensory capabilities, reports Mathrubhumi. “The elephant will be able to identify people and understand commands,” said  Unnikrishnan, who hails from Thrissur district. It all sounds very ambitious and the report doesn’t give any details about the time frame of the project.

But robotic cats and dogs are attracting a lot of attention at the ongoing  World Robot Conference 2023 in Beijing. The bionic robot cat, metaCat, developed by Elephant Robotics, has blue eyes and soft hair that will shake its head, wag its tail, stretch, meow, and purr when people touch it. Many robotic firms have unleashed their robodogs at the fair which shook hands with fairgoers and performed handstands on their front paws. Meanwhile, an AP report also says humanoids are performing impressive tasks at the fair like serving Chinese tea, preparing ice cream cones, and giving visitors back massages.

EV sales in Kerala continue to soar

The sale of electric vehicles continues to be impressive in Kerala, despite the state government not offering any incentives, unlike other places in India. According to a report in The New Indian Express, as of August 15th, the state had registered 47,329 EVs, constituting 10.3 percent of the total number of registrations. The report also suggests that if Kerala had incentives like tax breaks for EVs, it could have been the top place, a title that went to New Delhi. Eldo Benjamin, Senior Vice President (Sales and Marketing) at Nippon Toyota, mentioned in the report that supply shortages are also a problem as manufacturers are struggling to meet the surging demand. Therefore, it's not just the government at fault here.

Superconductor claims fail to hold up

The excitement about a superconductor that we mentioned recently has now died down. Apparently the claim by a team of South Korean researchers about LK-99 is now proving to be a dud. Dozens of studies published in the last week or two have come around to this conclusion, reports TechCrunch. Several independent labs checked out the claims and gave a quick thumbs down. The Korean team revealed their methods and experts at other labs across the world found out there were flaws in it. As the TechCrunch report says, one silver lining of this episode is that scientific process of validating claims remains still robust.

Pink pineapple has a rosy future

While it might not be directly related to the recent Barbie’s fashion craze, even agriproducts giant Fresh Del Monte is getting a taste of the pink fever. Their profits soared higher thanks to the sales of their pink-fleshed pineapples. This exotic pineapple variety, known as Pinkglow, is the result of 16 years of research. Scientists tinkered with its flesh to produce more lycopene, the same pigment that turns watermelons and tomatoes red. Now, these blushing beauties are mostly grown in Costa Rica and have become all the rage in the US and Canada despite costing around 39 US dollars for one fruit.