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Independent agency Pereira O’Dell is expanding its artificial intelligence lab into a global AI innovation hub, Silverside AI, based in San Francisco and connecting AI startups with brands looking to test and scale AI use cases across media buying and creative optimization.
Silverside AI– a separate business unit outside the agency–acts as a mentoring incubator for the burgeoning AI startup scene in Silicon Valley, focusing on marketing solution startups and companies looking to leverage their tech for marketing applications. The 15-person hub will also form a group of marketing technologists to create scalable AI tools across its network. The hub will work with both new and existing Pereira O’Dell clients and estimates a low 7-digit revenue in its first year with the goal of growing high double digit annually, according to Rob Wrubel, managing director of Silverside AI.
“You’ve got very overwhelmed executives who want an agency partner that understands the values of its brands and how to manage it,” said Wrubel, “and bring them technology partners that may not understand how to do all of that.”
Amid frenzied AI advancements, one in four investment dollars went to AI startups last year, according to Crunchbase. San Francisco-based firms alone received $11.1 billion of the $22.7 billion that investors put into these companies in the first quarter of 2023, per The San Francisco Standard, breaking the 2021 funding record of $11.9 billion over 411 deals. Simultaneously, holding companies like Publicis Groupe are investing €300 million ($325 million) into AI efforts over the next three years.
“[In] nine months alone, 400 startups showed up in San Francisco,” said Wrubel. “And there are 300,000 open-source developers out there. The number of announcements and changes every three weeks is daunting for a chief marketing officer.”
Marketers keen to grow their AI capabilities are confronted with a smorgasbord of AI tools in the market while grappling with a knowledge gap about where to begin. A Gartner survey conducted last summer found that 53% of 405 marketing leaders expressed feeling overwhelmed by their current technology and project commitments, making it challenging to explore generative AI.
“Silverside AI, named after the jack silverside fish, symbolizes our commitment to agility and transformative solutions, positioning us as leaders in the next generation of advertising technology,” said Andrew O’Dell, co-founder and CEO of Pereira O’Dell.
Consulting services for brands
Built over the past six months, Silverside’s objective is to forge new AI capabilities for Pereira O’Dell and other agencies under the Serviceplan Americas umbrella, like Mediaplus North America and L&C NYC. Global agency group Serviceplan Group is also launching an AI lab headquartered in Munich.
Silverside AI offers a consultative approach to its brand partners. Many brands, for example, said Wrubel, are struggling with how to use AI to improve the efficiency of content creation.
“We’ll talk to [them] very specifically about those challenges and use tools and partners we’re working with to rapidly change the way they generate creative,” he added.
Silverside AI is building its client roster—overseen by Wrubel—and it currently has three brands on the books, but the agency wouldn’t share specifics.
Playing mentor to startups
Silverside AI has collaborated with five AI firms, among them Pactto, an AI company founded by two former Adobe product managers, which scales the exchange of creative direction and feedback. The collaboration also includes firms like GoCharlie, which employs super agents to operate text and image generators for marketing.
Pactto is the only firm that plans to shape its product development with guidance from the agency. The other startups will benefit from the agency’s mentorship in exchange for their AI services being used by brand partners at Silverside AI at a service-based cost.
“They’ve already gotten their funding and financing, but we’re partnering to develop more custom applications to scale across our clients,” said Wrubel. “It’s possible we could invest in them. But we’re currently not and [only] providing advice and resources.”
Silverside AI evolved from Pereira O’Dell’s AI lab, which has helped grow the agency’s AI capabilities.
Internal tools, such as The Insights Machine, were born out of the AI lab. The Insights Machine is used by the agency’s strategists to aggregate large amounts of client data through AI and natural language processing in order to create interactive marketing personas and inform creative strategies.
“From the AI lab, the team learned that rapid experimentation matters,” said Wrubel. “The technology is changing so quickly, the odds are that it will be outmoded in three to six weeks, not even months.”