Explaining the controversy surrounding Toys'R'Us' AI-generated ads

AI Video & Visuals


Toys R Us sparked an online backlash after releasing an ad created with OpenAI's new video generation tool, Sora.

While Sora isn't yet available to the public, AI enthusiasts have been busy experimenting with available video generators like Luma Labs Dream Machine to animate iconic memes into surreal clips.

The technology has generated considerable controversy, with many critics scoffing at the mysterious feats of generative AI.

What's going on in this AI-generated ad for Toys 'R' Us?

An AI-generated ad for Toys R Us depicts how the company's founder, Charles Lazarus, was inspired to create the brand after having a vivid dream.

While AI enthusiasts were excited to see AI being used for commercial purposes, critics found the footage disturbing.

The ad highlights the power of AI-generated video, as well as the technology’s inherent weaknesses.

For example, the AI ​​struggled to generate consistent character models, with little Charles changing shape throughout the video, leading one commentator to liken the boy to a character from a “weird dream.”

Notably, this was the footage selected for the final edit, meaning that these variations of Charles are likely the best the AI ​​could generate; Sora's rejected output has yet to be released to the general public.

AI-generated footage is full of mistakes

Since AI-generated artworks are untouched by human hands, one of the most interesting ways to look at them is to look for machine traces.

There are plenty of clues in the ad, including halves of a bicycle that blend into each other, distorted window panes and a deadpan stare from an AI-generated man.

Charles' sudden head turns feel highly unnatural, and the overcrowded toy shelves in his dream are filled with distorted toys, as if the boy's subconscious was struggling to remember what the toys actually looked like.

Generative AI is an energy-intensive technology that has come under increasing scrutiny for its potential to strain the power grid and devalue human creative expression.

At this stage, proponents of AI-generated video need to prove that the technology is worth the cost, but so far the results have been unintentionally unsettling.

Using AI to automate creative expression is seen as tacky, cynical and disrespectful to artists who have spent their whole lives honing their craft, only for their work to be used as training data for the AI ​​without their permission.

Regarding X, one commentator said I have written“It's so ironic to create an ad about the limitless imagination of children and then render it with a soulless AI botch.”

another I have written“We all cheered when Toys R Us came back from the brink, and now we all want to throw them to hell. It's a terrible insult to the entire toy industry. Not only that, it's an insult to the whole concept of imaginative play. A terrible insult. Shame on everyone involved.”

In a press release, Kim Miller Orko, global chief marketing officer and president of Toys R Us Studios for Toys R Us, claimed the ad was innovative.

“Charles Lazarus was a visionary ahead of his time, and we wanted to celebrate his legacy with a cutting-edge technology spot,” Olko said. “Our brand embraces the innovation and emotional appeal of Toys R Us to connect with consumers in unexpected ways. We aim to capture that nostalgic feeling and deliver it uniquely to kids of all ages at Toys R Us.”

Why is generative AI being used to target children?

Many commentators Expressed despair Generative AI was being used to sell products to children, as if young people weren’t entitled to enjoy art made by human hands.

The backlash against AI-generated ads comes as Amazon launches new Winnie the Pooh A series that utilizes AI for the purpose of “production efficiency.”

A promotional image for the series shows a road leading to nowhere with deformed creatures in the background, and it has been revealed that the image is an unedited image generated by AI.

The series was a way for Disney to take advantage of losing the exclusive rights to the characters, and was criticized for using AI to cut costs. Disney, despite its flaws, did a great job adapting A.A. Milne's books. Winnie the Pooh and friends were voiced and animated by artists who clearly cared about their work.

Unfortunately, the use of generative AI to write and illustrate children's books is becoming increasingly common, and AI was even used to promote the infamous Willy Wonka scandal in Glasgow.

With the automation of art leading to a proliferation of spam on the internet and careless trash aimed at children, it's no wonder there's a backlash.

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