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Special Project

Special Project
From the 16th Annual Shorty Awards

Smoothie King: A Summer Fling to the X-treme

Audience Honor in Artificial Intelligence


Smoothie King was launching a new LTO, the X-Treme Watermelon smoothie, and needed a way to get people aware and excited about it. But we were faced with a few problems - it was peak summer season when all of our competitors were loud with seasonal promos, we only had 5 days before the product launched, and we had $0 to support our initiatives. We needed to break through the QSR clutter both quickly and efficiently. With no paid support, our key metric was earned media impressions.




Strategy and Execution

As a classic summer staple, it only made sense that we play into Watermelon’s summertime vibes. So picture this: You’re at the beach, sitting in a low slung chair with your feet in the sand. What’s in your hands? A cold drink and, of course, the season’s hottest romance novel.

Indeed, 1 in 4 books sold in America right now is a romance novel. Inspired by this fact, we launched summer’s biggest thirst trap (our X-Treme Watermelon Smoothie) by creating the first (and thirstiest) full-length novel written by a brand using ChatGPT. Our novel, A Summer Fling to the X-Treme, would tell the story of a riveting love triangle between a man, a woman, and an X-Treme Watermelon Smoothie. But the problem? Our new product launch was just days away, and we had no romance novelist on-staff.

So, with our idea in place, we turned to ChatGPT to do the heavy lifting. The platform developed the plot synopsis and chapter summaries, and we used the AI’s own responses to expand the content into long-form narratives and an immersive story. In just 5 days, we wrote 228 pages, and 36,920 seductive words.

But this wasn’t just any novel. We had ChatGPT add easter eggs inside the steamy romance for a chance to win free smoothies for a year. ChatGPT’s story was compelling, and clever readers across the country soon solved the riddle and claimed their free blends.

Arming the program with inspiration from 90s heartthrob romances, Midjourney created the sensual cover art and imagery that teased the watermelon smoothie love story inside. With only a few extra fingers on the humans.

On a microsite created to promote the book, we used Amazon’s Direct Publishing platform to print copies on-demand, only when they were ordered. For those lovestruck fans who couldn’t wait, digital copies were available for instant download. While traditional publishing house timelines average 18 months (source), we had the books ready for distribution in an afternoon. 

A series of organic TikTok and Instagram posts teased the sensual love triangle by introducing the steamy main characters. We even created a goodreads profile to spread the word. As one reviewer says, “OMG! Steamy, sultry and everything a summer read should be.”


With a paid media budget of $0, we relied on organic social and earned media to spread the word. Romance lovers swiped right, claiming over 700 books. 60 media outlets covered the release, amounting to 646 million earned impressions.




Video for Smoothie King: A Summer Fling to the X-treme

Entrant Company / Organization Name

Barkley, Smoothie King


Entry Credits