We’ve all come into contact with chat bots, usually in customer service situations, but recently, Reddit authorized the first promotional chatbot. Created to promote the Orion Pictures film “Child’s Play”, the chatbot generated greater engagement, more than 42,000 comments in the span of a few days, than any previous Reddit advertisement.
The strategy, copy, and creative for the ad was developed by McKinney LA who worked with AI voice and messaging startup Convrg (recently acqui-hired by Haptik) and Reddit to bring to life the central character of the film, an AI-powered doll, that goes off the rails. By commenting on a promoted post, Reddit users summoned and engaged with the Chucky bot for an immersive experience that Reddit Brand Strategist, Rohaina Hassan describes, in this AdAge article, as “…fresh, interactive, and creepy, just like the new Chucky.”
From McKinney LA’s perspective, the project was a great way to explore the use of AI for promotion. “We had a ton of fun bringing this innovative idea to life through the iconic movie character that is Chucky”, says Sylvain Tron, MD McKinney LA, in the same AdAge piece. “ Orion is always pushing the boundaries of what’s possible in a film campaign using exciting technologies which make them a great creative partner for McKinney LA.”
To find out more about how the Chucky chatbot was developed and used to promote the film, Alison Harrison, AMA LA VP Content sat down with Liz Snower, co-founder of Convrg:
AH: I haven’t seen chatbots in this context previously –is this common on Reddit?
LS: This was a completely new thing for Reddit. There are a handful of user-generated chatbots that are live on the platform, but Reddit had previously never deployed a chatbot in this way. And user-generated bots would never have been able to achieve this kind of scale due to rate limits and other restrictions. We were the first developers to be granted certain permissions as we worked directly with the Reddit team on this.
AH: What were the challenges – it looks like you were well prepared for trolls and unsavory comments – any other considerations?
LS: As a developer whose specialty is chatbots we’ve been thinking about and experiencing firsthand the good and bad results and implications of the technology for a while. Designing a bot to handle trolling and offensive or obscene content is easy but not foolproof. This one in particular was a bit different, because the conversations it facilitated were public. Most chatbots we think about (that consumers access on a website or a messaging app) facilitate private one-on-one conversations. It’s one thing to have an unsavory user who says gross things to a bot in a one-on-one setting (yes, this happens a lot), and quite another to have a user who posts unsavory things in a public setting.
Reddit has moderation measures in place–both algorithmic and manual/human. But because efforts like these can never be airtight (the humans of the internet are simply too creative, with too many combinations of words at their disposal) this bot had to be programmed to recognize offensive content, and then decide whether to respond or leave it alone. The bot was also programmed with machine learning, which is “trained” on interaction data, in a supervised fashion. That means the more conversations the bot has, the more “adept” we as developers can make it.
AH: Do you think it would work beyond a Hollywood product? Is there potential for other kinds of products here?
LS: Absolutely. I think the potential is actually wide open here. Clearly, Chucky was an exceptionally apt use case for technology like this, and any film or TV character, you can imagine a similar experience, but if a brand were to capture the essence/personality of their ideal salesperson and put it out there that way, effectively scaling that person so that they could help thousands of people at once decide to buy something? That is one powerful example of another way this technology could be applied in a public setting like Reddit.
In more traditional settings, like websites and messaging channels, chatbots are proven to drive many concrete business goals for companies across many verticals, including retail, CPG, entertainment, automotive … the list goes on. The truth is, they’re just not that easy to get right, as it’s still early days.
Are you an LA marketer involved in something innovative? We’d love to hear about it in the comments!