Successful marketing requires an ability to adapt quickly to new technologies, trends and even social taboos. Thus, it is natural that when deepfake was first introduced to this atmosphere, many regarded it with recoil. Just the name is enough to deter marketers from even understanding what this is about, in an era when “fake news” has practically taken over the discourse — in the marketing sphere and outside of it. However, this instinctive step back might cause marketers to miss out on some interesting opportunities.
Deepfake technology is one of the latest developments that has the potential to significantly impact how brands market themselves going forward. While the implications of this emerging technology may seem obvious — like fake news, for example — marketers, advertisers and digital strategists need to understand how deepfakes will impact their specific industry, before it’s too late. And even though there are challenges, there is plenty to look forward to.
Let’s take the opportunity to see just how deepfake technology can be used for good — as well as bad — purposes by marketers and others. Don’t forget, this new AI-driven technology is going to impact human perception and trust in general. How much, exactly? Let’s try to find out.
What is Deepfake Technology?
Deepfakes are AI-generated media that appear to be authentic. By combining existing images, audio or video with new material, a digital creator can produce content that appears to be real. Some might say that deepfake technology has crept into our lives virtually unnoticed. It has been used to create fake celebrity videos, such as forging footage of Tom Cruise drunk on a plane, creating an Obama speech where he says things he never said, and many more bizarre examples.
The technology powering this is called ‘convolutional neural networks’ (CNNs, no connection whatsoever with the news channel). These networks have been used for ‘computer vision’ for a long time now, and are also applied to audio. Combine the two and you get the magic of deepfake.
Use Deepfake for Good?
Needless to say, the potential of deepfake technology in the field of marketing is huge, both for good and bad causes. Marketers can leverage this technology authentically to improve engagement with their customers, or they can use deepfakes to amplify a deceptive message — much like most other technologies in that their benefits (or harms) depend on the user.
Take the mimicking of famous people’s voices for example (while making it clear that it is a deepfake). But it’s not only about mimicking someone you know. Deepfake technology can be used to convert written text into speech and for audio-to-text conversion, which can help deliver the message to people who need further accessibility options.
In other words, marketers can use deepfake technology to replace the hiring of voice actors, or the creation of similar content for different languages. Want an example? This can be useful for a company that wishes to create a video in multiple languages without having to hire voice actors in different languages. There will always be a mismatch between what is spoken and what is written. With deepfake technology, the written text can be converted into audio and then combined with the intended video.
The technology has been particularly beneficial and used commonly in storytelling, which is an influential way of communicating information. Its value also appears in its capacity to deliver hyper-personalized content, which also makes customers feel special and appreciated. Moreover, deepfakes can help companies create wonderful experiences for their customers through the creation of interactive content that seems very real. All of those can improve the outcome of marketing campaigns.
Bruce Willis can speak Russian?
Many companies have cleverly used deepfakes to generate a buzz around them and their products, and one of the most prominent examples as of late surprisingly comes from Russia. In 2021, the mobile company Megafon created a series of commercials starring the famous actor Bruce Willis — but not really with him actively participating in the campaign. This was done with the help of a web platform designed by the AI company Deepcake, and with full consent on the actor’s side.
Not all is good, though…
Despite their benefits, deepfakes can also be used in malicious ways such as scams or attempts to spread propaganda. Remember the fake Obama video mentioned earlier? Just imagine how that affected people’s opinion about Barack Obama. True, this was way after he completed his term as president, but it has certainly altered people’s perspective of the Democratic party — for better or worse, just not for the right reasons.
Deception usually underlies these types of efforts, and thus for your marketing campaign that relies on deepfakes to work, you must be authentic with your audience. Be sure to communicate to them that you are relying on deepfake media and that the purpose is to deliver a better experience. This way customers will appreciate the candor and enjoy the experience. This will elevate your brand in their minds.
Deepfake technology can be used for good and bad purposes, that is clear by now. The technology is still in its infancy, and it has a long way to develop. While using deepfake media can indeed take your marketing campaigns to new frontiers, you must remember that it also carries a whole lot of ‘bad rep’ with it. That is why it is better to combine deepfake campaigns with authenticity. Once you base your efforts on the right values, the potential can be limitless indeed.
Not convinced by the power of deepfake marketing yet? Well, keep in mind that your competitors will probably be using deepfakes soon. If you want to maintain your relevance in an increasingly volatile marketing landscape, you better get used to deepfake — it is here to stay.