The Rise of AI / Deepfake Influencers in Marketing
Guest blog by Sylvan van PRLab
The corona crisis has shaken up our view of the world and companies have had to adapt quickly to the new normal in order to survive. In the past year we have seen how companies and startups around the world have used this adaptability as one of the most relevant and important business features to ultimately achieve their business goals most effectively.
In PR, communication is seen as the fundamental way of interacting with key stakeholders and choosing the most effective online or offline medium to get a message across. We live in a new era, a new economy, and a new digital world where digitization and connectivity have become important features of everyday life, influencing our personal and interactions with ourselves and the outside world.
The pandemic has also enabled and strengthened the emergence of digital PR in the new economy. There is a trend in which startups, international companies and government institutions Big Data and AI as fundamental elements in communication and marketing related efforts, to become a place in 2021 where these strategies are part of the new normal. The future of B2B and B2C communications revolves around the combination of human and digital functions, which will eventually lead a path for all other industries to follow.
AI in 2021
There is a huge misconception about what AI (artificial intelligence) is and the general public often doesn't know what it means or what its real purpose is. For many people, it conjures up an image of advanced humanoid robots, basing their point of view on movies like “I, Robot” or “Terminator,” but that's far from true (for now). In reality, AI is defined as an application that can perform complex tasks that previously required human input. For example, human behavior and functions such as understanding, learning or problem solving can be artificially copied. The ultimate goal of AI is to simply help people in what we do, but more efficiently, and assisted by this innovative technology.
In 2021, experts 4 forms of AI identified:
- Reactive Machines: AI without memory that only responds to certain stimuli. E.g. IBM's Deep Blue beating chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov in 1997.
- Limited Memory Machines: AI that uses memory to learn and improve reactions on its own. This technology is used in many existing apps that we know such as: deepfakes, captchas, image recognition scans, chatbots and virtual assistants.
- Theory of Mind: AI machines that continuously improve their interaction with people by understanding their wishes, emotions, values and thought processes.
- Self-aware AI: this type of AI is still hypothetical and, for now, much closer to science fiction than to reality. This AI would have a comparable intellectual level to a human brain and would be able to develop self-awareness.
AI and influencer marketing in 2021
While influencer marketing has been widely used by all kinds of large organizations in the past, it has reinvented itself and the way the content is delivered. This form of marketing (usually B2C) is usually used to build reputation and trust in organizations and brands. For example, in the mid-1980s, Michael Jordan was chosen as Nike's global ambassador and became its first influencer, as it were.
In 2021, since the rise of social media, blogs, websites and digital platforms, this marketing strategy has been democratized and a diversity of influencers has emerged for all imaginable topics and channels, often aimed at a specific audience. Influencer marketing is nowadays seen as a fundamental social media marketing tool, normally used for product positioning by influencers with a niche audience that likes and follows certain content.
In recent years, PR, marketing and campaign managers have seen an unparalleled opportunity in using AI in influencer campaigns, analyzing target audience data and using it to optimize marketing-related efforts and ultimately improve the quality of improve products and services. The best way to increase brand visibility using influencer marketing is to thoroughly analyze data obtained and combine it with AI apps to select the right influencers and strategy.
Deepfakes during the Covid-19 pandemic
By now, many people have seen the viral videos on IG, YouTube, Facebook or Twitter, featuring Barack Obama, Boris Johnson, Tom Cruise or some other celebrity making rather unorthodox statements. Well, these weren't real, but were deepfakes.
The term "deepfake" was coined in 2017 and is a machine learning technique that combines existing images, videos, sounds and voices to create an artificial and fictional character – often in the form of a well-known celebrity. The general public is quite skeptical about deepfakes and their use for wrong purposes, because of the bad reputation they have acquired after in the political environment have been abused to influence election campaigns:
Since the start of the pandemic, the rise of fake news, populism and slacktivism (online activism) has taken all social media platforms and many, if not all, traditional media outlets by storm, leading to a massive wave of disinformation spreading across the globe. . Because of their advanced facial and voting features, AI apps that use deepfakes are often seen as a threat because they have been misused to influence politics and manipulate voters.
In addition, deepfake technology is getting better every day and (this is one of the essential features of AI with limited memory) it has become increasingly difficult for people to spot the fakes.
Deepfakes, AI and influencer marketing in 2021
In an effort to adapt to the new normal, global brands, particularly in the fashion, retail and F&B industries, have begun to adapt their strategy using digital solutions, including deepfake influencer marketing and support with AI apps to increase their brand awareness efforts.
Influencer marketing using deepfakes has emerged as a market-disrupting innovation, enabling holistic connections between consumers and brands. The regular use of influencers within social media content marketing also has the ability to captivate niche audiences from different parts of the world, and to reach a very specific target group. By combining social media content marketing and deepfake influencer marketing, there is the potential to take this to the next level, forging a deeper connection and reaching consumers even more effectively.
PR, advertisers and marketers have a unique opportunity to adopt this technology, not only to select a better influencer who can make a greater impact on the audience, but also to bring experiential PR to an online marketplace and eliminate time and location frictions to decrease.
What kind of deepfake influencers are there?
- Celebrity Deepfakes: There are now many different brands that use the faces of celebrities for their campaigns. David Beckham's deepfake was used by a malaria charity to increase its appeal to the public. The ad reached great masses and was seen by more than 400 million people worldwide within two months.
- CGI models: Calvin Klein and iTunes have already used them in their branding campaigns. Lil Miquela is the most famous virtual influencer, with over 3 million followers on IG.
- Virtual Streamers or AI YouTubers
- Digital Actors: Animated characters like in Space Jam, Ted or Detective Pikachu.
- Sophia the Robot: A human-like AI robot designed by Hanson Robotics, which can make over 50 facial expressions and predict or respond to emotions of the people she speaks to.
New PR and marketing strategies based on Big Data, AI, and deepfakes have flooded the global communications industry, offering new alternatives to branding and influencer marketing campaigns, while jeopardizing traditional PR and media relationships. The coronavirus crisis has also been a decisive factor accelerating digitization, transforming traditional PR and marketing efforts in countless ways.
We encourage leaders in the PR and marketing industry to continue pushing for disruptive innovation and technological advancements such as AI, Big Data and deepfakes, because we believe the future of communication revolves around this change and innovation.
However, we also believe that PR, advertising and marketing professionals should ensure the ethical use of deepfakes across the communication spectrum and ultimately contribute to safe and responsible legislation, which pushes policy makers to best regulate this new trend. It has been proven that the use of deepfakes can respond well to new needs and consumer demand, as telling an interesting story using this new technology and actionable data can effectively catch the eye of your target audience.
We face a fantastic and unprecedented opportunity to improve the online user experience by identifying the fundamental elements that drive our audience's consumption habits. No doubt 2021 will be a challenging and interesting period – as a PR agency – but it will also be a great time to see how PR / marketers can use AI to take communication and marketing related efforts to the next level, to ultimately regarded as a knowledge leader in the industry.