How Virgin Voyages is using A.I. — and a partnership with J. Lo — to boost bookings


How Virgin Voyages is using A.I. — and a partnership with J. Lo — to boost bookings

Cruise line Virgin Voyages is betting big on its recently launched campaign starring J. Lo — and her digital twin, “Jen AI.”

It starts with a commercial, featuring Jennifer Lopez riffing off artificial intelligence. The spot showcases “Jen AI” experiencing a hilarious malfunction, inadvertently unveiling her true identity: a guy named Kyle.

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But the campaign doesn’t end there. Virgin Voyages digitally mimics the superstar’s voice and appearance, with the help of generative artificial intelligence, to allow customers the chance to customize an invitation to book a cruise they can send to friends or family.

“It did require a substantial financial investment, but we are already seeing it pay off,” Virgin Voyages Global Brand and Experience Strategy Director Billy Bohan Chinique told CNBC.

Though he declined to disclose exact figures, he said the campaign’s budget was on par with what a brand typically allocates for a Super Bowl advertisement, amounting to millions of dollars.

The campaign comes at a time when cruise tourism is showing remarkable signs of a recovery post-pandemic, bouncing back at a faster rate than international travel as a whole. According to Cruise Lines International Association, approximately 31.5 million cruise passengers are expected to travel this year, surpassing 2019 levels.

Jennifer Lopez and Virgin Voyages team up for an AI campaign to boost bookings.

Virgin Voyages

The man behind the new Virgin Voyages campaign and tech is chief innovation officer at marketing firm VMLY&R, Brian Yamada. 

“Jen AI is a combination of two different generative technologies. The first is generative voice and the second is generative video,” Yamada told CNBC. “The generative video allowed us to mimic her mouth movements to make sure that the look of the video actually followed the different syllables.”

While the concept of allowing any name in Lopez’s voice might raise concerns about potential misuse, the team has taken precautions, implementing measures to ensure that inappropriate or offensive content is filtered and blocked.

The creative team told CNBC they were extremely cautious about how they presented the AI components of the campaign. They deliberately added a noticeable effect every time the AI was used to make Lopez say something she didn’t say in real life. The idea was to playfully highlight the AI’s involvement, almost poking fun at its capabilities in a lighthearted manner.

According to Virgin Voyages, the campaign, which launched last month, has already generated more than 1,000 bookings. Chinique called it highly successful. 

“Our engagement rates are more than 150% in previous campaigns,” he added, saying that users spend on average more than three minutes on the site.

The team is actively considering future possibilities for the AI bot’s capabilities. Imagine, for example, a personalized greeting from Jen AI as you step into your room.

This article was originally published on CNBC