Attack of the bots

These days, service doesn’t always come with a smile. In fact, it probably doesn’t even have a pulse.

by Mark Tungate , Adforum

Science fiction has become fact. The proof? The bots have invaded. They help customer service departments answer our complaints and queries. They are the virtual beings who artificially boost our number of Instagram followers. They even give us style and beauty tips, if the chatbots of H&M and Sephora are anything to go by.
In fact, Chatbots Magazine has named 2017 “Year of the Chatbot”. Among other things, the trend has been driven by our increasing reliance on mobile messaging (Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and good old SMS), shrinking development costs and the wider availability of tools that enable even the smallest business to build their own bot.

Needless to say, advertisers have not been slow to adopt bots. Take for example Rom, a patriotic Romanian chocolate bar wrapped in the country’s flag. To make consumers feel even more positive about Romania, the local branch of McCann created Rombot, a chatbot that enabled users to answer questions and voice opinions about their country. Rombot absorbed all the love so he could be sent abroad as an ambassador.

Meanwhile, in Australia, Isobar promoted the release of the action movie American Assassin by launching a chatbot that gave users the chance to test their assassin-like qualities. The bot took them through a series of challenges concerning “dexterity, perception, language, attention, ethics and mental agility”. You can try the bot for yourself – but be warned, it’s described as “terse” and “bad-tempered”. At least chatbots can’t shoot.

They can give directions, though. Air New Zealand recently wheeled out Chip, an actual robot that interacts with passengers in order to help them out at the airport. Based on the evidence of this film, Chip actually seems more personable than most airport security staff.


But seriously, who needs chatbots when you’ve got sexbots? Or at the very least chatbots that lead to better sex. That, at any rate, is the idea behind a bot created by Sid Lee Paris and condom maker Skyn. It’s a Facebook Messenger-based voice analyzer: simply talk out loud to the bot and it will tell you how sensual, mysterious, intense or sophisticated you are. Based on the results, it will recommend the right condom for your…erm…style.

More wholesome is this example from Brazil, where an app enables museum visitors to “talk” to artworks. The project from Ogilvy Brazil and IBM aims to make art more accessible. The app is driven by Watson, a true celebrity in the world of artificial intelligence.


Bots can offer help in unexpected ways. Last year, R/GA in London launched a chat-based interactive game that encouraged kids to clean their teeth.


And in Italy, an app from Y&R Italia helps Alzheimer’s sufferers regain control of their lives by offering friendly prompts and reminders.


Finally, a bot that can tell jokes. Or can it? There’s actually a piece of good news at the end of this film from Clemenger BBDO.


This article has not been written by a bot.