media update’s Taylor Goodman looks at both sides of the deepfake debate.

What is a deepfake?

According to Mika Westerlund from Technology Innovation Management Review, a deepfake is a “hyper-realistic video digitally manipulated to depict people saying and doing things that never actually happened.” 

The technology made its debut into the public eye after it was used by a Reddit user to superimpose celebrities' faces onto some unfavourable videos. Since then, it has built up quite a reputation. From being used conjointly with the spread of fake news to being used for entertainment purposes, it is clear that the nature of the deepfake depends largely on the user. 

While this technology is mainly used to cause a stir in the entertainment industry, and even politics, it has the potential to pose a threat to the corporate sphere, too … or does it? There are two sides to every coin, and as much as deepfake technology could be negative, it may also hold the potential for innovation. 

The drawbacks of the deepfake

Most forms of artificial intelligence are given the side-eye by the average joe; deepfake technology isn't any different. Chances are, if you have encountered the deepfake, it has been on social media, where fake news spreads like wildfire. 

Fake news spurs the perception of incredibility in the consumer, which carries over to a negative perception of deepfake technology. This is where it will become tricky for brands to integrate deepfakes into their digital marketing strategy, as the consumer will not view it as trustworthy, and thus, will not be receptive to any marketing ploys associated with it. 

This is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of how the deepfake can affect us — not only in our everyday lives, but also in the corporate environment. As the technology advances, it becomes easier for the average user and competitors to access. 

This can pose a threat to businesses because they have no control over whether it will be used against their brand. If this had to happen, the brand's reputation would take a serious hit. This links back to the deepfake’s toxic effect on electronic word of mouth and consumer trust. 

How brands would deal with this potential reputational crisis is a complex matter as, according to digital marketing consultant Sarah Cleeton, “the legalities of creating a deepfake video are essentially in a grey area.”
However, there are some measures to put in place if your digital marketing is plagued by a malicious deepfake. For example, you can:
  • Employ a media monitoring company — this will help your business be aware if there are any posts targeting your brand, allowing you to report them as soon as possible.
  • Establish a relationship with social media networks — a relationship with these networks will make it easier for you to report any violations and ensure that their response time when dealing with your grievance is as quick as possible.
  • Record video footage ‘for the record’ — this will allow you to use original footage as proof that something has been doctored. 
  • Formulate a crisis plan — having a plan in place will prevent any panic if deepfakes are used maliciously against your brand as you will have an outline of how you can tackle the issue. 

The bright side of the deepfake technology

The deepfake isn't all bad; in fact, it has the potential to completely change the landscape of digital marketing. This technology can add dynamism to a digital strategy, resulting in richer and more engaging content. 

An example of this is the ‘Malaria Must Die’ campaign, which uses deepfake technology to depict David Beckham speaking about Malaria in nine different languages, the voices of which belong to medical professionals and malaria survivors.

This campaign proves how, if used in the right way, marketers can use deepfakes to create innovative content and create a buzz around their brand while doing so. 

According to Anthony Baker from R/GA Tokyo, “deepfake technology is empowering the creation of localised and translated content, and light personalisation without the high cost of filming multiple variations.” 

Aside from being innovative, deepfake technology offers brands benefits including: 
  • making talent easier to access
  • giving access to talent that has passed away
  • boosting electronic word of mouth
  • providing a higher quality of digital content

What does this mean for digital marketers?

As with most things, it is important to be aware of the potential benefits of the technology, but also to consider its drawbacks. Brands wanting to use deepfakes must ensure they do so with caution, as any slip up could lead to their credibility and trustworthiness taking a hit. 

This being said, with great risk comes great reward; correctly integrating deepfakes into your digital strategy can put you a step above the rest.
Do you think the deepfake will have a positive or negative effect on digital marketing? Let us know in the comments section below.

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Want to know more about deepfake technology? Be sure to check out our article, Are deepfakes the new #FakeNews?
*Image courtesy of Vecteezy