Frankensheep and the Man From U.N.C.L.E.

PLUS: When Art Imitates AI
March 15, 2024
POV you’re listening to Future Commerce. (Credit: @FACEGYM on Instagram)

This week on the podcast, we have our friend and collaborator Alexa Lombardo, CMO of FACEGYM. After a tour of duty through Web3, she’s back in the CMO seat and joins the podcast today to talk about her outlook on experiential marketing, purpose-driven brands, the death of performance marketing, and why every face massage should start inside the mouth. 

Episode #343: The Nerds Will Save Us is available now wherever podcasts are found, or right here on Apple or Spotify.

Self-Checkout? More Like Self-Own. The writing was on the wall, but now it’s on a sign. Starting this Sunday, self-checkout lanes at more than 2,000 Target stores nationwide will become ‘10-items-or-less’ lanes. The move to limit theft and losses comes even as the NRF pulls back its previously misreported numbers about retail organized crime rings ‘running rampant’ in major cities across the U.S.

We’re Sooooo Back. Two early-stage fundraises made headlines this week. Shopping adtech startup FERMÁT Commerce** announced a $17 Series A from Bain Capital Ventures and Greylock, bringing their total raised to $30M. Meanwhile, influencer affiliate management platform ShopMy lands $18.5M of fresh funding just 14 months after their Series A.

** Disclosure: FERMÁT is an advertising partner of Future Commerce.

If Commerce isn’t Culture, What Is? Did you know former Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has an IMDB? The Trump Cabinet member and executive producer of LEGO Ninjago: The Movie is rumored to be putting together a fund to acquire TikTok from its Chinese-based parent company, Bytedance. This may or may not mean you’ll soon be able to watch The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (produced by Mnuchin in 2015) in 300 bite-sized clips.If commerce isn’t culture, then the treasury sure is. 

Listen to our analysis of the Bytedance Blowup over on the bonus episode of the podcast, live from the VISIONS Summit in Austin during SXSW, featuring Paul and Lisa Jauregui of BK Beauty.

Photo Credit: Pawan Sharma

Mutton Madness. An 80-year-old owner of an “alternative livestock” ranch in Montana plead guilty to two felony wildlife crimes involving his plan to “let paying customers hunt sheep” on private ranches. But these weren't just any old sheep: they were massive hybrid sheep created by illegally importing animal parts from central Asia, cloning the sheep, breeding an enormous hybrid species.

Image Credit: Wes Walker

Deep Ads. A new ad from Under Armour featuring boxer Anthony Joshua has sparked controversy on Instagram. The ad, claimed to be the 'first AI-powered sports commercial,' has faced criticism from creatives in the industry who allege that it reused others' work without credit as part of an AI hype cycle cash grab. Director Wes Walker, who posted the ad, stated that it was created from existing assets and relied heavily on AI tools.

Our Take: The most interesting thing about AI is that it has such a recognizable aesthetic. Because this ad is so recognizable as AI, it creates a discourse around the ethical use of AI in a traditionally creative field. 

Aesthetic shifts are an important part of nostalgia. The tintype, a polaroid, a VHS tape; the aesthetics become a hallmark of an era.

But what happens when AI art informs real art? Photographer Julia Fullerton-Batten used AI aesthetics as her inspiration for the Super Bowl ad campaign for ‘He Gets Us’, a Christian organization. “Bro this is the most AI generated looking set of images I've ever seen,” said one commenter on the Youtube video of the ad campaign.

The SEO results were then used to the advantage of He Gets Us, leveraging the aesthetic and the resulting organic search to drive inbound traffic to a page built to rank for the term.

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