Lay’s sends soccer fans personalized messages from star Messi using AI

Dive Brief:

  • Lay’s is connecting soccer fans around the world with Lionel Messi through a new artificial intelligence-powered activation, per details shared with Marketing Dive. The concept comes as part of the snack brand’s global UEFA Champions League campaign that debuted last month.
  • People can visit a Messi Messages website to generate a custom video, following a series of text prompts to guide what Messi says. The site’s technology manipulates the movements of the star athlete’s lips and then syncs the movements with voiceover audio in real time to make it appear as though Messi is actually speaking.
  • Lay’s partnered with AI and facial-mapping specialists Synthesia to develop the feature, which can process thousands of names and is available in up to 10 languages. The effort is another sign that brands are dipping their toes further into deepfakes and adjacent technology to automate more of their marketing.

Dive Insight:

Lay’s Messi Messages draw on a few different pieces of emerging tech, leveraging AI, lip-syncing and facial mapping to provide soccer fans with a synthetic piece of messaging from one of the most popular players in the world. The service summons comparisons to deepfakes, an application of AI that manipulates existing footage or images of people’s faces to make it appear as though they’re saying things. Deepfakes have raised serious ethical concerns, but also steadily leaked into advertising as brands experiment with new production methods during the pandemic.

The synthetic videos from Messi are informed by a series of text prompts that ask the user to share their name, a friend’s name, an activity they want to do with their friend — such as watching a match — and when they should do that activity (i.e. “tonight” or “tomorrow”). After the site generates the video in seconds, users have the option to download the message and share it with others. An infomercial-like spot explains how the technology works and shows Messi saying “It’s incredible” in several languages.

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The campaign emulates content that’s popular on shoutout apps such as Cameo. Cameo lets users search for a celebrity or influencer and pay them to create a personalized video message. The concept has gained traction under the pandemic as COVID-19 production challenges lead stars to seek alternative means of revenue. Brian Baumgartner, best known as Kevin on NBC’s popular sitcom “The Office,” made over $1 million from Cameo videos in 2020, co-founder and chief executive Steven Galanis recently told The New York Times.

Since scaling Cameo-style videos is difficult, Lay’s is instead relying on automation to connect Messi with fans around the globe. The announcement claims this is the first time such technology has been accessible to consumers through a brand activation.

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