Archives April 27, 2020

Ad Firms Are Exploring Deepfaked Commercials

“With the pandemic having shut down production, companies are asking ad agencies to create commercials made up of digitally altered footage,” reports the New York Times, citing a State Farm commercial that aired during an ESPN documentary starring the anchor of “SportsCenter,” Kenny Mayne:

The producers made the commercial by layering video of Mr. Mayne’s 60-year-old mouth onto footage of his 38-year-old face. To many viewers, the stunt provided a welcome moment of levity in depressing times. Others were made uneasy by the smoothness of the patch, describing it as a type of deepfake. “We tried to make the joke clear enough so that we weren’t tricking anyone,” said Carrie Brzezinski-Hsu, the head of ESPN CreativeWorks, which created the commercial with the ad agencies Optimum Sports and Translation.

Ms. Brzezinski-Hsu said manipulated footage was likely to appear in future ESPN ads. And executives at several major advertising agencies said they had discussed making similar commercials with their clients in recent weeks. “We’re so restricted in how we can generate content,” said Kerry Hill, the production director for the ad agency FCB in North America. “Anything that can be computer generated is something we’re going to explore.”

Husani Oakley, the chief technology officer of the ad firm Deutsch, said digitally altered ads should somehow clue viewers into the fact that what they are seeing is not completely real. “The technology is here, and it’s only going to get better and better, and we have to get used to it,” he added. “We’re exploring ways to have fun with it.”