You Can Sell Your Face To Companies Who Create Deepfake Marketing Clones

Start-ups will literally buy your face and create a digital deepfake copy of it using AI to sell their products and services.

Deepfake technology has been around for a while, initially used by academic institutions and amateurs in online communities. Recently, this technology has dramatically developed and is being adopted by industry.

Hour One is an example of this new corporate trend. They use deepfake tech to produce AI-generated video through mash-ups of real footage. Any person can contact them and apply to join the company, as long as they’re willing to hand over the rights to their faces.

Background: What are deepfakes?

Deepfakes are videos created with high-end digital software, machine learning, and face-swapping techniques. These artificially-created videos require the combination of several images. These montages allow the creation of footage that shows events that never actually occurred.

Facial recognition is the basic concept behind this technology. It is also used on Snapchat filters and other face-swapping apps, basically transforming your facial features. Deepfakes work similarly but are more realistic.

The technology used to create deepfakes is relatively new, but it is improving and evolving very quickly, making it harder to check if a video is real or not. This can lead to several social, moral, and political implications by affecting news sources’ credibility and manipulating general information and facts.

Analysis: The Deepfake Clone Army

Hour One is a company that provides synthetic characters based on real-life people. They’re building up a database of what they call “characters” by taking people’s faces, creating deepfake copies of them using artificial intelligence, and producing AI-generated videos for marketing or educational purposes.

“We’ve got a queue of people that are dying to become these characters,” said Hour One’s Strategy Lead Natalie Monbiot, in a report for the MIT Technology Review

To join this army of “characters,” anyone can apply on the company’s website by submitting an Instagram profile and some personal information.

Hour One wants to create a diverse collection of faces, ages, genders, and races. Hour One will use a 4K camera to film a person talking and making different facial expressions in front of a green screen. That’s the full extent of human performance. The company will then upload your footage to the AI system, which will create your “character” and put you in the database. Whenever the company needs to use you for a project, they’ll select your face, upload the text they want it to say, and get back a deepfake video.

Sometimes clients even ask for premium packages where professional voice actors are hired to read the sales script. Every time a client licenses a video that uses your face, you’ll receive a micropayment.

Outlook: Is seeing still believing?

When it comes to profitability, the possibilities for this market are endless. Plus, it’s probably going to become a go-to resource for many marketing companies and education providers. Hour One even has a partnership with NBCUniversal and Dreamworks Animation that allows them to create and sell personalized video bookings featuring The Boss Baby.

However, like any new technology, deepfake technology has its dark side.

For starters, many ethical questions surround the security of the actual “characters” facial identity and biometrics. Most companies’ safety and security policies are a bit loose and ambiguous.

Then there’s the issue of substituting human roles with automation. AI-created videos won’t wholly eliminate possible jobs for human actors, but they can definitely make it harder for people in the business to find more opportunities. As companies can reuse one-time footage of different actors endless times, the availability for this kind of acting work is reduced.

Probably the most complicated scenario comes with the risk of having your face put into content that you may object to or that might conflict with your work or personal values. Once you sell your face, that’s entirely out of your control.

Seller, beware.

Raquel is a forensic geneticist turned freelance writer. She has a knack for technology and a passion for science. You can follow her at and on Twitter @theRaquelSantos