Deepfakes - AI-generated celebrity face-swaps - are these days used mostly in porn (96%) and as a fringe form of internet entertainment. However, the technology behind deepfakes has tremendous potential for all kinds of industries, marketing being the major one. There are already companies focusing on customizing marketing content with the help of AI technologies trying to make advertising strategies even more efficient by adjusting to customers' preferences.
These customizations include slight changes in the visuals or sound and generating multiple versions of the same content for different target groups. Usually tweaking the appearance of actors or embracing automatic translation (synthetic dubbing) to foreign languages. What if this customization and personalization eventually get that far, that it will lead to our friends and family members' faces being synthesized on faces of real actors in advertisements targeted at us? How would it feel to see your friends enjoying a BBQ in a beer commercial? Or seeing your mom recommending the right brand of butter to your version of family cake recipe? Personalized synthetic advertising would not only increase the chance that the offered product (or services) is what you're looking for; it might make you more likely to buy it because of the seductive power of familiarity.
The Room Call is a critical project that speculates on the potential of synthetic media applied in marketing as personalized synthetic advertising. The project uses synthetic media technology to create custom deepfake and places it in a video call context. During casual evening conversation between two friends, a full-screen commercial for Uber Eats is automatically triggered by the phrase "cooking tonight." As the video call becomes a direct source of data for "deepfaking" the call's participants, their faces are instantly applied to the commercial actor's face. Both friends are shocked by this new feature and are left almost speechless.
The final video montage presents the speculative scenario of deepfaked advertisements entering a private online conversation and raises questions about the future of personal data privacy and visual communication ethics. However unrealistic this scenario might sound, we are not far from this technology being applied in advertising. The level of shock and disagreement that this video causes in viewers show how unprepared we are for AI-generated synthetic media entering the visual communication and that critical reflection from designers' side is necessary.
The deepfake creation was commissioned by the dutch platform for internet culture THE HMM and was published in The Hmm's Dossier 2: the Deepfakes: https://thehmm.nl/dossier/dossier-2-deep-fakes/.
Critical Daily 29–08–2020 22:21
Technology is not tricky or problematic itself. Only people who use them give technologies their power to manipulate. Everyone should reconsider what purposes it should be used for. Speculative design is the great platform how to reflect this issue and motivate people to discuss it.