When AI marketing goes ‘Wonky’

Glasgow’s viral “Willy Wonka Experience” shows we should be wary of AI use in marketing


The Fever team’s been obsessing over every detail of the now infamous Willy Wonka experience, which went viral this week for its lukewarm (and that’s being polite) take on the magical weirdness of Roald Dahl’s Chocolate Factory.

Dubbed “the UK Fyre Festival”, social media has blown up with memes, images and videos of the experience, which featured sparse gummy bear décor, an “Oompa Loompa meth lab”, and The Unknown: a fictitious evil chocolate maker who lived in the walls.


Families who forked out £35 a ticket were promised a ‘journey filled with wondrous creations and enchanting surprises at every turn’. Instead, children were left in tears of disappointment (and no doubt terror), and attendees are now trying to get their money back from event organisers.

Where did it all go so ‘wonky’? You can’t help but notice the difference between the vision of the event, and the reality. Of course, if organisers had been honest about the production value, customers would never have bought tickets (unless Oompa Loompa meth labs are your cuppa tea); but by making the event marketing even just a smidge less magical and fantastical, they might have been in slightly less hot water than they are currently. The concept of expectation vs reality seems to have been designed for the marketing vs the event.

Credit: Chris Alsikkan/X

According to Business Insider, several of the images used to advertise the event strongly featured the telling signs of AI art. Actors involved in the debacle have allegedly shared the 15-page AI-generated scripts they were handed two days before the event, which featured fake Wonka characters like “Willy McDuff”, the “Anti-Graffiti Gobstopper” and “Wonkidoodles”. I mean, if this isn’t a Netflix show by the end of the year we will eat our purple hat.

AI offers a fantastic way to quickly and cheaply create imagery and copy, but it has its drawbacks. Instead of real photos or even realistic artist renders, the AI-generated images over-(chocolate) egged the experience. Similarly, AI-generated copy is a fast and easy way to present information but needs to be checked for facts, typos, and that it actually makes sense before being used.

The whole thing calls to mind events like Fyre Festival and Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen’s Birmingham Lapland, which was forced to shut after a day after complaints of cheap plastic toys, queues and children crying over the ruined magic of Christmas. Time and again, we see that over-promising and under-delivering is never a good move, and by leaning into the unrealistic world of AI-generated images, the event set expectations unrealistically  (you could even say impossibly) high.

Ironically, we suspect that if tickets were made available for the experience today, it’d be a roaring success as a result of its fame (or infamy). It’s probably not much of a reassurance to the families who forked out to attend, but it would be quite something to say, “we survived the Glasgow Wonka experience”.


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