Deepfake Marketing: Emerging Tool or Bad Idea?

infinitee|Thought Leadership|

Have you heard about deepfake technology?

While there is some controversy around this kind of manipulated media, it’s not without its merits…and today, we want to talk about it!

When COVID-19 emerged, and most in-person production was shut down, what were advertisers to do? Well, in the case of State Farm, they got really creative.

In ESPN’s Chicago Bulls Documentary, ‘The Last Dance,’ State Farm ran a commercial (see above) featuring expertly doctored footage of longtime “SportsCenter” anchor Kenny Mayne.

But, how was this ad made?

That’s where the deepfake technology part comes in. Mayne’s 60-year-old mouth was layered onto the footage from 1998. And the result was pretty seamless – and impressive!

When our team at infinitee saw the commercial during the documentary, we were shocked. The ad was integrated so well, it felt like old footage, and then, wow—what did he just say?!

At the end of the series, another ad featured Keith Olbermann and Linda Cohn.

In each of these ads, the ‘fake out’ felt clever, smart and appropriate.

As an audience, we were in on the joke. We knew it was fake…nobody was trying to fool us. Carrie Brzezinski-Hsu, the head of ESPN CreativeWorks said, “We tried to make the joke clear enough so that we weren’t tricking anyone.”

Unfortunately, the downside of deepfake technology is that it can be used to fool us.

Though this technology has been around for many years, it came onto the radar for many of us when Jordan Peel and Buzzfeed doctored a video of Barack Obama—demonstrating how vividly AI tools can make it look like anyone is saying anything.

Across the internet, deepfakes are getting harder to spot. Manipulating video is obviously causing growing ethical and legal concerns—putting this kind of technology on the U.S. Government’s radar and necessitating a synthetic and manipulated media policy from Twitter.

What does the future hold?

Deepfakes can be used in good humor, and also, for more manipulative purposes. In our view, there is very real marketing potential—like in the State Farm ad—and also very real risks.

It leaves so many questions…

Who decides when to use deepfake marketing, and what is ethically acceptable?

Is the risk worth the reward?

Now and in the future, to what extent will viewers have to doubt what they see?

When you can’t get into a studio to create a new ad—is this a viable option?

We don’t know the answers, but we do know this: Technology is constantly advancing. And we’re on top of it. At infinitee, we’ll keep you in the know.

So, could advertising have a deepfake future?

Interesting question, right?

We’ll stay tuned and keep you posted.

In the meantime…Does your company need marketing that will get you noticed—from a forward-thinking partner?

Set up a quick chat with Vince Vitti to discuss the possibilities.


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