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Calgary Farmers’ Market calls negative reaction to AI art a ‘tempest in a teapot’

Click to play video: 'Calgary Farmers’ Market denies it didn’t go local with new A.I. generated marketing campaign'
Calgary Farmers’ Market denies it didn’t go local with new A.I. generated marketing campaign
Critics say the Calgary Farmers’ Market should have used local artists instead of A.I.-generated animals to deliver its message. The Market is calling the claim a tempest in a teapot. Doug Vaessen has the story – Feb 14, 2024

The Calgary Farmers’ Market said it did nothing wrong by using images of animals generated by artificial intelligence (AI) in it’s new marketing campaign, despite heavy criticism of some who say they should have used local artists.

Debbie Catling, president of the Calgary Farmers’ Market board, calls it a tempest in a teapot.

“What hit us was some of the reaction to the AI piece of it, the integration of the AI to the artistry part of it,” Catling said. “It’s a tool to be used. AI doesn’t just spit out an image.”

Catling said it’s like when painters who used to deny using a camera was true art.

The farmers’ market board president said the market worked with local company PTI Graphics to develop a campaign that would grab attention as people scrolled social media.

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“He had the idea. He knew what he wanted. He used AI for some of the imagery but then he had to edit, Photoshop and add the layers to it,” Catling said.

“I think that the nuances of this are being blown out of proportion. So that is why I would say tempest in a teapot.”

Still, there are plenty of naysayers rallying against the campaign.

“Why I’m disappointed? I do believe the choice of AI artwork rather than a localized community of artists for that choice is taking away opportunities from Calgarian based artists,” Simone Engel said.

In August, Wizards of the Coast fell under criticism of using AI-generated art for one of its Dungeons & Dragons books. In a statement, the Hasbro-owned subsidiary said it was unaware the artist, with whom the publisher had a decade-long relationship, used AI in some of the art and was revising its artist guidelines as a result.

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In October, U.S. media company Gannett denied it published marketing material created by artificial intelligence on a shopping website it owns, but it acknowledged some of the content produced by a marketing partner “did not meet our editorial standards.”

And in January, Wizards of the Coast admitted to using AI-generated art for some of its Magic: the Gathering promotional materials, saying it would revise its policy of using AI art for marketing.

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Not buying local is a serious action for a farmers’ market to be accused of.

Jonathan Taylor of PTI Graphics said the accusation is puzzling.

“I didn’t see this coming,” Taylor said. “We just wanted to have some fun and make a cool memorable campaign.

“We are local, we are from Calgary. All of my staff is from Calgary. We have been in business for 13 years. We only use local providers for our printing. We local source everything we can — that’s why I am a little puzzled.”

The farmers’ market west location on Greenbriar Dr Northwest was busy with Valentine’s Day on Wednesday, but none of the people Global News spoke with there argued against the campaign.

Jacquelyn Spackman manages Blossoms YYC and said she hasn’t heard much about the controversy.

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“We have been so focused on Valentine’s right now, but I think the new marketing is great and it’s creating a buzz,” Spackman said.

Maggie Wu and her three year old said the animals have become a favourite since their unveiling a week ago.

“I love it, she loves it, points at it every time we come in. She points at the animals,” Wu said. “It’s super engaging I think its awesome.”

Critics say the market has cut them off their social media comments page. Catling said the market has answered the critics and is now are focusing their attention on their vendors and their clients.

“To create a little bit of fun honestly, some whimsical fun,” Catling said. “There is something for everybody here at the Calgary Farmer’s Market.”

–with files from The Associated Press

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