Etsy addresses anxiety over AI, mass manufacturing with new brand mission

2024/07/10 Innoverview Read

Dive Brief:

  • Etsy launched an ad campaign spotlighting its sellers, part of a new “brand mission” addressing the rise of automation and mass production as threats to the hand-crafted goods the e-commerce platform was built on, according to a blog post.   

  • TV ads, social media videos and billboards profile real Etsy merchants. The debut spot, “Human Performance,” challenges automation and “faceless commerce” while showing artisans making their wares.

  • The marketing blitz comes as Etsy tweaks its policies and user experience, including with a revamped home page and the implementation of standards that clarify products must be made, designed, sourced or handpicked by sellers. 

Dive Insight:

Etsy is tackling artificial intelligence (AI) anxiety among creatives head-on with a new ad campaign and adjustments to its platform guidelines that more strongly enforce a human touch. The company is angling to get back to its roots as a home for artisans to thrive and to better differentiate from e-commerce giants like Amazon and Temu, an emergent overseas competitor that’s found favor with U.S. consumers seeking cheaper goods.

Etsy itself has been subject to backlash as searches fill up with AI-generated items that have received disappointing user reviews. The platform’s reorganized creativity standards clarify that anything sold on Etsy has to have a degree of human involvement and additionally includes the option for merchants to add labels sharing greater detail about their processes, materials and tools.

The announcement recognized that many people are still turning to generative AI for creative ideation and production. Etsy does not prohibit the generative AI tools in its seller handbook, though the use of AI must be disclosed in listings and the company does not allow the sale of AI prompt bundles.

Regardless, the new ad campaign, created with the agency Orchard, is openly skeptical of what automation can accomplish. The hero commercial opens on the line “What does a robot know?” and closes on a rumpled robotic arm under a shower of confetti, overlaid with the tagline “Keep Commerce Human.” A variety of real Etsy sellers are shown in the spot crafting goods like pottery, furniture, art and clothing. Press materials appeared to make veiled swipes at an ill-fated Apple ad that showed a hydraulic press crushing artists’ tools

“In an increasingly automated world, Etsy stands for something different,” said David Kolbusz, chief creative officer at Orchard, in a statement. “Our film isn’t anti-tech, it’s pro-human. It's a reminder that the things that arrive on your doorstep can come from someplace more meaningful than a fulfillment center.” 

Out-of-home buys in New York and London were placed in areas that are meant to feel intimate, while Etsy is also running large billboards championing its sellers by name. The strategy was unveiled by Brad Minor, who was named Etsy’s first chief brand officer earlier this week. Minor previously served as Etsy’s global head of brand marketing and communications. 

Etsy saw revenue up 0.8% in Q1, with executives calling out a “challenging environment” for consumer discretionary spending.  

(Copyright:MarketingDive Etsy addresses anxiety over AI, mass manufacturing with new brand mission | Marketing Dive)