AI Startup Perplexity drops fake movie trailer as first ad

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Perplexity, a creative artificial intelligence startup with a $1 billion valuation and a big swing mentality, launched its first paid marketing campaign during tonight's high-profile National Basketball Association Finals.

The seven-figure media buy — during a tentpole broadcast that attracts large audiences and blue-chip brands — aims to flag Perplexity with mainstream America in the burgeoning tech space.

While the placement is remarkable for a fledgling company, so is the creativity.

The brand, which is developing a search engine that aims to compete with Google, has taken an unconventional route to introduce itself, dropping a movie-style trailer for an action thriller that doesn't exist. Is. (But as a preview: this could happen in the future, as talks have begun for a potential TV series or full-length feature based on the concept.)

Dmitry Shevlenko, Perplexity's chief business officer, called the marketing initiative “an asymmetric bet.”

“If we take a bunch of easy shots, not three, we're not going to win this game,” Shevlenko, leaning toward an apt basketball analogy, told ADWEEK. “We're swimming in a sea of ​​giants — trillion-dollar companies — so we can't just walk in. We have to be willing to be bold.”

The spot, called “The Know-It All,” comes from Los Angeles-based indie agency Sandwich. It borrows a formula that's popular in the ad industry, with tweaks and AI assists, nods to classic branded content like BMW Films and Mercedes-Benz's “Lucky Star.”

The onscreen branding is deliberately light in “The Know-It-Alls,” yet the perplexity drives the narrative in a high-energy scenario. A 30-second cut-down of the video aired on ABC during the first quarter of game one of the NBA Finals, while the full two-minute video will be distributed on Disney-owned streaming channels.

Tweaking a Formula

According to sandwich founder Adam Lesagore, the idea came from the brand and one of its unofficial slogans, “Know It All.”

“They said, 'We don't want to make an ad for Perplexity, we want to make a trailer for a movie that doesn't exist—something about discovery, where the characters use our platform in a subtle way. But the brand barely exists,” Lisagor told ADWEEK. “To which I said, 'Where have you been all your life?'

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