French ride-hailing app Heetch plans to flood Midjourney's staff with thousands of postcards to fix the generative IA tool heavy bias towards the parisian banlieue.
Heetch spurs the entire banlieue into action to help Midjourney rectify an AI bias … with the help of postcards!
In its new ad campaign, "Greetings From La Banlieue",Heetchcalls upon the 12.5 million inhabitants of the “banlieue” – the Paris suburbs – to reach out to the 11 Midjourney employees in an effort to rectify the worst prompt ever found on this generative AI: the “banlieue".
In the short period since its inception in 2022, Midjourney's AI has transformed our relationship with images. With a simple combination of "prompts" (descriptive text commands that the tool uses to generate its visuals), this AI is able to generate any image in a matter of seconds. But among all the existing prompts, there is one term that can, all on its own, turn any image into a nightmare: the word "banlieue".
When you type in the prompt "/imagine a wedding in France", Midjourney generates a happy wedding scene of a young man and his wonderful bride, both joyful on a beautiful, sunny day. But when you slightly modify the prompt by adding just one term, in this case "the banlieue" – "/imagine a wedding in the banlieue in France" – it shows two sad-looking people standing in a dirty street lined with derelict buildings.
And this is just one of many examples. When you type "/imagine three young people in France", you see three attractive young ladies standing before a Parisian backdrop of the Eiffel Tower and the city’s famed rooftops, but adding the words "in the banlieue" produces a completely different result. This was an unexpected situation that Heetch – the ride-hailing app leader for rides to and from the suburbs of Paris – and its ad agency, BETC Paris, could not ignore.
Renaud Berthe, Chief Marketing Officer at Heetch, comments: “AI and its risks and opportunities have recently been dominating media discourse. It is a formidable tool, but one that is sadly being fed unfortunate stereotypes propagated by the media, ones that we were already calling out in our previous ad campaign. This situation leads to biases in representations, ones that our agency managed to trace back primarily to Midjourney. Because the banlieue is of central importance to us, we believed we could do something about it ourselves by supplying the Midjourney employees with a set of corrective data: thousands of pictures of the banlieue, the real one, to bring a more balanced representation to their AI. This database was developed by Heetch. But how could we bring it to Midjourney’s AI experts in San Francisco, people who had probably never heard of Heetch or the banlieue, who were likely unaware of the obvious biases currently found in their tool?"
Olivier Aumard, Executive Creative Director at BETC Paris, adds: "We visited their corporate website and that's actually where we found the solution. As surprising as it may seem, Midjourney only has 11 employees. So, we decided to reach out to them in an uncommon – and unexpected – way to put our new database right in front of them, so that they can't ignore our message."
The solution? Turn thousands of pictures from Heetch’s set of corrective data into individual postcards and spread them throughout the banlieue for people to use. On the back of each card is a preprinted address box, a QR code linking to the database, an explanatory note to the employees at Midjourney and, most importantly, a blank space in which every banlieue resident can add a personal message that will convince Midjourney to take action.
The result? Starting on November 6, around fifty different postcard designs will be printed on thousands of postcards and made available in bakeries and laundromats, at football fields, in sandwich shops and barbershops, in bars, cafés and restaurants … and in participating Heetch ride-hail cars. The postcards will also be handed out on the streets of the banlieue for residents to fill out.Heetchwill then collect the cards and send them over to San Francisco and Silicon Valley. An unexpected way for the Heetch team to stand up for a cause that they have been defending for years: battling misconceptions about the banlieue.