TV presenter used in ad campaign after fake AI voice gave permission

By our African Marketing Confederation News Team | 2024

Scammers used AI-generated voice notes to do a deal with a company for popular media personality to endorse its product.

A company that manufactures and markets a brand of insect repellent has been left embarrassed, and out of pocket, after it launched an ad campaign featuring a well-known BBC television presenter.  


It turned out to be scam enabled by an AI voice purporting to be that of the presenter, Liz Bonnin, who specialises in science and wildlife programmes. 


The brand, Incognito, had previously tried to use Bonnin to front its ad campaigns, but no agreement was ever reached. 


Then, out of the blue, the CEO of UK-based Incognito, Howard Carter, received a series of voice notes purporting to be from Bonnin. She wanted to do the campaign and an agreement was reached that the deal would be done directly with her, rather than through her management agency. 

BBC TV presenter Liz Bonnin. Photo: Andrew Crowley, Wikipedia


An amount of £20,000 (US$25,000) was paid over, and a few days later Incognito received a photo of Bonnin and sound bites to use in the company’s advertising messaging. 


Ad campaign started to unravel 


But when the campaign went live, things started to unravel. Bonnin said on X (formerly Twitter) that she did not agree to any endorsement with the company. Incognito realised they had been scammed and withdrew the campaign. 


Said Bonnin in a comment to The Guardian newspaper: “I’m very sorry for what the company has gone through. It’s not fun for them at all, but it’s a violation on both our parts.” 


Two AI experts who assessed one of the voice notes for The Guardian agreed it was likely to have been artificially generated.  


“There are gaps and recitation speed issues that are consistent with AI-generated speech. The dialogue is inconsistent in accent,” said Surya Koppisetti, an applied scientist. 


Michael Keeling, a data scientist, said the “steady, monotone” artificial background noise in the message “is a classic way of making something seem more realistic”. “If you’re listening to this from your phone on a busy street, it’s much easier to slip through that way,” he added. 


A spokesperson for Bonnin told Deadline, an entertainment industry publication: “It is an extremely worrying trend for everyone in the creative industries.” 


“Reputations are built on trust and we follow strict rules about endorsements to preserve our clients’ professional credibility. But this technology is progressing so fast, lawmakers and regulators can’t keep pace and social media platforms are far too slow to remove harmful content.” 

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    Dr Kin Kariisa

    Group CEO - Next Media

    Dr. Kin Kariisa is an extraordinary force at the helm of Next Media Services, a conglomerate encompassing NBS TV, Nile Post, Sanyuka TV, Next Radio, Salam TV, Next Communication, Next Productions, and an array of other influential enterprises. His dynamic role as Chief Executive Officer exemplifies his unwavering commitment to shaping media, business, and community landscapes.
    With an esteemed academic journey, Dr. Kariisa’s accolades include an Honorary PhD in exemplary community service from the United Graduate College inTexas, an MBA from United States International University in Nairobi, Kenya, a Master’s degree in Computer Engineering from Huazong University in China, and a Bachelor’s degree in Statistics from Makerere University.
    Dr. Kariisa pursued PhD research in Computer Security and Identity Management at Security of Systems Group, Radboud University in Nijmegen, Netherlands. As a dynamic educator, he has shared his expertise as a lecturer of e-Government and Information Security at both Makerere University and Radboud University.

    Dr Kin did his PhD research in Computer Security and Identity Management at Security of Systems Group, Radbond University in Nigmegen, Netherlands. He previously served as a lecturer of e-Government and Information Security at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda and Radbond University in Netherlands.

    Dr Kin did his postgraduate courses in Strategic Business Management, Strategic Leadership Communication and Strategies for Leading Successful Change Initiatives at Harvard University, Boston USA.

    • Other current and previous roles played by Dr Kin Kariisa:
    • Lecturer of e-Government and Information Security to graduate students at Makerere University, Kampala and Radbond University in the Netherlands
    • Director of Eco Bank Uganda Limited, one of the largest banks in Africa
    • Chairman of the National Association of Broadcasters, an umbrella industry association for all Television, Radio and online broadcasters in Uganda.
    • Chairman of Board of Directors of Nile Hotel International, that owns the leading hotel in Uganda, Kampala Serena Hotel.
    • Chairman of Board of Directors of Soliton Telmec Uganda, the leading telecom company in Optic fibre business managing over 80% of optic fibre in Uganda.