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How the first AI-powered Rapper for India Went Viral


MTV India and DDB Mudra Group’s campaign for MTV Hustle 2.0 gain fandom from the hip-hop community, discovers Esther Faith Lew

How the first AI-powered Rapper for India Went Viral

Making rapping easy and interactive is India’s first AI-powered rapper BotHard. He dresses the part and has the rhyming sensibilities of hip-hop music. Feed him a word and he will create a rap from it.

With this unique tech innovation, MTV India and DDB Mudra brought pop culture to another level, which was the goal of MTV Hustle 2.0. “MTV India has championed music for the youth in the past with clutter-braking disruptive formats. MTV Hustle 2.0 takes the legacy further – being India’s biggest hip-hop talent hunt platform. The second edition set out to showcase undiscovered rappers and widen hip-hop’s popular appeal, and the unbridled talents of these contestants have struck a chord with MTV’s audiences across platforms,” says Utsav Chaudhuri, marketing head - youth, music, and English entertainment, at Viacom18.

Adds Godwin D'mello, ECD of DDB Mudra Group, “To excite people about MTV Hustle, we didn’t just want to communicate about it. We wanted an interactive idea that would allow participation in the rap scene and have people experience it. Given the recent developments in AI, we wanted the execution on a scale that wasn’t previously possible or done.

“The core idea was to make people a part of the creation process by getting them to suggest a word to which they could rap. And so was born BotHard (a play on the words ‘Boht Hard’ that’s used in the rap scene to describe a really good verse). You could give it any word to rap on, and it would send you a rap on that word.”

“Deriving nuances and persona from the hip-hop community, BotHard instantly became a talking point amongst our audiences, fans and followers. Given its multi-platform presence, across Google Assistant, Alexa, Instagram, and WhatsApp – ‘BotHard’ earned the attention of our tech-savvy viewers and fans,” Utsav elaborates.

Godwin D'mello, ECD of DDB Mudra Group (left) and Utsav Chaudhuri, marketing head - youth, music, and English entertainment at Viacom18

LBB> BotHard is a first of its kind AI-powered rapper. Do share more on the intricacies and challenges of creating it, and the innovative technologies behind it. 

Godwin> BotHard was built by combining a bunch of technologies to generate the final output. We started with the GPT3 engine, and curated different styles of rap by getting it to mimic some of the biggest rappers. Therefore, when people gave it a word or two, it would rap using any of these curated styles so that the raps felt completely different. (Yes, that meant even if two people submitted the same word, they could get completely different outputs). 

Next, the engine sent the output to AWS' text to speech engine. And the resulting vocal track was then automatically stitched to sync with the beat. Parallelly, the text was also turned into a lyric video which was then synced with the vocals. The inputs were also passed through a set of blacklisted words so that people don't create raps on sensitive subjects. In the end, the user got BotHard to rap on the words he'd given him.  

LBB> What was the narrative you wanted to come across from this campaign and how does it align with the strategic goals?

Utsav> Given our creative track record, our audiences have always appreciated and rewarded our knack for innovations and experiments – across content, media, and platforms. We adopt unique content strategies for different platforms. This has always ensured that our audiences are eager to engage with our content and IPs. Innovations like BotHard not only offer newer experiences for our tech-forward consumers but also let them have fun with their social circle while doing so. 

The campaign successfully delivered the strategic goal of taking hip-hop to the masses, as the occasional listeners of the genre had fun with our innovations, consumed our content and then went on to champion it.

LBB> How has it amplified the bigger agenda of MTV Hustle 2.0?

Utsav> Our youth-focused brands have iconic IPs like MTV Roadies, MTV Splitsvilla, and MTV Hustle that resonate deeply with our audiences. Each one of our shows has carved a spot for itself and continues to stay unchallenged. The second and highly successful season of MTV Hustle garnered over 1.5 billion views online over the entire season. 

While BotHard drove engagement directly on Instagram, its crux lies in the novelty and relatability, which has driven conversations beyond the platform, attracting scores of curious audiences. This serves as an example of our constantly evolving repertoire of tech-first consumer experiences. 

Our audience is at the core of all our endeavours, so we continue keeping our ears to the ground, constantly gauging our digitally savvy audience’s appetite. These new-age innovations have not only helped us expand to newer audiences but also scale up to new geographies and business possibilities.

The kind of organic traction we’ve witnessed is unprecedented. We’ve had shout-outs from global icons from the world of sports and entertainment Virat Kohli, Anushka Sharma, Samantha Ruth Prabhu, Shriya Pilgaonkar, Ishan Khattar, Vidya Balan, Zakir Khan, Ayushman Khurana, Chitrangada Singh, Nargis Fakhri, Viraj Ghelani, Tanisha Mukherjee, Varun Sood, Aly Goni Tanmay Bhatt and Abhishek Upmanyu.

While MTV Hustle’s bigger agenda of taking hip-hop to the masses and unearthing new talent has been unequivocally achieved, the season has given a huge boost to our homegrown Kaanphod Music label, as the YouTube channel has grown organically by 14x. MTV Hustle 2.0 has also debuted in Spotify’s Top 10 global album launches. 

LBB> How has the campaign taken off in its various strategic platforms and what were the results?

Utsav> The innovation got picked up by social media influencers and rappers such as Shubham Gaur, Anmol Raina, Aanchal Agrawal, Shloka, EPR and Firaag who interacted with the Bot and posted stories on their Instagram handles. The initiative also drew support from brands like Budweiser on Instagram, which is very encouraging.  

The AI-rapper received over 200,000 rap requests from users, of which 100,000 raps were generated in just the first 10 days, garnering over 13 million views. BotHard gained 8,000 followers and on average 13 messages were exchanged per conversation through the campaign. On ground Cyphers were conducted across college campuses in four cities in the country with over 10,000 in the audience. Overall, the campaign reached over 22 million users, generating over 135,000 engagements, and earned more than 5,400 mentions online.

LBB> In terms of advertising and marketing in the music industry, what are the challenges and issues that agencies have to navigate? What trends and consumer behaviours are important to note? 

Godwin> People are quite passionate about music, and for many, the music they listen to is also part of their identity. This is why, content as well as marketing in the music industry needs to be authentic to that subculture, and not be watered down.  

For instance, using references/ context that only hardcore fans understand may seem like a missed opportunity in other categories. But in a category, such as music, it gets the hardcore fans on your side, and by extension, casual fans too. We need to get that balance where we aren't alienating the masses by being too niche, but also not being so watered-down that people who influence the category don't find it worth their time. 

A sweet spot may be a simple idea that's appealing to the broader set, but executions with varying degrees of depth so that everyone finds something they connect with.  


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Categories: Media and Entertainment, TV and Radio

DDB Mudra Group, Wed, 21 Dec 2022 13:28:49 GMT