Palantir is pitching ad agencies on its AI technology

The controversial software company has met with agencies to pitch inventory planning, programmatic sales, and campaign optimization use cases.
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· 5 min read

Palantir, the controversial software company with ties to intelligence agencies, is turning to the agency world as part of its continued efforts to grow its commercial business.

The company, which was co-founded by venture capitalist Peter Thiel, has pitched advertising agencies on utilizing its year-old AI platform AIP, according to two executives from different agencies who attended pitches.

In a pitch deck shared with Marketing Brew, Palantir presents “wide-ranging use cases and applications” of AIP for tasks including “pricing and inventory planning,” “programmatic sales,” and “campaign optimization.”

Palantir, which received early funding from the CIA, describes itself in the pitch deck as a builder of “leading software platforms for data-driven operations and decision-making.” Over the years, it’s become known for—and faced criticism over—its work with intelligence agencies, including with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which human-rights organizations have raised concerns about.

That hasn’t stopped big-name brands from using Palantir’s software. In 2018, Palantir announced a “strategic relationship” with United Airlines centered around data organization, and Tyson Foods has used Palantir to help with trucking logistics. Other clients include Anheuser-Busch, Molson Coors, Hertz, ExxonMobil and Phillips, per the pitch deck. When it comes to AIP in particular, Lowe’s, General Mills and OpenAI are all using the technology, according to a press release from March.

Now the company is turning to the industry’s middlemen: media agencies, which are largely responsible for planning, organizing, and buying advertisements on behalf of major brands.

In an email, Palantir spokesperson Rita Devlin Marier told Marketing Brew that the company does not comment on “current or potential sales prospects.”

What was pitched?

The executives described Palantir’s pitch as broad, and said Palantir representatives suggested their platform could be used to find efficiencies and pull insights from client data about an advertiser’s audiences and clients.

While parts of the deck suggest use cases like “supply-chain operations” and “customer service,” one slide describes applications for “media and entertainment,” including “advertising sales,” “marketing,” and “digital (OTT and Streaming).” Another slide claims that a “leading broadcast network” with its own OTT platform used Palantir to organize its audiences by group and track customer journeys, leading to a “300% increase in engagement of a target group in one campaign.”

The last slide of the deck encourages potential customers to enroll in “AIP bootcamp,” a way, the slide says, “to experience generative AI in the context of your business, build live against Palantir SMEs, and deploy operational AI to solve your hardest problems.”

One executive said the pitch was compelling. Palantir, they suggested, could be a differentiator for an agency, since everyone else seems to be working with Big Tech companies like Adobe, Google, or Meta, which are all in the business of advertising.

Elephant in the room?

Palantir has in recent months prioritized expanding its commercial business, which comes as “revenue growth from US government contracts has slowed in recent quarters,” according to the Wall Street Journal. Palantir’s commercial business generated more than $1 billion in revenue in 2023 and grew 20% year over year. Chief Revenue and Chief Legal Officer Ryan Taylor told analysts during the company’s most recent earnings call in February that AIP is expected to be central to this expansion.

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Meanwhile, advertisers and agencies can’t get enough of artificial intelligence, and tech and advertising giants like Meta, Google, and Amazon, are quickly incorporating the technology into their platforms.

While the deck shared with Marketing Brew doesn’t highlight the company’s work for governments—outside of a line indicating that “defense partners” use the tech for “sales and marketing”—one executive Marketing Brew spoke to said that in meetings, the company didn’t shy away from it.

The company’s background, like helping “expand and accelerate” the National Security Agency, was an “elephant everyone knew was in the room,” one advertising executive told Marketing Brew. And the AIP tech has already attracted controversy for its potential applications: In a demo video for AIP, the company detailed its military applications, which Vice reported includes using a “ChatGPT-style chatbot to order drone reconnaissance, generate several plans of attack, and organize the jamming of enemy communications.”

(In the demo video, the company claims that the tools will be controlled “to ensure that they are used in a legal and ethical way.”)

Palantir’s work could present a “reputational risk component” for brands and agencies, Arielle Garcia, former chief privacy officer of UM Worldwide who now serves as director of intelligence at industry watchdog nonprofit Check My Ads, told Marketing Brew. While she suggested that some in the industry might ask how working with Palantir would be so different from “some of the other practices that are common within the industry,” like location tracking, “two wrongs don’t make a right,” she said.

“For the ad industry, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to tell where one industrial complex begins and another ends,” Garcia said. “I don’t understand why, in an industry that’s desperately trying to distance itself from terms like commercial surveillance and surveillance advertising, why it would seem like a good idea to work with a company that’s very much in the surveillance business.”

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