Are Deep Fake Ads Coming To Traditional TV?

Maybe it’s time to start doubting deep fakes videos, advertising or otherwise, will only be seen only on social media -- the current whipping post of some media executives. 

Perhaps the next wave of fakes videos is coming to your living-room TV screen.

During ESPN’s highly regarded limited documentary series about the 1997-1998 season of the Chicago Bulls, State Farm had some fun morphing an old "ESPN SportsCenter" segment into a TV commercial.

And if regular “SportsCenter” watchers couldn’t figure out what was what, a younger Kenny Mayne anchor -- in the ad -- made it obvious:

“This is the kind of stuff that ESPN will eventually make a documentary about,” Mayne said in the ad in his usual deadpan way: “They’ll call it something like ‘The Last Dance.’ They’ll make it a 10-part series and release it in the year 2020. It’s going to be lit. You don’t even know what that means yet.”



Just to drive home the point, an ESPN marketing executive told The New York Times about the spot: “We weren’t tricking anyone.”

Honest advertising is a good start. Trouble is, the next time it might be a different approach, especially when it comes to political advertising.

Social-media content over the last several years, starting with the 2016 presidential campaign, has gone in a manipulation direction -- less comedic, more serious. This is one where social-media users can pass on faux, misdirected, or just false content to friends, family and others.

All that has value -- to some bad actors. Suffice to say such content sharing would be much more difficult in prime-time 30-second spots. It doesn’t mean some bad actors won’t find a way to get viewer consumption from iffy content, politically speaking.

One recent video re-tweeted by Donald Trump -- not connected to his Trump re-election campaign we are told -- shows a somewhat crude, doctored Allstate commercial, replacing actor Dennis Haysbert with Barack Obama. Joe Biden was also doctored into the spot -- not, as might be expected -- in a favorable way.

The video has since been removed from the Twitter account @realDonaldTrump. (Oh.. whoops. Did I do that?)

Would that video make it onto TV airwaves -- even as a planned mistake? Little chance it would get through networks’ standards-and-practices department these days on linear TV.

But what about growing OTT and CTV platforms, which continue to have problems with advertising fraud?

Will all future regular-looking TV ads be on the up-and-up long term? Believe me, someone is already thinking of a hack.

Technically innovations -- good an bad -- won’t slow down. In this period of even more disruption --- perhaps distraction from coronavirus issues -- look out for troublemakers coming to any screen near you.

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