On Technology & Ethics

With Framestore’s Mike McGee

Of all the new technologies on the horizon, Deepfake (the technique that uses AI to replace one person’s face with someone else’s) is one of the most sophisticated and complex creative applications of machine learning. LIONS Live sparked debate on how we can deploy this technology to augment the creative idea. Here, Framestore’s Co-founder responds to your unanswered questions on Deepfakes and tech for good.

Co-founder, Framestore

How should brands who are worried about putting out fake news navigate deep fakes? How do they do it safely? Advertisers and brands rely on building trust with their consumers and fans. Any mistakes and they are likely to be punished. In our clips, Boris and Donald were designed to be provocative, to start a conversation about their fidelity and likeness. But we didn’t use them to make any political statements, the content was designed to be amusing rather than a hoax.

Can you see a world in which this technology can be used for good? If so, how?

We would argue that taking political satire like Spitting Image and Saturday Night Live to the next level works and that has value. It will be interesting how to see how it will be used more widely. Are there any ethical considerations to take into account as Deepfake continues to grow in the advertising world?

Using the latest technology to make the impossible possible has been our job as VFX artists for decades. We have created face replacements for A-list actors to perform dangerous stunts, we’ve brought dead celebrities back to life to sell chocolate bars and we’ve avoided reshoots by reanimating an actor's performance and lines. However, all of these were created with the consent of the talent or the estate controlling the artists image rights. Where things get tricky is when the content is created without consent and the material is damaging or disparaging to the owner’s reputation. We have the capability to make anyone say and do anything given the time and budget and, while we are excited about the creative possibilities, there is also concern over the ethical implications. Fake endorsements can be as harmful as fake insults. Once someone has seen and believed a piece of fake content, even if it can eventually be proven to be fake the damage is already done.

Further insights from LIONS Live and WeTransfer’s Ideas Report

Natascha Chamuleau

Chief Advertising Officer, WeTransfer

It’s a challenging time for companies to build trust, particularly in the tech industry. You can’t fake your way into showing that you care, or that you respect people’s privacy, data and where they focus their attention. Data shows us that for 26% of creatives, social media is the biggest distraction, and that number is even higher for those working in tech and advertising. I expect everything social will become a bigger distraction, or better, a concern over the coming years. We can already see big changes when new platforms like TikTok are adopted by the mainstream. And, though I’m excited by the creative potential, I share Mike’s concerns around the ethical implications and damage to reputations social media can bring.

Susie Walker

Head of Awards, Cannes Lions

Framestore is one of many companies who spoke about cutting-edge technologies among the LIONS Live discussions. As brands search for distinctiveness and originality, they’re turning to VFX, VR, AR and AI to bring to life more unusual and abstract narratives to make storytelling more awe-inspiring and immersive. 2019’s Lion-winners saw Burger King cleverly re-appropriate McDonald’s ads using AR, Google take audiences on a virtual journey at sea and Honda transport kids into a magical snow globe for Christmas. Among the Future Gazers at LIONS Live, we were given a glimpse of innovation to come - Accenture Interactive showed how our heartbeat will unlock the next generation of personalised experiences, and Unity explained how athletes, entertainers and presenters will shift to online immersive services to engage audiences.

However, as Mike and Natascha reference here, of course, creative endeavour needs to come hand-in-hand with responsible behaviour. Ethical considerations must be evaluated with each new technological innovation. We’re seeing the trend of innovation for good creep up: in 2019, 57% of the Innovation Lions trophies went to work helping people with disabilities - up from 6% in 2017 to 48% in 2019. With the digital velocity we’ve seen this year, it’s exciting to consider how this trend of technology and innovation for good will show up at the Cannes Lions Awards in 2021.