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Malaysia Airlines' attempt to use AI stirs up conversations around authenticity

Malaysia Airlines' attempt to use AI stirs up conversations around authenticity

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Airline carrier Malaysia Airlines is drawing mixed sentiments after its recent AI-generated Chinese New Year post raised questions of authenticity and ethics in marketing.

The post aimed to promote the airline's domestic and international flights during the festive period and showed a family laughing together as they celebrate the new year. It said, "Embrace the joy of family reunions this Chinese New Year" with prices for flights included. However, netizens were quick to point out that the image looked to be created using AI. 

One user said "using AI-generated images made their image look cheap" while another questioned if a photographer was hard to find.  Meanwhile, some users showed support, commenting "wow nice AI image" and defended the company against users whose comments denote a negative tone. 

Don't miss: AirAsia brand sentiments soar after CEO jokingly 'punishes' passenger on flight 

According to media intelligence firm CARMA, the brand's decision to use AI did not impact its brand sentiments. Since the day of the post, Malaysia Airlines' sentiments were 37.1% positive and 28.8% negative. 

A week prior to the post, Malaysia Airline's brand sentiments were 5.8% positive and 17.2% negative.

MARKETING-INTERACTIVE has reached out to Malaysia Airlines for more information. 

While it didn't severely impact the brand's sentiments, Casey Loh, creative chief at The Clan said consumers who were unhappy were possibly disappointed to see a true Malaysian brand with a nation's worth of culture and talent at its disposal resorting to AI for its creative expressions. 

"I think it's because the festive periods are deeply personal to some, rather than seeing genuinely happy faces celebrating the festivities in the ad, they were shown an imagined image from a machine instead," added Loh. 

Loh continued by saying that Malaysia Airline's is a beloved Malaysian brand and having generative-AI represent its communications can be disheartening to some. 

That said, Loh added that Gen AI can be great companion in marketing. More specifically, Gen AI can aid in checking on insights, concepts and ideas. This is despite holding the belief that "AI in marketing is still a grey area for now." 

Gen AI has truly shaken up how marketing is done with organisations already investing in Gen AI for marketing and dedicating a whopping 62% of their total marketing technology budget towards it.

However, these sentiments do not hold true in Malaysia with half of Malaysian CEOs admitting to not having adopted Gen AI across their companies in the past 12 months, according to PwC’s 27th Annual Global CEO Survey (Malaysia).

The study also found that almost half (43%) of Malaysia-based CEOs do not believe their organisations will be economically viable in a decade if they continue on their current path.

As for AI adoption, Loh said it can be used to allow for a bit more personalisation with customers without losing sight of the human touch. 

In addition, it can be used to help brands monitor pitfalls from past learnings and provide deeper context by trawling through research notes in minutes rather than weeks, or even provide simple finishing touches to tedious work which can take too much time to complete, said Loh. 

"If creative work has to be generated from AI, then there must also be a significant amount of human thought and insight in place to guide the prompt," he added.

While AI is a good place to start and end a brief, humans must always be at the heart of the work.

Christyna Fong, creative director at Chariot Agency, agreed with Loh's sentiments, noting that there are still a lot of sensitivities around the use of AI and that the lack of Malaysian representation could make the ad unpalatable to some. She added that AI is still in its early days and that trial and error will come with it. 

"We should be asking ourselves questions such as are we encouraging or stifling creativity? Will this help or hurt the brand? Is AI the best tool to express the idea?" said Fong. "We should always exercise human judgement while we still can before we get carried away in the execution." 

When it comes to executing with AI, the creative director cited cruise line Virgin Voyages' Jen A.I. as an example. In June last year, Virgin Voyages used deepfake technology to generate a robot with singer Jennifer Lopez' likeness and voice called Jen A.I. As part of the campaign, consumers could create their own custom invitations using the Jen A.I. tool and invite friends and family on the cruise. 

Such a campaign works because it is the core idea of the campaign and was integrated in a way that is still novel but clearly made for people, she said. Fong added that a better way of adopting AI in marketing is to also be very transparent about the use of AI. 

Lean into it. Better yet, make it a core part of the idea.

Related articles: 
Why half of Malaysian CEOs have yet to adopt gen AI in their work
Boeing's brand sentiments once again plummet after Alaska Airlines incident 
Google defends Cathay ad aired on Alaska Airlines news report 

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