Are Deepfakes The Future Of Advertising?

Published on December 14, 2019

Once hailed as a danger to politics, CGI-enhanced animations are now being used in advertising to diversify ad campaigns and allow advertisers to save on having to pay creatives for new work. The deepfakes in advertising trend gained a lot of attention over the last year when internet users created fake videos of figures like Donald Trump or Mark Zuckerberg making fake video announcements.

In the video of Zuckerberg, for example, the Facebook CEO is seen announcing that “whoever controls the data, controls the future” in a fake announcement on Facebook’s ad transparency guidelines. The fake video, which was created by Daniel Howe and Bill Posters, two advertisers with a company called Canny. Though it wasn’t long before the video was exposed as fake, it was created with the intention of spreading awareness of Deepfakes as an issue in modern social media propaganda.

In Advertising

Through modern artificial intelligence, advertisers can create videos of people saying anything they want, using the voice of whoever they want. Other videos created by Posters show figures like Kim Kardashian bragging about how data theft made her rich—a fact that, while untrue, seems to come straight from the source.

In a perfect world the videos would simply be outlawed, but the reality is that it’s hard to prove which is real or which is false since the animations are of such high quality. Plus, how do social media networks come down on their users for creating fake content when they also have to value freedom of speech?

But while a deepfake of Nancy Pelosi poses as a legitimate threat to democracy, others simply see deepfakes as a gold mine for other things: advertising. In this deepfake of David Beckham, the Soccer player is seen speaking a handful of different languages (albeit some are dubbed with female voices) to promote awareness of malaria around the world.

CG Influencers

In other facets, deepfakes are being used to create influencers from scratch. Many CG influencers have risen to fame in the last couple of years, generating thousands of social media followers that flock to the entirely made-up personalities. It’s sort of like making a sim famous, except that sim earns real money as an influencer on social media.

Some CGI influencers—clearly created to serve the male gaze—are focused on becoming realistic representations of cliche’s often seen in social media users of a certain demographic. Lil Miquela, a CG 19-year old “taco truck expert” and social media personality is exactly that. In one ad for Calvin Klein the social media star can be seen kissing Bella Hadid. Miquela even has a group of “friends” that are other CG influencers created by the same company, one named Bermuda was introduced to the world through Miquela’s story as a foe after the character “deleted” Miquela’s social media profiles.

But neither Miquela nor Bermuda were ever intended to be considered real, in fact the two are pretty transparent about the fact that they’re AI—enough to know and openly talk about the fact that they’re computer generated personalities. In recent posts, Bermuda even brags about getting upgrades from her creator to look more realistic.

The characters mimic the personalities of the girls they’re created to look like, demonstrating that a deep understanding of demographics can enable anyone to become a prominent figure within a niche. Bermuda and Miquela, who are created by men, have secured millions of young female and male followers—a gold mine for advertisers looking to tap into the gen z market.

That doesn’t mean that advertisers have to create entire personalities to see successful CGI or deepfakes in advertising. Fashion houses like Balmain have begun using the strategy to create a diverse cast of models that all fit the same bill: tall, slender, exotic looking, striking bone structure. CG is not only cheaper, but it lets fashion houses and companies hold complete control of their image while diversifying their brand.

CG’s Threat To The Modeling Industry

The drawback, however, is that it lets major brands advertise to people of color without actually employing them. The brands don’t have to go through the trouble of focusing on creating diverse campaigns because they can simply change the skin color of a computer generated model. For aspiring models, the threat of CG means that jobs are being replaced by computers in whole new ways.

Julia Sachs is a former Managing Editor at Grit Daily. She covers technology, social media and disinformation. She is based in Utah and before the pandemic she liked to travel.

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