Cementing the industry dominance of a powerhouse AI brand
The true promise of artificial intelligence isn’t in checkmating a grandmaster or reversing into a parking spot hands-free. On the largest scale, AI is about leveraging technology and data sets to improve the way business is conducted and societies function. From aerospace and defense to fraud detection and customer engagement, C3 AI builds artificial intelligence applications that can predict the thorniest problems—and offer concrete solutions.
In 2018, C3 AI first approached GDP to help its Chairman and CEO, Tom Siebel, create a platform for the promotion of his book, Digital Transformation: Survive and Thrive in an Era of Mass Extinction, and to use the book’s guiding principles as inspiration for a Digital Transformation campaign to communicate C3 AI’s powerhouse ideas on artificial intelligence. On the surface, it looked like an opportunity to raise brand awareness for a respected software provider, but the higher aim was to help C3 AI define and own an entirely new business category known as Enterprise AI. Our collaboration grew to include expanding and refining the brand’s visual identity, crafting a scaleable set of systems and guidelines, executing a wide variety of 360° campaigns with some of C3 AI’s Fortune 500 clients, creating and overseeing the production of a podcast, and transforming the company's digital presence.
Our partners already had a clear vision of the future of business and technology. Siebel is a legend in Silicon Valley—one of Oracle’s first team members, he invented the CRM (customer relationship management) category of enterprise computing in the 1990s and later merged his company with Oracle. Tom founded C3 AI in 2009 with the conviction that all business will be driven by four key, interrelated technologies: big data, elastic cloud computing, artificial intelligence, and the Internet of Things. In his formulation, business is in the midst of what he calls a new “mass extinction” event. Companies that adopt (and adapt to) these technologies will gain a competitive advantage as their business models undergo fundamental transformations. Those that don’t adapt will cease to exist. Siebel applies this thinking on the largest possible scale, to governments, the military, healthcare, the energy sector, telecommunications, and beyond.
With a change agent like Siebel at the helm, everything we created together—from design systems and website landing pages to digital banners—needed to reflect the founder’s future-shaping point of view. Strategy and messaging required a tone of confidence, credibility, and empathy. The typography had to be clear and unfussy. We deliberately eschewed color in all graphics to speak with clarity and boldness. This muscular messaging vocabulary projects strength across C3 AI’s digital ads, out-of-home ads, radio scripts, print communications, broadcast spots, and videos. Even the punctuation is intentional—all sentences end with a period. Everything C3 AI does is about making a firm and unequivocal statement.
Fittingly, the first big deliverable came by way of an audacious declaration. After an intensive discovery period, GDP landed on the "You See, We See" campaign that represented a new direction for C3 AI creative. The animating idea was that artificial intelligence enabled by C3 AI’s platform has the power to deliver insights that large-scale organizations would otherwise never be able to uncover: for instance, predictive maintenance that helps the Air Force know when a part on an F-35 is about to wear out and needs to be replaced. The trick was figuring out what would be relevant, surprising, and powerful industry by industry. We did this by working closely with subject matter experts and sales leads at C3 AI for each of the industries the company focuses on—aerospace and defense, banking, manufacturing, telecom, utilities, and healthcare. Our job was to pinpoint AI’s promise in each of these multifaceted sectors.
That’s a hefty load to convey in the nanoseconds of attention you have with a typical consumer, so the call to action had to be eye-catching and unforgettable. “You See, We See” assets turned up prominently around the world: Times Square billboards, hundreds of digital banners, in airport and station takeovers, and in the most prominent journalism outlets.
Walking through Houston Intercontinental airport, for instance, a traveler would come upon a banner showing a mega-refinery gleaming in the twilight with its massive distillation towers and cracking units rising from a base. It’s the very picture of modern technical complexity, yet the message—in striking Helvetica Neue Bold—is clear and captivating: “You see an oil refinery. We see 52 valves in critical condition.” It was one of seven industry callouts in the campaign that shifted focus from perception to reality through the lens of AI.
“The best creative is both whip smart and incredibly simple,” says Allie Fisher, GDP head of creative. “We started with a question—what can you see with the naked eye and what can you see with the aid of AI? The ‘You see, We see’ campaign became a catalyst for coaxing important industry provocation and establishing a strong point-of-view." On the heels of that success, we created a series of 30-second TV spots that translated C3 AI’s message into full dynamic motion, with arresting visuals and a confident stentorian voiceover.
The global campaign we developed for C3 AI included TV spots like this, which received an estimated 1.3B impressions across 33 countries.
The ads make bold statements; for instance, of all the Fortune 500 companies in the year 2000, more than half no longer exist today. For this reason, “digital transformation isn’t just a good idea. It’s a matter of corporate survival.” Putting artificial intelligence to use at “enterprise scale” helps solve previously unsolvable problems, and allows businesses not just to survive but to thrive. The spots ran extensively across the US and Europe on CNBC, BBC, Bloomberg, Fox Business, and CNN. Bringing movie-trailer energy and dynamism to nuanced ideas around business and artificial intelligence further helped to make C3 AI’s complex technology accessible and exciting.
Likewise, our work on C3 AI’s website landing page brings the company’s work alive with robust modules and sharp matter-of-fact messaging that stays true to the new standards and rules that help C3 AI organize, promote, and maintain itself in an engaging way. That begins with a dazzling animation of three satellite towers turning skyward as if to welcome the future—along with the message: “This is Enterprise AI. Solving the previously unsolvable.”
Out of chaos comes simplicity. That’s the point of the predictive technology C3 AI provides, and the message rang clear in the ramp-up to C3 AI’s initial public offering on December 8, 2020. Our IPO marketing campaign was a full-court effort that fulfilled our original promise to elevate C3 AI’s brand awareness to the grandest stages. The New York Stock Exchange building was festooned with C3 AI’s logo, and the trading floor was bedecked in black-and-white C3 AI digital bannering. Tom Siebel rang a COVID-friendly “virtual closing bell.”
Meanwhile, a digital takeover of Times Square, Madison Square Garden, and Silicon Valley confirmed what millions have come to know: C3 AI is Enterprise AI.