Cayce McCabe, a Democratic ad maker with the firm Adwell, believes he’s crafted the first AI-powered launch video for client Peter Dixon, a California Democrat running to represent the state’s 16th district, which includes Silicon Valley.
Rep. Anna Eshoo (D) is retiring and the race to succeed her will be highly competitive. That’s part of the reason why McCabe and his team used turned to a bevy of software tools, including Adobe After Effects, Cinema 4D, Adobe Premiere, Stable Diffusion, Kaiber.ai and EbSynth, to create Dixon’s multiple-locale launch video, which debuted on X earlier this month.
If anything, it’s a unique experience for the viewer and a sign of things to come for media consultants.
C&E: Tell us about how you created this video.
McCabe: The point, I would say, is that I see the potential for [AI tools]. It’s not there yet, though. Every step along the process, when it came down to shooting, when it came down to what was in the background of the shots, knowing that they would be turned into something in AI — we didn’t want the backgrounds to look like something that weren’t correct, that didn’t look like where he was in Kenya or that didn’t look like where he was in Afghanistan. To have some level of control into the creative look, we had to blend softwares and do the background and the foreground separately and a bunch of things like that.
There’s been very little use of AI video in advertising, in part, because it’s really early in that technology and it’s not quite there yet to be leaned on in a way that sort of replaces [computer generated graphics]. We’ve seen it used more for still images, which is where I think it’s probably the most innovative in what we are doing in advertising. But I really wanted to push it and use AI video, if possible — largely because I hadn’t seen it done before.
C&E: How was the workflow for this video different from other projects?
McCabe: The workflow looked a lot more like a standard workflow. When it came to generating a stylized look — rotoscoping 3D camera tracking — there’s a lot on the backend that made this look clean. We had to use a lot of different softwares.
C&E: Was this an expensive project?
McCabe: We shot this video in one day. We edited in two days. So we basically made this in three days. This came out to like $60,000. To do this same concept in [computer generated imagery] would be significantly more expensive and take significantly longer.
C&E: How do you see generative AI being deployed this cycle?
McCabe: The most interesting place that it can be used in what we do is in generating stock images. I don’t think it’s anywhere near ready to take the place of shooting footage, of shooting the candidate, right? But I do think that, the technology is pretty darn good in creating imagery that we would otherwise just license from a stock library.
You’ve already got Adobe and a lot of stock libraries doing AI generated images. It takes some phishing to get what you’re looking for, or to not have funky hands or things like that. But I think that’s probably the place that you’re going to see it impacting ads — even this cycle.
C&E: Do you think this will replace CGI?
McCabe: I’ve made ads that are completely CGI, where we shoot everything in front of a green screen. I do think we’ll get to a place where it does. It’s a game changer. I worry about a lot of artists who do that work. It’s expensive, long work. But figuring out how to utilize this technology to make some of that work better and easier while also still protecting the professionalism and expertise of folks who work in this field [will be important].
I hired a [CGI] editor who has been working in and experimenting with AI. So I think you see a lot of the folks and the artists that do this work are figuring out how they can use this technology to be better what they do.