3 Lessons from ChatGPT’s Reimagining of Budweiser’s "Whassup" Campaign | Industry Insights | All MKC Content | ANA

3 Lessons from ChatGPT’s Reimagining of Budweiser’s "Whassup" Campaign

By Stephan Beringer

The advertising industry has always been chasing and debating the latest shiny object, and generative AI — cue the chorus of angels — may now be the shiniest of them all, despite the fact that it's been around for years.

Generative AI is being hailed as the transformative power that will reinvent every aspect of digital advertising – creative development, media buying, content creation, you name it. No day passes by without a new headline making yet another big point around it. This also includes of course the doomsday scenario of generative AI making thousands of agency jobs obsolete by the end of the decade, reminding us of the great falls of society as we know them from many technology innovations in the past.

Based on a little fun experiment I conducted, I think we may be getting ahead of ourselves. In this case, when it comes to using generative AI for campaign ideation and execution.

Using ChatGPT to Make an Old Campaign New

On my way to the Cannes Lions, I was thinking of Budweiser's "Whassup" campaign, which premiered in late 1999 and ran for multiple years. Commercials featuring a few guys sitting around, watching a game, drinking Bud, and greeting each other with "Whassup!" became a huge cultural phenomenon. The campaign won tons of awards, including the Cannes Grand Prix, and it helped Budweiser, already the world's largest brewer, sell even more beer. It was a success by every measure.

I figured it could be the perfect creative test for generative AI. So, I asked ChatGPT to reimagine the iconic Budweiser "Whassup" campaign for 2023.

Take a look at what I got back:

Introducing Budweiser's Whassup 2023 Campaign: The Ultimate Reunion!

(Opening scene: A group of friends sitting together in a bar, each holding a Budweiser.)

A great start for a great commercial, rarely seen before, anything is possible from here.

Friend 1: Hey, you remember that iconic "Whassup" campaign from back in the day?

Friend 2: Yeah, man! That was hilarious! It's been so long since we've seen each other.

Friend 3: Well, guess what? Budweiser's bringing it back, but this time, it's the ultimate reunion!

A natural dialogue in a bar, very upbeat, tension is rising.

(Friends start dialing their smartphones simultaneously.)

Wow, so cool, it's 2023 and we have smartphones now!

Friend 1: Whassup! Long time, no see!

Friend 2: Whassup, man! We're getting the gang back together!

Did he just say "gang"?

Friend 3: Whassup! Let's make some memories like old times!

Old time memories are what we need in this crazy world we live in.

(As they continue chatting, the camera zooms out to reveal that friends from all over the world are joining in on the conversation.)

100 percent Zoom zeitgeist, well done ChatGPT!

Friend 4 (from another country): Whassup, my international buddies! I miss our epic adventures!

International buddies are just brilliant, but check this next one out!

Friend 5 (from a different city): Whassup, my long-distance pals! Can't wait to catch up in person!

Long distance pals?!

(Fast-paced montage of friends coming together, sharing laughter, and enjoying Budweisers.)

Whatever it is, but I really can't wait to see this AI generated fast-paced montage of friends.

Narrator: In a world that's more connected than ever, Budweiser brings back the spirit of friendship, laughter, and good times. Because nothing brings people closer like a genuine "Whassup!"

This is utter brilliance, the climax must be very close now.

(Cuts to a grand reunion party, with a diverse group of friends raising their Budweisers in celebration.)

Here it is!

Narrator: Budweiser's Whassup 2023 Campaign: The Ultimate Reunion! Join us as we raise a toast to the power of friendship and the memories that last a lifetime.

Nope, it's still not over, AI goes in overdrive!!!

(End with the iconic Budweiser logo and tagline: "Budweiser. The beer that brings friends together.")

Narrator: Wassup, world? Let's make this reunion unforgettable!

Can somebody please stop this?

(Background music fades out as the screen transitions to the Budweiser logo.

Probably the best part of the Reunion Commercial: The end.

After I read this, I visited Stable Diffusion to create visuals, and things got even worse, so bad actually, that I won't subject you to them here. Suffice to say that it created images with only white people in them!

This disaster of a script (and the accompanying visuals) shows just how easily we can leap to conclusions before we've really gotten off the ground with an innovation.

So, here are three things that I learnt through this painful exercise:

We're giving generative AI a lot of credit.

Generative AI tends to go off the rails, we just have a very short memory and forget. ChatGPT has generated loads of negative headlines, for example, Bing's disastrous results during testing, professing its love for one journalist and comparing another to Hitler because the reporter was "one of the most evil and worst people in history."

While my results aren't bad enough to generate global uproar, the whole idea in this script is unimaginably awkward, to be generous, and it could never be let off the leash without risking a severe erosion of brand equity and sales (and the very real issue of race bias). For now, AI supervising AI can't be the solution, so humans will have to remain in the loop and make sure AI doesn't go rogue.

Creativity — and humor — are human qualities.

Generative AI is drawing on the historical creativity of the millions of humans that have contributed ideas and content to the internet and elsewhere. AI algorithms scrape the internet and leverage available data in a way that propels infinite variations of mechanical originality but not intuition. So even if it were good, it wouldn't necessarily be original, or great. And it won't move the dial the way marketeers need it to make their businesses excel. "Whassup" was funny to humans, and it will take years for the algorithm to grasp that.

Don't worry about job security yet.

AI-generated campaigns require guardrails and oversight, and the more work AI is at work, the more complexity-solving services will be required. That's not to say that generative AI won't get better. That's a given. It will no doubt become a superpower and rapidly transcend its current state, but as long as it's based on human output and reliant on humans to curate and judge it, it will be there to support greater human creativity and productivity, rather than replace it.

The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the ANA or imply endorsement from the ANA.

Stephan Beringer is CEO of Mirriad.