Volkswagen Uses AI to Resurrect Late Brazilian Singer in New Ad

    Volkswagen Uses AI to Resurrect Late Brazilian Singer in New Ad
    Last updated Jul 16, 2023
    Image credit: Wikimedia Commons


    • To mark the 70th anniversary of its branch in Brazil, Volkswagen launched this month an ad campaign featuring a duet between a digitally resurrected Elis Regina, a famous Brazilian singer who died at 36 in 1982, and her daughter, the Grammy-winner Maria Rita.
    • The two-minute film — in which the fake Elis Regina drives the VW signature Kombi while Maria Rita drives the ID Buzz, the all-electric version of the classic model — brought the late singer back to life using deepfake and artificial intelligence (AI) technology.
    • Despite touching the hearts of many, including first lady Rosângela Lula da Silva, Brazil's advertising watchdog this week announced a probe into the AI-created performance after receiving complaints about a possible ethical breach and vowed a ruling within 45 days.
    • Deepfake technology allows the manipulation and recreation of digital content, blurring the line between reality and fiction and potentially deceiving and misleading viewers.
    • Volkswagen, which had the blessing of Elis Regina's family in producing the ad, faced additional backlash for allegedly not understanding the meaning of the song as well as for using the image of the singer that had political differences with the company.
    • Both Elis Regina and the song's composer Belchior opposed Brazil's 1964-1985 military government, while the car maker collaborated with the regime.


    Narrative A

    Though Elis Regina's estate gave permission for her image to be used in this ad, it's very debatable whether she would have agreed to it had she thought there was a possibility of being digitally resurrected four decades after her death. As cinematic reproductions of famous deceased artists have been on the rise as technology steadily develops, the right not to be summoned into a digital afterlife must be respected.

    Narrative B

    It's certain that deepfake is fascinating and controversial in the marketing field, but the reaction from the general audience to this AI-powered Volkswagen ad indicates a huge gap between ordinary people and the industry buzz. Viewers have barely discussed the technology used to create this campaign or its legal complications, focusing instead on the emotional content — and there's nothing wrong with that.

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