Have you played that game where you say a word over, and over, and OVER until it starts to lose all meaning? Me either. Though I can easily empathize with those who do, I'm keen to offer insight and transparency into emerging technologies that help organizations become more innovative, efficient, and effective. From what I see, the next frontier for media lies in its creation, alteration, and assembly using artificial intelligence and without any human intervention. Automagically! Collectively, it’s known as synthetic media. Bingo!

Broadly speaking, the rise of synthetic media tracks a similar path as the proliferation of artificial intelligence, machine learning, and neural networks. In fact, over the last 10 years, improvements in the underlying technology, coupled with the aggressive hiring of AI talent, and fused with the development of frameworks such as generative adversarial networks (GAN) have been responsible for the ability to generate quality looking and sounding media easily and inexpensively. Let me be clear, however, that this technology is largely not ready for prime time. But it is coming, and it will likely arrive sooner rather than later.

Let’s nerd out for a second on what’s happening beyond the cutting edge and begin to think about how this technology evolution might impact our work. We’ll talk about the opportunities that emerge along the ride and how we can best prepare ourselves to adapt and thrive. And, yes, we’ll even share which tasks we believe will go the way of waxers and Rubylith. 

I intend to share a bit about synthetic media in its varied forms, raise awareness, and prompt thinking. Like Heraclitus said, “Change is the only constant in life.”


Creative Elements

Emerging Synthetic Media Services


  • Face swap

  • Pose iteration

  • Model images

  • Image enhancement


  • Facial re-enactment

  • Virtual actors/puppets

  • Content localization

  • Lip synching

  • Background editing


  • Human-like voices

  • Voice skins

  • Text-to-speech

  • Custom sounds

  • Custom music


  • Copywriting

  • Business intelligence

  • Product descriptions

  • Blog posts


  • Avatars

  • Digital humans

  • Virtual environments

  • Virtual try-ons

  • 3D body scans

  • Holograms

  • AR 



Simply put, yes, synthetic media currently has a public relations problem. At present, synthetic media is known as the bad actor in loads of stories that fall under the category of “deepfakes.” Deepfakes are a catch-all term for using technology (deep learning) to produce convincing digital forgeries. Deepfake dastardly deeds include everything from swapping celebrity faces into videos that are definitely NSFW to creating audio of public figures making inflammatory comments they’ve never said. (A commercial application of the technology was used in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, where a scene of a young Princess Leia was remastered to include the use of a young Carrie Fisher’s face swapped onto the body of another actress.) All challenges aside, current public examples of synthetic media leave quite a bit of room for in-house agencies to consider how to offload repetitive tasks, develop new capabilities to offer, and make enterprise operations more efficient.


For all of the questionable uses of synthetic media, the technology holds promise. Who of us hasn’t been asked to do more with less over the last few years? Anyone been asked to increase their ability to produce 2-3x content with no budget increases? A number of my major media company clients have all been asked to do just that.

Synthetic media is built for speed. It has the ability to generate topical information for brand pushes by using readily available language models like GPT-3, which can generate text of such high quality it is difficult to tell if a human or machine wrote it. GPT-3 can also be directed to take existing content and create iterations of varying lengths and focus, which can then be made available to different channels. With synthetic media, it’s also possible to create your very own synthetic spokesperson, capable of delivering your message in any language you wish. “Synthetic influencers” like Lil Miquela have brand deals, music videos, and have been disrupting flesh and blood influencers since 2016. Across media types, the promise of synthetic media across its many variants is the same – creation, editing, derivation and, perhaps, distribution will lead us to “ultimate automation.”


I’ll slowly crawl out onto a limb to say that at some point in the future anything digital could potentially be created and delivered through AI means. This may not hold true immediately, especially in more tightly regulated industries like life sciences or financial services, but synthetic media will eventually disrupt creative and production functions.

As algorithms and training sets improve and grow, it can be expected that increasingly more complex tasks will become the domain of AI; this includes both routine and higher-order tasks. That said, for the foreseeable future, I believe all AI-generated media needs a human counterpart to review, correct and train to improve. A “trust but verify” model is necessary to ensure that the anticipated results and benefits are achieved.

While presently imperfect, there is a current opportunity to reconsider the creative production value chain, to explore how we can use this technology and where we can best inject a “human touch” of creativity, empathy, and ethics. In-house agencies are best positioned to drive capabilities like strategy, technology, and innovation. Their understanding of the brand and the deep work involved in helping that brand presence manifest IRL make them uniquely qualified to learn and adapt any of the coming technologies and operate effectively.

The demands of work will continue to evolve and increase in complexity; the pace of change shows no sign of abating. Over just the past 18 months, we have had to contend with a pandemic that displaced us from our work environments into our homes, highlighted gaps in the infrastructure and capabilities of our companies, created shortages across supply chains, and fundamentally changed our ways of working. 

What excites me about synthetic media is the ability to produce materials quickly and beyond scale. Not merely churning out content, but having that content be accurate, consistent, relevant, and reflective of the values of their creator. There is still work to be done to make that happen and by shifting our mindset to include synthetic media as a creative partner in our in-house agencies, we believe we’ll do great things together. 

Contact Cella to discover how we might help your organization prepare, plan, and help propel your organization into the future.