How they were made: RepresentUs worked with the creative agency Mischief at No Fixed Address, which came up with the idea of using dictators to deliver the message. They filmed two actors with the right face shape and authentic accents to recite the script. They then worked with a deepfake artist who used an open-source algorithm to swap in Putin’s and Kim’s faces. A post-production crew cleaned up the leftover artifacts of the algorithm to make the video look more realistic. All in all the process took only 10 days. Attempting the equivalent with CGI likely would have taken months, the team says. It also could have been prohibitively expensive.
Are we ready? The ads were supposed to broadcast on Fox, CNN, and MSNBC in their Washington, DC, markets, but the stations pulled them last-minute from airing. A spokesperson for the campaign said they were still waiting on an explanation. The ads include a disclaimer at the end, stating: “The footage is not real, but the threat is.” But given the sensitive nature of using deepfakes in a political context, it’s possible the networks felt the American public just wasn’t ready.