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Black & Abroad is the innovative travel company known for its groundbreaking marketing efforts like the Cannes Lions Grand Prix-winning “Go Back to Africa” and “Black Elevation Map.” It offers luxury travel experiences for an underserved and under-represented customer base: young, upwardly mobile members of the Black community. With 30% of revenue coming from repeat business, and the pandemic’s industry impact finally fading, 2024 was the perfect opportunity to re-engage with past guests to drive new bookings.
Initially, we wanted to create a personalized emails for Black & Abroad customers leveraging the power of generative AI and the brand’s archive of more than 11,000 photos featuring those customers. We planned to train AI models to generate images of Black & Abroad customers at the company’s destinations, which have included Paris, Ghana, Colombia and South Africa.
The hope was that by showing consumers enjoying exciting places they have yet to experience, we could encourage them to book their next trip.
An eye-opening development
But instead of aspirational images of Black travel, the gen AI models began to generate profound examples of systemic bias. Despite being trained on images of Black guests, models generated some guests into scenes of poverty, misrepresented Black hairstyles and even turned some guests’ skin white.
For the campaign at hand, we overcame these biases through technical workarounds, prompt engineering and fine tuning and ultimately, delivered the personalized digital experience to customers.
But for the future and the broader community, we also made sure to document the process and our findings at in order to raise awareness of the systemic bias. We also created a solution: The Generative AI Bias Reporting System. This is a database where any user can report on and enter instances of bias in generative AI. In doing so, they are creating structured data at scale, for use by anyone, anywhere in the refinement and development of new models.
Truth Well Told: Though we set out to create a 1:1 digital experience for Black & Abroad customers leveraging the power of generative AI, the journey unexpectedly led to something much bigger—a global data solution for bias in generative AI models. With more than 81M impressions, the campaign was the most seen in Black & Abroad’s history. It saw an 81% open rate on the launch email, and the reporting system so far has collected more than 3,400 instances of bias.
Black & Abroad
Digital Craft
Creative Data
Sustainable Development Goals
McCann Canada