Local Washington D.C. affiliates of Fox, CNN and MSNBC have all banned new spots by Mischief @ No Fixed Address for non-profit RepresentUS that feature AI overlays -- known as deepfake technology -- of North Korea's Kim Jong-Un and Russia's Vladimir Putin respectively, speaking about the fragility of the U.S. democracy.
"Dictators" was set to air after the 2020 Presidential Debates. The spots had been approved but were pulled at the 11th hour with no explanation, according to the agency.
The ads seemingly appear as if these two leaders are delivering a harrowing reminder of how easily the republic can collapse, the idea being to encourage people to get out and vote on November 3.
The agency said this initiative was the first time a deepfake video was being used for political purposes as part of a major television ad campaign. Now it will air across social media supported by influencers including Katy Perry, Orlando Bloom, Jennifer Lawrence, Ed Helms, Alyssa Milano, and Kathy Griffin.
The campaign is designed to be provocative and attention-grabbing. The non-profit approached the agency wanting to make some noise about its movement and mission during the election and realized crafting a message that seemingly is from these polarizing foreign dictators would capture some buzz.
“There is so much noise in this political environment that people can be overwhelmed and left feeling it’s all out of their hands, there's nothing they can do,” says Greg Hahn, co-founder and chief creative officer at Mischief @ No Fixed Address. “Apathy is actually the intent of the noise. It was really critical to cut through all of that in a way that provokes.”
The agency believes this campaign also serves as the first time deepfake has been adopted at the audition process — around a dozen actors were given AI “makeup” before selections were made.
“By featuring two leaders who have a vested interest in the collapse of our democratic system, we are putting the American people face-to-face with just how fragile our democracy really is. We hope it inspires Americans to come together to fight for this one issue that unites us all,” states Joshua Graham Lynn, Co-Founder and President at RepresentUs. “But it is at our own peril that we ignore the threats right here at home. It’s time to wake up and fight for our sacred democracy.”