With the rise of Instagram, eight years ago Wilfried Klucsar and Elsa Barbier launched their Paris-based agency Dix-Sept Paris to usher luxury brands’ communication endeavors into the digital realm. Today, the duo has founded ALIA, a standalone entity specialized in AI-generated campaigns. Wilfried Klucsar, Co-founder and Director of Development, talks about AI’s role in luxury communications and why he believes it is a complement, and not a replacement, for human intelligence.
You created Dix-Sept Paris in 2016, and just recently founded ALIA to focus on AI. How do you see digital communication evolving in the luxury space?
Wilfried Klucsar : At Dix-Sept Paris we have a 360° approach to bring a truly global vision to all of a brand’s touchpoints. When Instagram took off in 2016, brands needed guidance about how to position themselves on this new platform. We offered a strategic approach in terms of content creation and the imagery to produce for social networks.
What was behind the creation of ALIA?
We’ve been keeping a close eye on the evolution of artificial intelligence and the upgrades to the different platforms, such as Midjourney. I am passionate about scouting new talent, and particularly new artists for our campaigns; I saw the emergence of AI artists producing some pretty exciting things.
For us, AI is a way of opening new avenues of creativity. This was the driver behind our desire to create an agency exclusively dedicated to these new creative forms and able to produce campaigns solely via AI. The artists we work with on AI are totally different teams from the creative directors at our agency Dix-Sept.
The Paris-based agency is specialized in AI-generated visual content ©Alia
How do you differentiate between "traditional" communication campaigns and AI campaigns?
Dix-Sept Paris and ALIA are two distinct agencies allowing us to propose two separate offers to our clients, but our approach is collaborative, with bridges between both entities. Dix-Sept Paris has the brand vision and creative vision, and our artistic directors take a global overview of each project. For those clients who want to embark on AI, we then select the artist that can work from our creative brief and mood board as prompts for AI-generated images.
What kind of background do these AI artists have?
They are generally relatively young, between 25 and 35, but not only – some AI artists are in their fifties, so contrary to popular belief it’s not a segment restricted to young talent! I’ve met artists that come from backgrounds totally unrelated to creation, but who have always had an artistic bent and through AI have found a way to express their creativity. AI is giving opportunities to a population that wouldn’t traditionally have access to creative professions, which I find refreshing.
Your creative directors don’t feel threatened by the rise of AI?
No, in part because our creative directors are young, flexible and are quite fascinated and curious about the technology. We provide them with training in this area so they can communicate better with our AI artists and what we’re looking to achieve. The DA will always remain the ‘guarantor’ of the brand’s universe, this won’t change. The rise of AI artists, might, however, have a real impact on photographers.
What technologies are these artists using?
The big text to image platforms are Stable Diffusion and Midjourney, but we also collaborate with artists that have created their own AI tools that they enrich daily. Those profiles are quite interesting as the fact that they have their own proprietary tools is a reassuring point for brands.
ChatGPT is, of course, the platform of choice for editorial content, but this isn’t a technology we use as we prefer the human touch and for a story to be imagined and written by an actual storyteller. The idea that artificial intelligence be ‘at the service’ of human intelligence is very appealing to me.
Are there copyright issues, for example to integrate brand ambassadors into an AI-generated campaign?
You can either create new ambassadors or muses via AI platforms like Midjourney, or integrate ‘real’ people into a visual world created by the platform. The May 2023 cover of Vogue Italia featuring Bella Hadid is a good example; one of the artists we are working with did the campaign. The photographer shot a number of poses featuring Hadid and the image was then incorporated into Midjourney with the request that everything apart from her image be changed: her clothes, the background, etc.
How are luxury brands reacting to working with AI?
Our agency is just a few weeks old so it’s a bit premature to make a thoroughly informed statement. But we pitched our idea to existing clients and potential clients to be sure it would bring them real added value.
Our position is to say that AI is here to open new creative horizons and stories, but not to replicate what already exists to save time and money. We are inventing a new discourse, which of course isn’t for everyone.
I think the metaverse has dampened the enthusiasm of quite a few luxury brands, and now they’re asking the right questions. They aren’t coming to us looking for a quick PR operation via AI, they are saying that they are interested in the technology, but with a 360° approach to branding.
Indeed, the excitement surrounding the metaverse in luxury circles appears to be waning. How does AI-generated content compare with this?
I think that the metaverse resonated with a targeted and niche community of insiders, but it wasn’t able to move up to the next level and expand to a larger consumer base. That’s where AI has a role: to show a larger number of consumers the advantage of the technology.
What luxury sectors have the most potential for AI-generated content?
Brands with a rich heritage and archival images that can tell a story are prime candidates, as this background and history allows for the creation of immersion-type campaigns. Champagne or jewelry houses, for example. There may be a bit less potential in the beauty space, but I really don’t see many limits when it comes to luxury sectors.
Is it a good idea for brands to communicate to the end consumer that they are using AI?
It’s still early days, but clearly the use of AI is not just a PR operation. This is a good thing, as it means that creatively we can go very far.
Do you see AI as being an integral part of your core business in the years ahead?
I believe that in the next few years AI will be so imbedded in the creative process that we won’t even ask the question!