It’s not every day George Clooney loses a job — especially not to a robot. But the Nestlé corporation has given the Hollywood heartthrob a pink slip, replacing the Oceans Eleven star with none other than “Pepper,” a four-foot tall robot programmed with sophisticated artificial intelligence that makes it the world’s most efficient sales agent.
At least that’s what the Japanese wing of Nestlé hopes, as it tries to brew up increased sales of its coffee brands in that country. Like many Hollywood stars, Clooney rarely, if ever, endorses products in English-speaking countries, but has done commercials in Japan where companies pay extravagant sums to major celebrities for relatively little work in exchange for becoming the public face of their products.
George Clooney endorsed Nestlé coffee products in Japan. The lengthy list of other major stars who have endorsed Japanese products — as well as products in other foreign countries — includes Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCarprio, Sean Connery, Julia Roberts, Harrison Ford and many others.
In a 2012 interview, Clooney explained that appearing in highly lucrative foreign commercials affords him the luxury of picking and choosing the films in which he appears.
“I’m trying to make movies in my life that last longer than opening weekend. That’s it, that’s my whole goal… I don’t have to make money; I do films for scale and then, you know, I go do coffee commercials overseas, and I make a lot of money so I get to live in a nice house. And I don’t give a s***. And people will go, ‘Oh that’s a sellout.’ And you know what? F*** you.”
But while Clooney has also appeared in advertising in France and Italy — in both cases, also pitching coffee — he now has one fewer income stream from overseas advertising, as Pepper has taken Clooney’s job.
The robot’s futuristic software allows it to understand up to 80 percent of human conversation, according to its software maker Softbank, and that allows Nestlé not only to sell coffee but to gather information on consumer preferences and behavior in face-to-face meetings with customers — a cumbersome job that it is doubtful Clooney would be willing to perform, no matter how much money Nestlé paid him.
The Nestlé robot will also appear in about 1,000 stores at once, selling Nestlé-produced coffee, a job that Clooney, being only one person, would find simply impossible.
While a star of Clooney’s magnitude rarely loses a job, he is likely glad that Nestlé has replaced him with a robot given the heavy workload the company now expects. Clooney also endorses other products in Japan, however. Below, watch George Clooney in a Japanese commercial for Kirin beer.