This Nightmarish A.I.-Generated Hotel Ad Makes Us Long for the Human Experience
Rumors of A.I.'s capacity to replace creative jobs wholesale are overstated. Fear that it will, though, is driven by a haunting observation: We've seen a lot of human interactions cede to machine intervention.
Sometimes this feels so convenient you can mentally set aside the human toll ... like when self-checkout goes perfectly. It can be poignant, say, when hospice geriatrics hug a little robot seal because no actual humans pay visits. Other times, it feels like you're being purposely shut out by people you pay—like when you can never get somebody on the phone for banking or tech support.
On the occasions when you finally do get a person, they might seem increasingly less capable. This, too, is a dual-pronged problem: It's become "inefficient" to train high-turnover employees to truly think about problems. It's "more efficient" to have them move down a list of potential solutions, which can lead to maddeningly repetitive conversations.
But the customers on the other end of the line—us—are often terrible at communicating our needs. It's not rare to see somebody overheat at a service worker before the latter even knows a problem exists.
We're getting bad at peopling. And maybe the issues we've listed work together, you know? Progressively, other valued human experiences—like concierge or host services at hotels and restaurants—will, thanks to efforts to save money on talent and training, start feeling so uncomfortable and frustrating that we'll think we okayed the elimination of such roles. More than one capitalist out there is sleeping on a wet dream of self-checkin pod hotels (with minimal flesh-and-blood staff, if any).
This is everything we thought about while watching hotel chain citizenM's latest film, "Hotel Delight." Conceived by KesselsKramer London and A.I. director Ai.s.a.m, the video used Runway Gen-2, a recently-launched suite of generative video software, to create a spot composed of hospitality clichés.
This is no Grand Budapest Hotel, in its heyday or even in its decline ... which we'd still prefer. The narrator uses the stilted cadence of TikTok videos with ironic computer-generated voiceovers. The language doesn't always make sense ("Big water swim pool," the ad boasts, followed by "showers are a specialty"). The imagery is never crisp, but murky in a nauseating way, with creepy details that depixelate or melt like surrealist paintings.
The ad's function across such frames is to create a favorable contrast to its final scene. Against a black background, a woman writhes on a white hotel duvet—the first truly clear thing we see. "Or experience citizenM, a truly human hotel for the modern traveler," says a new voice, which doesn't sound more human than its predecessor.
“As holes appeared in what was possible with the software at this nascent stage, the fallibility of the software played to our advantage,” explains senior creative Charlie Bowden of KesselsKramer. The agency's London creative director, Dave Bell, adds, "A.I. is treated as a science, but there's more art to it than people realize, or at least talk about."
The work makes its point, but we wonder at that weird ending. Yes, it features a human, but it still doesn't reflect any shared experiences or interactions. Watching that person writhe in the dark made us think again of pods, like the ending of Pixar's Wall-E. Somebody out there is legitimately thinking that everyone could be ensconced in their own little pleasure bubbles, just like that wiggling lady, utterly alone unless they need something.
Would it matter, then, who (or what) provided customer service, as long as it was done well?
This is a nitpick. The ad does a nice job of 1) showing that creative teams can engage with A.I., which gets big points with bosses and coolhunting clients; 2) showing that A.I. is not the smooth world-building operator many perhaps still fear it is; and 3) alluding to citizenM's humanity, even if it doesn't show it.
But hey, there's a human here who's willing to tell us about it, at least.
"We want to encourage people to look past the dreary realm of A.I.-generated mediocrity and step into the vibrant embrace of a citizenM Hotel, where genuine human connection awaits, courtesy of our warm and welcoming ambassadors," says chief brand officer Robin Chadha.
"Hotel Delight" went live this week on citizenM social media channels.
Client: citizenM Hotels - citizenM.com
Chief Brand Officer: Robin Chadha
Marketing Director: Maurice Ajanaku
Agency: KesselsKramer - KesselsKramer.com
Creative Partner: Dave Bell
Art Director: Adam Morton-Delaney
Writer: Charlie Bowden
Project Manager: Jess Gasparetto
AI Production: Aisam.xyz