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Jenny from the Dock? J-Lo Sets Sail with Virgin Voyages

August 2023

This is a self-funded case study using our ad testing solution.

Whether we like it or not, A.I. (or more specifically, generative A.I.) is having a profound impact on almost every industry. Not only is the rapidly developing technology weaving its way into our everyday lives, but brands and advertisers are also increasingly jumping on the bandwagon and harnessing its power during communications development.

Beyond the standard ChatGPT-powered chatbots spawning across our favorite websites and applications, other tech offerings (including image-generation tools such as DALL-E and Midjourney) are also rapidly growing in popularity. A recent campaign from Pizza Hut in Singapore even featured an A.I.-generated outdoor ad, being created for a fraction of the cost/time it typically would otherwise — even if the final outcome was a little… strange.

Which brings us to Virgin Voyages, who took this to another level in their latest campaign starring the brand’s Chief Celebration Officer, Jennifer Lopez. Jen A.I. showcases the singer-actress promoting the advantages of entertainment cruises, with the catch that it’s not actually the real J-Lo — rather, an A.I.-generated version of her.

Are there potential safety concerns with such a high-profile celebrity giving their likeness to A.I. technology? Probably. However, let’s not open that can of worms today, especially given the ad itself was highly effective! The reasons why can be distilled into three key areas:

  1. Emotion: While J-Lo herself has global fame and is a magnet for eyeballs, she wasn’t the only reason why the ad was attention-grabbing. Leveraging storytelling and humor, people were captivated by the whimsical narrative built around the superstar — the visuals of regular employees taking turns at speaking from the perspective of J-Lo proving highly amusing. Though found irritating by some (potentially a function of A.I.-mania now becoming a little overdone), it didn’t ultimately take away from the ad’s ability to elicit a strong emotional response.
  2. Motivation: Emotion is the conduit which gives advertising the opportunity to convey desired brand impressions. By intertwining humor together with the key ideas Virgin Voyages was aiming to get across, the brand was able to deliver its key message (specifically that it’s a cruise line for adults only) in a clear, engaging, and motivating way.
  3. Connection: Given the creativity of the approach (and its potential to develop into an ownable branding property over time), some leeway can be afforded for the ad not yet being strongly linked to Virgin Voyages. In saying that the ad’s fun, celebratory vibe was still considered a reasonable fit for the brand. With greater consistency we’d expect this familiarity and the unmistakability of impressions created to gradually improve over time, with characters and celebrities offering proven paths to success.

It’s fair to say that bringing J-Lo on board likely cost Virgin Voyages a thing… unlike love… However, if the brand continues to leverage her stardom in future campaigns and across other branded touchpoints — in fun and original ways like they’ve done here — it’s a move which will likely pay future dividends for the cruise line.

Virgin Voyages ft. J-Lo - Jen A.I. - Ad Testing metrics Cubery

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