AI deepfakes are going to make you question every advert you see

Randy Ginsburg
May 5, 2023
“What if someone were to deep-fake the founder of a brand saying something problematic?” — Tommy Clark, Head of Social Media, Triple Whale

With any groundbreaking technology, there are widespread ethical and safety risks. Randy Ginsburg explores how AI deepfakes are shaking up the marketing industry, what brands need to do to be prepared, and why consumers need to second guess the adverts they engage with.

From personal assistants to creative thought partners, artificial intelligence is transforming how we live, work, and interact with others.

But unlike other emerging technologies that have slowly crept into our day-to-day lives, AI is evolving at breakneck speed. In February 2023, only three months after launching to the public, ChatGPT crossed 100 million users. By comparison, it took TikTok about nine months, and Instagram nearly two and a half years to reach the same milestone. 

But like with any groundbreaking technology, rapid innovation comes with widespread risks. Between biases, privacy concerns, and malicious use, AI has already birthed its fair share of ethical dilemmas. But few are as pervasive and potentially harmful as the infiltration of deepfakes into the consumer psyche. 

Deepfake of reality star Kim Kardashian in ITVX comedy series, Deep Fake Neighbour Wars.

Deepfakes have been around for years, but recent progress in AI video and voice tools have made it easier than ever to convincingly forge a person’s likeness. Amidst record levels of scepticism towards mainstream media, deepfakes are particularly worrisome; they can be used to propagate misinformation, manipulate public sentiment, and, in the most egregious cases, commit fraud or identity theft.  

As we inch closer to a future once portrayed only in sci-fi novels, the world finds itself asking an important question: are we prepared for what lies ahead? 

“What if someone were to deep-fake the founder of a brand saying something problematic?”

— Tommy Clark, Head of Social Media, Triple Whale

While the implications of deepfakes in the political and social spheres are well-documented, their impact on the marketing industry is far more uncertain. From fake AI-generated product reviews to manipulated celebrity brand endorsements, deepfakes have the potential to deceive consumers and damage the reputations of both brands and public figures. 

Tommy Clark, Head of Social Media at Triple Whale, an e-commerce marketing tool, says that both marketers and founders should already be thinking about how to protect their brands against deepfakes. 

Deepfake of Hollywood actor Bruce Willis in a Russian TV advert.

“As a social media manager, I am most worried about the potential PR nightmares. For example, what if someone were to deep-fake the founder of a brand saying something problematic?” he asks. “There’s also the obvious problem of ineffective or harmful products being portrayed as beneficial.” 

TikTok recently removed an advert featuring a deepfake of Joe Rogan endorsing a libido-boosting supplement. Staged as a real clip from his Joe Rogan Experience podcast, the ad enticed viewers with a resounding review of the product, along with exactly what to type in to find the product on Amazon. The clip went viral, highlighting the significant risks that deepfakes can have on brands, consumers, and public figures. 

As deepfake ads become more prevalent, consumers will need to be more cautious of which ads they let influence them, potentially prompting a broader shift in customer purchasing behaviour. 

“As individuals, it’s important to do additional research before making a purchase,” Tommy suggests. “I would try to be a bit more mindful and maybe not make a purchase directly from an Instagram or TikTok ad.”

Of course, deepfakes are only concerning due to the powerful AI technologies behind them, and these are mostly used for good, rather than malice. Video, audio, and text generation tools are increasingly used in content creation workflows, from correcting errors and altering scripts without the need for reshoots, to helping brands cost-effectively overcome language barriers.

In the marketing campaign for Malaria Must Die, London AI startup Synthesia created a video ad of football star David Beckham saying ‘Malaria Must Die’ in nine different languages. The campaign was a smashing success, raising over $14 billion for the cause.  

Tommy is also quick to point out the potential productivity gains that come along with these tools. “Brands will be able to get more out of their existing employees and front-facing talent. Think about having a creator that delivers great results for your brand, and being able to times their output by ten on video without having to get them in the studio. Like AI in writing, I think AI in video will be best used to amplify what’s already there for brands.”

But alongside brands using AI to supercharge their marketing in responsible ways will be malicious actors seeking to steal the legitimacy of established faces and voices. It’s unclear how the ability to instantly generate convincing deepfakes will affect the marketing industry, but it is likely that new measures to verify authentic content will be needed, or consumers may just trust digital advertising less across the board, authentic or otherwise.

“I would try to not make a purchase directly from an Instagram or TikTok ad.”

— Tommy Clark, Head of Social Media, Triple Whale

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Randy is the founder of Digital Fashion Daily and Third Wall Creative, a web3 marketing agency. Straddling the worlds of retail and emerging technology, Randy has worked with many companies including nft now, Shopify, and Touchcast to create compelling and educational web3 content. Previously, Randy worked at Bombas, developing the most comfortable socks in the history of feet.