A man is working in his office, gets up from his office seat, goes to the water-cooler to drink water, comes back, and starts to work again.
Did you visualize it?
You could build a visual model of how he would push his chair to get up, bend to take water from the cooler, tilt his neck to drink water – you saw it all. Computers cannot. Computers do not have the technical prowess to "visualize" a particular scene with textual information. And that's our goal – to take text as input and create a movie as an output! To be able to write the scene and create a visual output similar to what you imagined.
Early 2021 we reached our first pit stop in that journey. We perfected the technology to create professional-quality front-facing videos of real human characters.
Using this technology, we've worked with companies ranging from start-ups to Fortune 500 companies to build corporate learning videos as easily as writing scripts, making social media videos and other marketing content, send personalized videos for sales and marketing, and powering video chatbots.
We've been working behind the scenes to re-invent the wheel in another industry, the world of marketing. Specifically, companies can use their brand ambassadors as a part of the customer journeys.
Let's take a step back and review how we've reached the status quo. With every new significant technology advancement, advertising has re-invented itself. Advertising was born with newspapers in the 17th century. With that opportunity, companies became brands, and brands hired famous faces as brand ambassadors. From the first “brand -ambassador” advertisement in the 1940s, the idea of endorsing a brand has been an evolving concept.
Television took the first step to change this fundamentally - there was an enormous reluctance initially from the biggest stars to move to this medium. Of course, if people could see them on a TV screen, who would pay money to watch them on the big screen. With the advantage of hindsight, we know that nothing like this ever happened. But in the last decade, momentum has started to shift to digital advertising. For most brand deals today, digital advertising plays an important role.
Change of each medium of advertising requires a fundamental rethink of the advantages and weaknesses of that medium. When digital advertising started, people used the same creatives they shot for TV. But now that we understand the medium much better, digital shoots are almost always done separately from TV shoots. There’s even a separate content shot for social media. In digital advertising, the primary advantage is being able to hyper-target the audience of the content. For the first time, you had an interest graph and could reach out to customers who precisely fit the interests your brand wants to target.
The New Normal
We believe to make the best use of this ability requires complementary technology. To be able to create hyper-personalized content at scale! Thanks to advancements in AI, and our Generative modeling research over the last two years, we can create millions of unique videos at scale with the ease of textual communication.
Using this technology, brands can communicate with their customers, in videos, personally! It’s almost like their brand ambassador has the time to record a personalized video for every single customer at every step of the journey.
Although there are multiple places where we see interest, we divide them into three different categories -
One on one Personalised videos to your customers in the customer lifecycle
Enabling Dynamic Creative Optimisation (DCO) with real human faces, or HyperDCO
Creating long-form new content
Today, we'll talk about the first concept. We expect to launch our first major HyperDCO campaign next month, so please expect to hear more about it and long-form content in the upcoming weeks.
We’ve collaborated with Cadbury Celebrations and Hrithik Roshan to create the country’s first-ever synthetic personalization campaign!
We made this Raksha-Bandhan AI-special with personalized videos from Hrithik Roshan. With select Cadbury Celebrations boxes, you can scan a QR code, enter your name, and get a personalized video from one of India's biggest actor, Hrithik Roshan!
The above is just one example of the power of personalized videos. The above is just one example of the power of personalized videos. We will be doing a B2 B-focused campaign with another celebrity in the next three weeks, building a deeper connection with the brand and its stakeholders.
Customer Journey Re-Imagined
Let's walk through the customer journey and see where this technology will be used.
I'll explain some of the use cases we've seen interest in. Let's assume you are a CMO and are planning this year's marketing activity with an A-lister celebrity.
Advertising - Dynamic Creative Optimisation and VOGONs are becoming increasingly familiar with brands. We enable running those campaigns with not just personalized text but personalized videos of your brand ambassadors! A new YouTube advertisement a day, different ads based on search queries is what we are talking about!
Branding - Imagine creating new content from your brand ambassador to keep your social pages fresh!
Pre-sales - As a real estate brand, post every house tour, imagine sending a personalized video from their favourite celebrity explaining the advantages of the property. Using personalized messages can help reduce the sales cycle duration significantly.
Sales - Adding a personalised message at the time of sale can help push the customers on the edge of the buying decision to make the final purchase. Our first cadbury campaign is a perfect example.
Post-Sales - You run an e-sports streaming company, have amazing acquisition, but the retention is very poor. You can run a promotion saying "For all users who are active for 7 consecutive days, get a personalised video from their favourite streamer". And just wait for your retention to sky-rocket!
How do we do it?
All we need for this to work is to create a digital clone of the actor. We record approximately 15 mins of video content from a standard video camera. Based on this, we reanimate the avatar to create new content at scale.
Why do we do it?
When we first launched Rephrase Studio, we heard from hundreds of marketers wanting to create digital clones to create video content with their brand ambassadors. We heard 2 main reasons for this. First, given the structure of current 1-2 day shoot / 365 day deployment cycles, marketing collateral for the entire year needs to be planned in advance. This is challenging to say the least. Inevitably new marketing concepts would need to be executed in the middle of the year, and brands would rely on fancy banners/voice over artists etc to bypass the handicap of not being able to shoot with their brand ambassador. Secondly, as of today, celebrities just help build more awareness and drive legitimacy of the brand. But if you want to solve a certain business problem, say awareness, or upsell or something similar, your brand ambassador can't help you solve it.
Based on our experience working in the industry, we can confidently predict that licensing out digital avatars of brand ambassadors will become an integral part of the brand's celebrity agreements. The reason is how it benefits everyone in the chain -
Customers For the first time, customers have a one-on-one connection with their favorite celebrities. We provide a "cameo as a service" to brands and make it available to customers at no added cost (in most deployments).
Brand A brand gets multiple advantages based on the use case. It could help increase sales/better customer experience etc. The end-to-end journey in the fintech example above talks more.
Celebrity Currently, most brand deals are fixed-cost contracts. Because of this, celebrities do not participate in the upside that the brands get. Having a royalty on every video generated will allow the actors to make money on every purchase. Making a royalty on top of their current contracts will become a lucrative money-making opportunity.
This is an incredible piece of technology. It's super powerful, and we've already seen multiple videos created without the artist's permission. The most recent of them is the Tom Cruise video here -
Being pioneers in this industry and working with such influential faces, we feel responsible for setting ethical behavior and regulation benchmark.
Here are some of the steps we're taking to avoid any misuse of this technology -
For any live projects (with a Turnaround time SLA), all new variable value submissions (like names) get filtered by an AI to predict a safelist/denylist. Post that, we also have a rigorous QA team that filters all entries to avoid any possibility of a video being created that the celebrity would not have approved.
When we create personalized video samples, we get approval from the actor or the talent manager before the video cloning starts and on a minimum of 5 video samples after the video clone is complete.
If we create new video content on a new script, we get the actor/manager's approval before any new video gets created.
All generated videos are white-labeled with Rephrase.ai watermark to be transparent with our audience that these videos are generated using AI.
In essence, this technology is ONLY used to enable things that artists would have liked to do at scale but cannot, given limited bandwidth.
Rephrase.ai technology is a tool to scale uptime. It is designed so that the celebrity/talent manager is the one in control of the final videos getting created at all times!
Beyond the short-term use cases we've already discussed above, we think this technology will restructure how multiple industries work fundamentally. Here are some of the possible paths we envision this technology could take -
Integration into ad engines - In a few years, we expect FB/Google/InMobi/Reddit/Snapchat and other platforms to allow one-to-one video ad content targeting. This will be the largest distribution platform for these personalized videos, making this video content a prerequisite for best digital marketing spending.
Video Shoutout - Recently, 100s of companies have started offering the ability to get personalised videos recorded by your favourite celebrities. The offerings have also diversified from a video shoutout to post mentions, zoom calls, and a sizeable B2B offering. Given our understanding of this space, there are three significant challenges. First, the recurring nature of the business is pretty low, which is what makes the B2B use case more appealing than the B2C use case. Secondly, especially in countries like India, the fan following for B/C/D category celebs is not enough to create a large market, and A-listers are so expensive that there aren't enough people willing to pay those amounts. Third, turnaround times are crucial in the entire gifting category since people sometimes remember special occasions just a few hours or a day in advance. By using Rephrase AI, we are in a unique position to solve all these challenges. We can create content at a much more affordable rate since we can use AI to scale time. We can churn thousands of videos within minutes, not weeks, which can potentially change this nascent industry altogether.
Product Journey transformation - Customers will start to expect the entire customer journey to be brand ambassador-led. For example, if a celebrity helped convince me to buy a Product A over Product B, I would expect pre-sales, post-sales, onboarding experiences to be led by the same person. This will become a cornerstone for good customer experiences. This revolution will start in influencer-led D2C brands and then move to other companies.
For all our optimism above, we still have a few roadblocks and challenges to clear -
Voice - Our most important challenge is to get better voice merging and better pronunciations at scale. We've learned lessons from the Mondelez campaign. Our next campaign in 2 weeks will launch with a completely revamped voice engine. We'll continue to work on voice internally and with our deep tech companies to perfect this at scale.
Actor permissions - This technology will be deployed carefully to tread a fine line between actor overexposure and helping fans connect with their brand ambassadors. We are working with our
Revamping product processes - This is an entirely new way of product onboarding, retention, and upselling. We expect a ramp-up period to adopt this new technology to make the best use of this new technique.
For us, this is just the start. As the tech evolves, we will get closer to replacing even more content shoots and enable everyone to make movies from just text in a few years.