DTC company Shapermint’s AI influencer engine highlights how marketers are actually using the tech

We’re 20 months into the AI marketing revolution, and CMOs are more focused on scale and efficiency than on creating animated footage from whole cloth.

Consider the example of Shapermint, a direct-to-consumer fashion brand that has used generative AI to scale up its influencer program. The company’s in-house team developed an agent (dubbed “Altair,” after the star) that can generate scripts and storyboards for TikTok and Instagram Reels that are then distributed to influencers.

Though Massimiliano Tirocchi, CMO of Shapermint’s Uruguayan parent company Trafilea, has grand ambitions — he wants “to power our entire creative process” with AI — Altair is being used for everyday work that would previously have been done by the firm’s in-house marketing team. Nine months after launching the tool, it’s helped his team cut production time on influencer creative by around 70%, he said.

Though Shapermint’s setup was built by an in-house team using OpenAI and Meta API access, it’s relatively similar to projects and use cases coming out of digital and creative agencies.

Creators on the company’s roster don’t have to follow its scripts, storyboard or copy religiously, but Tirocchi estimates that 70% to 75% of Shapermint’s creator content is made using at least some of Altair’s outputs. The company began developing the tool in 2023 and started using it beginning with the run-in to last year’s Black Friday shopping weekend.

Across a standard working week, Tirocchi estimated that one staffer might have been able to plot out 15 campaigns, with between four and six videos in each one. “This will allow them to do the same thing in less than a day,” he said. Shapermint’s Altair tool is connected to the Meta ad library via the tech giant’s API, enabling staffers to incorporate data on content performance into future scripts. Though the team wrote draft scripts and analyzed Meta data previously, Altair has sped up both those processes.

Unlike Toys ‘R’ Us, Shapermint isn’t using generative AI for asset generation. “The video capabilities are still not there,” Tirocchi said. The quality of video footage isn’t good enough, and the company wants to ensure any video spots show actual products it’s selling, not generated images that are only close to those products.

Tirocchi added that Shapermint has used the time its team has saved by utilizing its Altair tool to broaden the platforms it focuses on to include YouTube and Pinterest, and to spend more time creating localized content for markets outside the U.S.

The brand maintains a roster of almost 1,000 creators, including a core group of 30 influencers. Though the company previously relied on Meta ads to reach consumers, it’s begun leaning more heavily on creator content in the past year, increasing the budget allocated to influencer content production by 20%.

That represents a monthly production spend of $250,000, Tirocchi said. The company’s overall ad budget typically wavers between $5 million and $6 million each month, 85% of which is spent creating, testing or boosting creator content.

Shapermint expects global revenues to rise 35% year over year to $300 million, growth that Tirocchi credits to the brand’s influencer marketing approach. “It’s a great enabler for us to scale,” he said.

According to Nicole Greene, vp and analyst at Gartner for Marketers, projects like Altair are closer to the median than proof-of-concept ads built with tools such as Sora. “We’ve gone from piloting, experimenting now to implementation,” she said.

That transition is playing out amid fallen marketing budgets across the industry.

A Gartner study released in May estimated that budgets shrank 15% between 2023 and 2024. It’s a long-term trend, with average budgets lower now than they were in 2019, when marketing costs accounted for 10.5% of a company’s revenue.

“CMOs continue to be asked to do more with less,” said Greene, citing another Gartner survey.  “Only 24% of CMOs say they have sufficient budget to execute their strategy. In a world of being asked to do more with less, we’re finally given more. Gen AI is giving us that capability to do more.”

George Strakhov, global head of creative technology at DDB, said that most of the AI projects being pursued and implemented by his company were focused on achieving scale or finding new efficiencies. “We’re at the point where people are trying to transition from toy to tool,” he said.

Strakhov highlighted one example: a research product created by DDB called “Gut Check” that he said is already in use with several clients, though he declined to name them. The tool is a generative AI agent that combines recent social listening data with a search engine, allowing marketers to get an up-to-date understanding of attitudes in the market toward a given product or brand.

“We’re not pretending that this is a replacement for real research,” he said, adding that the real use of the tool was to save time on an otherwise tedious job. That might lack the sci-fi appeal of an entire animated ad generated by AI, but it’s the kind of use case that meets marketers’ needs now.

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