"The hope was to get a rise out of them, and it worked — they were surprised, then angry."
In a bizarre public service announcement, the Steak-umm meat brand created deepfake videos of vegans eating meat — and then played those same manipulated videos back to the horrified vegans, who were not at all pleased.
As Adweek reports, the meat brand known for its uniquely viral approach to social media strategy has again outdone itself in a collaboration with the ad agency Tombras meant to bring attention to the dangers of AI manipulation (and, of course, to sell Steak-umm products.)
In the PSA, a group of vegans are brought into a nondescript building and filmed discussing their commitment to their dietary choices. The tables turn, however, when the participants are shown being brought sandwiches purporting to be full of Steak-umm brand sliced steak and canned cheese spread in the class Philly cheesesteak style.
Suddenly, those same vegans are seen devouring the meat hoagies and espousing the "moral" nature of eating animals, with some declaring their love for animal products.
The clip flashes back to the vegans in question after they watch the clips of themselves appearing to eat meat, with participants insisting that the "gaslighting" videos are not of them.
As the video proceeds to explain, the sandwiches subjects had been brought were actually completely vegan, but using that same footage, the Tombras team was able to manipulate the videos to make it look and sound like the participants were really into eating meat.
In the PSA's accompanying website, DeepSteaks.AI, Steak-umm explains that it's raising awareness for the DEEP FAKES Accountability Act, which was first introduced in 2019 and aims to "combat the spread of disinformation through restrictions on deep-fake video alteration technology."
As agency president Dooley Tombras told Adweek, the video's subjects gave pitch-perfect performances for the PSA during the Austin-based shoot earlier this fall.
"We didn’t spend months [manipulating the video] — it took about 20 minutes," Tombras said. "The hope was to get a rise out of them, and it worked — they were surprised, then angry."
Once the experiment was explained to the participants, they were apparently enthusiastic about the project.
"So many people are quick to believe what they see and hear off the bat without doing any research to where this could literally start wars," one woman said — a prescient statement given that both Israel and Hamas have been accused of using deepfake imagery in their current armed conflict.
While the tastefulness of the vegan stunt may be questionable, at least Tombras and Steak-umm appear interested in showing how this technology could be used to harm the little guy, in addition to the rich and powerful.
"If a deepfake can make a vegan say they love meat," the DeepSteaks.AI website reads, "imagine what a deepfake could make you say."
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