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Under Armour's AI-powered commercial stirs up debate on creative accreditation

Under Armour's AI-powered commercial stirs up debate on creative accreditation

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Sportswear company Under Armour’s new AI-powered commercial with boxer Anthony Joshua is being debated on for allegedly reusing the work of others without proper credit. The monochrome commercial takes audiences on a journey through Joshua’s mind and features the desert landscapes of Saudi Arabia inspired by the poem “Ozymandias”, according to director Wes Walker, who posted the ad on his Instagram.

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Walker further elaborated: “Under Armour asked us to build a film from nothing but existing assets, a 3D model of Anthony Joshua and no athlete access. This piece combines AI video, AI photo, 3D CGI, 2D VFX, motion graphics, 35mm film, digital video and advances in AI voiceover."

However, the Walker's 2024 commercial (above) was accused of plagiarising a production done by Gustav Johansson for Under Armour and Joshua in 2022 (below).

"Cool film but all the stuff with Joshua is shot by André Chementof and from a commercial I did? Under Armour gets to do what they want with the footage of course but it’s a slippery slope when you as a creative say it's AI when humans were actually behind it," said Johannson in a comment. Watch the film by Johannson below:

To his query, walker said that the commercial was a predominantly AI mixed piece that used several live-action cutaways of what Johannsons’s team and others brilliantly shot. “Times are shifting, we adapt,” he also said.

However, according to Tech Crunch, in a now deleted comment, Walker said that he reportedly asked for access to Joshua but got rejected several times and highlighted timelines, budget and production constraints that limited them.

Meanwhile, Under Armour is yet to comment on the situation on the public forums or to MARKETING-INTERACTIVE's queries. The ad in question is currently featured on Under Armour's social media channels.

What are people saying?

Netizens are divided on the commercial. While some are in favour of it because they are fans of Anthony Joshua, others have pointed out that the commercial appears to be a quick cashgrab.

"A fully AI commercial that robs the talent of actual videographers and editors just for the sake of money? Barf." said one user in a comment under Under Armour's post.

Other netizens have also called for boycotts of the brand and have said they will be patronising Under Armours competitor Nike, according to the comments on the YouTube video of the ad as seen by MARKETING-INTERACTIVE.

Furthermore, creators that commented on Walker's post questioned the integrity of the work and called for better AI regulations.

"This whole thing is soulless-from the use of AI to the use of other people's work and crediting yourself. If you don't honour and protect other in this industry, you're part of the problem. AI needs to be regulated into the ground, not embraced as 'normal change'," said one Instagram user.

On the other hand, creators have also applauded the work by saying "definitely captures your attention", "absolutely iconic" and "love the mixed media effects and integration."

Johannson's 2022 Instagram post that showed the commercial he did with Under Armour has recently garnered attention with multiple comments saying that are on his side and that this is the original work. "Powered by human intelligence without using Gaussian cloud points," commented a user.

As a result of the debate over proper credit when it comes to AI-powered commercials, Under Armour has seen its brand sentiments dip to 7.3% negative and 16.1% positive.

In contrast, conversations on social media before the commercial’s release were 31.7% positive and 1% negative, according to media intelligence firm CARMA.

The commercial also impacted the keywords currently associated with Under Armour which included “leading”, “competitive” and “style” before the incident.

After the incident, words such as “reused”, “repackaged” and “creatives” stood out.

In fact, more and more brands have been experimenting with AI in their campaigns to mixed reactions. For example, airline carrier Malaysia Airlines drew 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.

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