Synthetic Media is all around us. It can include algorithmically generated content such as audio, deepfakes, virtual figures, and much more.
Even if you haven’t heard of synthetic media, odds are you’ve used or seen it in action. If you watched Disney’s Mandalorian’s season 2 finale, producers bring back Luke Skywalker (played by Mark Hamil) as he appeared in Episodes V-VI, using de-aging technology. After the fact, fans created deepfakes of Luke Skywalker resulting in much more realistic versions compared to the CGI version.
Deepfakes are essentially fake media or audio generated by advanced artificial intelligence techniques. They have commonly been used for entertainment purposes such as the deep tom cruise tik tok account, to show politicians acting in a certain way, for movies, and even for news stations in Korea.
Deepfake technological advances benefit such areas such as accessibility, education, film production, criminal forensics, and artistic expression. But as we know, AI technology can easily be used in malicious ways.
With the ability to essentially digitally clone real people and their voices, you can imagine what people might do. With fake news already rampant, synthetic media can elevate it. Imagine how this could be used to portray world leaders using offensive or threatening language…and people not knowing it’s deepfake technology. Predators could also use this for synthetic voices or media to lure victims. This technology is obviously risky and will need to be monitored even on a national security level.
Checkout this Tik Tok account featuring a deepfake of Tom Cruise – @deeptomcruise
Helpful Uses of Synthetic Media
One of the most common (and beneficial) ways we use synthetic media is through our phones. Our voice to text programs listen to what we say or wait for our voice to complete a task. Google has text-to-speech capabilities allowing you to hear written text in natural sounding speech. You can even “train” their AI technology to learn your own voice.
Steve Gleason, a former NFL player, was diagnosed with ALS and lost his ability to communicate verbally. AI technology helped generate a synthetic voice resembling Steve’s. This made a world of difference to his family and young children. As Steve’s disease progressed, having the ability to still hear their dad communicate in a method that sounded like his own voice (rather than a computer voice) meant a lot to their relationship.
Amazon has created a synthetic digital environment in the county of Snohomish Washington to test their drones. This operation has proved to be successful and will help launch their drones into real cities and environments.
What does this mean for the digital marketers?
Synthetic voices have implications for strategic ad campaigns. Based on the targeted audience, a famous synthetic voice from the 80’s (someone like Bruce Springsteen) could be used for certain age groups. Another voice, such as Kendall Jenner’s, could be used when targeting a younger age group.
At MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), researchers have been able to program computers to not just track what is present in a video, but what will happen in the future of that video. This is insight into how synthetic media can be used to help computer systems interpret real life situations and interactions. The technology could be effective in experiential marketing efforts. Picture robots standing in malls and street plazas and interacting with consumers. This technology could create a creative experiential marketing campaign that would catch the attention of many.
We all see the rise in influencer marketing in the digital landscape. There are influencers all across the spectrum, from celebrity movie stars to famous YouTubers to viral Tik Tok creators. Synthetic media has made it possible for synthetic influencers to evolve. They have millions of followers, interact on the internet like any other influencer would, and they are being hired as brand ambassadors for companies such as Calvin Klein, Prada, and Samsung. Some will even hook up with other famous synthetic influencers. These synthetic influencers may be more cost effective and their behavior can be maintained and controlled… unlike real human influencers who can gain notoriety based on their actions.
Checkout Lil Miquela – a synthetic influencer living in LA.
How Do You Know if Something is the Product of Synthetic Media?
This is the problem that has risen with the developments in synthetic media. When looking at the media, one cannot easily tell between synthetic and humans. There needs to be some distinguishing factor to protect people, governments, and institutions from being victimized.
Your current best options are:
- Check the source publishing the information
- When in question, do research to ensure you are not receiving false information.
- Check multiple sources
- Converse with others to hear more ideas and thoughts on the subject
There are so many ways that this technology can affect the way we market a product or service online. If done carefully and in goodwill, then it can be a valuable resource, but as of right now one should take caution when engaging with synthetic media.