Unveiling the Influence and Prospects of Generative AI with Pratik Thakar from Coca-Cola

Coca Cola AI

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In the aftermath of its inaugural Real Magic Creative Academy, we catch up with the newly appointed global head of generative AI at Coca-Cola to delve into how the company is effectively employing this technology to forge more potent connections with digital artists.

Coca-Cola continues to surge ahead in its drive to establish itself as a trailblazer of creativity within the burgeoning realm of generative AI.

Just recently, the corporation successfully hosted its premiere Real Magic Creative Academy—an event hailed as a “symposium of creativity and generative AI innovation.” This Creative Academy, an extension of Coke’s recent AI-fueled Create Real Magic competition and its wider Real Magic initiative, unfolded within the brand’s global hub situated in Atlanta from August 15-17.

The purpose behind the Creative Academy was two-fold: to cultivate stronger bonds with independent digital artists and concurrently equip them with the aptitudes requisite for flourishing in a marketing arena that’s continually exploring and embracing generative AI. The ensemble of artists who partook in the three-day event—including the victors of Create Real Magic—were afforded the privilege of touring the brand’s treasure trove, a capacious chamber brimming with some of the iconic artistic artifacts that have indelibly shaped Coke’s brand image and aesthetics over its near 140-year history.

Beyond the archival tour, attendees of the Creative Academy convened with delegates from tech titan Nvidia, management consultancy Bain and Company, and other eminent brands. Their discussions spanned the extensive commercial and artistic implications inherent in generative AI. Additionally, the event played host to “creative sessions,” wherein participants collaborated with fashion labels on “tangible creative briefs … and engaged in conceptualization with the brands to craft artwork that seamlessly melded culture and fashion.”

Coke has cultivated a reputation for being quick to embrace nascent technological trends; in mid-2021, it swiftly launched an NFT campaign, and it even dove into the metaverse hype with a purportedly pixel-infused soda. The Creative Academy serves as a robust signal that the brand is resolutely intent on harnessing the maximum marketing leverage attainable from generative AI—a technology that some marketing experts believe could herald an absolute paradigm shift for the industry.

Trailblazers of the metaverse: What have they accomplished since?

To glean deeper insights into the objectives underpinning the recent Real Magic Creative Academy and its alignment with Coke’s broader AI strategy, The Drum engaged in a dialogue with Pratik Thakar, the brand’s freshly minted global head of generative AI.

This conversation has been abridged for brevity and clarity.

Could you expound on the primary goals that propelled the inception of the Create Real Magic Creative Academy? And did the proceedings transpire seamlessly?

The undertaking unfolded exceptionally well—we were extremely content with its realization. Essentially, the core query guiding this endeavor was: ‘How can we harmonize human ingenuity with technology?’ Throughout its history, Coca-Cola has consistently bridged divides—be it social or geographical; Coca-Cola remains unmistakably Coca-Cola across every corner of the globe. We foster unity. Therefore, our partnership with OpenAI was, once again, founded on the central notion: How can we bridge the chasm that arises when new technologies elicit apprehension? How can we render it more accessible? How can we make it more digestible and universally advantageous? We’ve been collaborating with a diverse array of technologists, imaginative designers, and artists—how do we rally them together, equip them with premier technology, and present them with the most stimulating challenges and directives?

Coca-Cola has a history of coalescing with luminaries like Andy Warhol…[it] joined forces with Haddon Sundblom, who fundamentally shaped our perception of Santa Claus. Our legacy has perpetually intertwined with artistic collaborations, and this tradition shall persist. Now, a unique opportunity beckons, wherein we can usher in [artists] to explore our archive, lay bare the endeavors of fellow artists who have harnessed Coca-Cola as a wellspring of inspiration, and subsequently integrate AI technology.

Instagram cast everyone in the role of an influencer, TikTok catapulted all into the realm of entertainers, and AI is propelling each individual into the mantle of a creator—you can now be the artisan… Perhaps one of these artists might emerge as the subsequent Andy Warhol. This precisely encapsulates our intent—to bring individuals together. We aimed to democratize Coca-Cola and convey, ‘Here, the brand is yours to manipulate and mold.’

Image Source: An AI-generated image graces the interior of Coke’s Atlanta headquarters. / Coca-Cola

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