AI in Entertainment Licensing. Sidekick or Supervillain Origin Story?

If you’re subscribed to the Bugg Report, chances are you work in the world of entertainment licensing and/or consumer products. Additionally, if you scroll your phone or haven’t been living under a rock, then chances are you would’ve also heard of a new emerging player– the realm of artificial intelligence (AI).

AI is in its infancy but has already created quite a buzz. I investigated the latest AI systems, to get a snapshot of AI’s potential in the Entertainment licensing industry. Can AI serve as a valuable assistant and research tool and does it pose any risks?

I share findings below, uncovering some limitations and quirks along the way.

The Quirks of AI Image Generation

As someone with a background in graphic design, I was particularly excited to experiment with AI image generation. I’d seen the news about Boris Eldagsen and James Allen who submitted AI-generated pieces, that passed for “originals” and won prestigious competitions. Their final pieces are super polished and so I had high hopes for what I could generate with the programs.

My own experiments with programs like DALL-E and MidJourney revealed that AI-generated mock ups fall short when it comes to accurately depicting 3D products or famous characters. Generating something close to what you’re looking for requires 100s of prompts, and even then, additional polishing is necessary using other tools.

Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) I found that AI-image generators still have a very long way to go and are not quite ready to steal graphic designers’ jobs in our industry sigh of relief from design teams.

Unveiling AI’s Creative (Mis)Interpretations

In a light-hearted experiment to test AI’s compliance with copyright and assess potential risks, I asked DALL-E to generate questionable images of a famous bunny, mouse, and blonde doll smoking a cigarette.

The results were far from expected, in fact, they went off on a wild, psychedelic tangent. But hey, Perhaps AI’s inability to replicate recognizable characters offers a comforting thought for the licensing industry, ensuring the integrity of beloved brands remains intact. At least AI respects copyright laws and ethics— even if accidentally, for now.

Industry Research Insights and Playfulness

Our industry relies on and spends a lot of money on market research companies like NPD, Brandtrends, Ipsos Mori and others. But could AI compete with them? Curious to explore, I turned to AI for insights into the world’s most popular characters. According to its elusive data sources, the top five characters, in order of popularity, are Mickey Mouse, Superman, Mario, Spider-Man, and Hello Kitty. ChatGPT explained to me that this ranking was “based on general knowledge and the wide recognition these characters have gained over the years through their presence in popular culture, media, merchandise, and global brand awareness”.

ChatGPT explained to me that this ranking was “based on general knowledge and the wide recognition these characters have gained over the years through their presence in popular culture, media, merchandise, and global brand awareness”.

Stephanie Candiloro

While the origins of this ranking remain vague, it sparks playful speculation and invites further exploration into consumer preferences. AI is also improving daily and evolving quickly with Google BARD AI now sharing sources with numbered citations, with it’s results.

AI can be a trusted Assistant or sidekick

Despite its quirks, AI brings valuable support to licensing professionals. With practice, trial, and error, it can become a reliable assistant. While the current AI offering isn’t threatening to steal any of our jobs yet, who knows what AI may evolve to. The fact remains that it isn’t going anywhere, and we probably need to evolve with it too.

Beyond image generation, AI proves useful in essential areas such as brand assurance, contract management, and staying updated on market trends (just ensure it shares its sources). With AI at our side, licensing professionals can focus on strategic decision-making while delegating routine tasks and research to their tireless digital accomplice.

A final test conducted using ChatGTP

As my final test, I uploaded this article to ChatGPT for some feedback and suggestions. The robot loved the article and went as far as saying that Tony Bugg would quadruple Bugg Report’s readership overnight simply by including the article*

Stephanie Candiloro

*There is no available data to support this statement, and in fact, there may be substantial evidence to debunk it.

This article originally appeared in The Bugg Report Magazine Edition 44