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How a TV Presenter's Voice was Cloned Using AI Before Being Used for Ad Campaign

Deceptive tactics using AI voice technology led Incognito to misuse Liz Bonnin's image in ads. The incident underscores the risks of AI-driven fraud and the need for better regulation and vigilance.
PUBLISHED MAY 1, 2024
Cover Image Source: Unsplash | Photo by Possessed Photography
Cover Image Source: Unsplash | Photo by Possessed Photography

Among other purposes that AI serves, it has opened doors to voice cloning as well as the creation of replicas of celebs and influencers to be used for marketing campaigns. Viewers familiar with science presenter Liz Bonnin's distinctive Irish accent were surprised when a peculiar voice message surfaced, seemingly granting permission to use her likeness in an advertising campaign. However, Bonnin's management team discovered her image being used in online ads for an insect repellent spray, despite her not endorsing the product. The confusion was a result of an AI-generated voice that mimicked Bonnin's accent but veered into other accents as the message progressed.

Unsplash | Photo by Lukas
Unsplash | Photo by Lukas

Describing the fake voice, Bonnin remarked, "At the very beginning it does sound like me but then I sound a bit Australian and then it’s definitely an English woman by the end. It’s all fragmented and there’s no cadence to it." This incident highlights the growing sophistication of AI-generated content and the potential risks associated with such technologies in misleading contexts.

“It does feel like a violation and it’s not a pleasant thing,” she added. “Thank goodness it was just an insect repellent spray and that I wasn’t supposedly advertising something really horrid!” Howard Carter, the chief executive of Incognito, the company behind the botched campaign, claims he received a series of voice messages from someone he believed to be Bonnin. These messages, according to Carter, convinced him that he was in genuine communication with the presenter.

Before being contacted by a Facebook profile assuming Bonnin’s identity, Carter had initially sought her endorsement. He described the exchanged messages between them as leading him to believe the profile was authentic, despite harboring suspicions about its legitimacy. The individual posing as Bonnin provided Carter with a phone number and email address, along with contact details from a purported representative of the Wildlife Trusts, the charity where Bonnin serves as president. Carter stated that negotiations were conducted through WhatsApp and emails, and he claims to have spoken to one of the scammers over the phone.

Unsplash | Photo by Gerard Siderius
Unsplash | Photo by Gerard Siderius

Images of Bonnin intended for the campaign were transmitted five days later. The campaign went live on Monday, featuring quotes and images provided by the scammers. Hours after its launch, Bonnin publicly stated on X that she had not entered into any endorsement agreement with the company.

Following a deceptive advertising campaign involving science presenter Liz Bonnin's image and voice, new details have emerged shedding light on the sophisticated methods employed by scammers utilizing AI-generated technology. The anchor said, "If it looks too good to be true or unusual, triple-check." Carter acknowledged that he did not involve Bonnin's management due to the impersonator's insistence on a direct deal. Experts identified an AI-generated voice note attributed to Bonnin as fake due to inconsistencies.



Surya Koppisetti noted inconsistencies in the accent, while Michael Keeling highlighted artificial background noise for realism. Bonnin emphasized the need for AI regulation, viewing the incident as a cautionary tale. Incognito reported the scam to authorities, acknowledging the threat of AI-driven deception and extending apologies to Bonnin and associates.

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