AI Turns Vegans Into Carnivores in New Steak-umm Campaign

Take a peek into a focus group of vegans, where a handful of participants talk about what it means to them to follow an animal-free diet. 
One man says it “shows I’m a moral person,” while another proudly points to his “V” for vegan tattoo and a woman adds: “I would never consider eating meat again—sometimes I get disgusted watching people eat a steak or a cheeseburger.”
Yet moments later, these same test subjects change their tune entirely, professing that “meat is like a religion for me,” “when I see someone eat a salad, I just feel sorry for them,” and “I truly believe that meat can heal the rift in this country.” 
They also, apparently, scarf down a massive “100% real beef” and cheese sandwich made with Steak-umm.
Except they didn’t.
There’s manipulation afoot here in the form of deep fake technology. Using readily available off-the-shelf tools, Steak-umm and agency of record Tombras twisted the participants’ responses and doctored the video, seemingly turning vegans into carnivores. 
‘DeepSteaks’The goal of the adulterated video is to make a point about the potential of AI to invade an average person’s life, given the tech’s recent history of “being used to gaslight, defraud and sow confusion” among the American populace, per the brand.
With the campaign—dubbed “DeepSteaks”—the second-generation family-owned frozen beef brand continues its unlikely yet now well-established battle against misinformation in the digital age.
And via a related site,, the company wants to help educate consumers about the hot button issue, asking them to sign a petition to support the Deep Fake Accountability Act and lobby their elected officials to take action.
“The deepfake discussions so far have mostly centered around celebrities and world leaders,” Dooley Tombras, agency president, told Adweek. “None of it has focused on how it can impact everyday people.”
The irony of a grocery store staple dropping truth bombs about topical matters—which shifted into high gear during 2020’s lockdown—has never been lost on the brand, according to Max Scannapieco, national vice president of sales and marketing at parent company Quaker Maid Meats. 
With a presidential election looming—and Joe Biden turning his attention to AI regulation—an education-first platform may be timelier than ever.
“Since we’re 100% real beef, we always want to be real with the consumer,” Scannapieco told Adweek. “We know it’s a risk to speak out, but it’s a risk we’re willing to take, with transparency being key.”

Deep fake technology seemingly turned vegans into carnivores in a Steak-umm PSA.Adweek, calling Steak-umm “a nationally trending thought leader,” named one of its spots among the best ads of 2020 and cited it as a top brand “rocking TikTok marketing” in 2021. 
Addicted to meat? The centerpiece of the effort is a four-minute video, directed by Borat 2’s Jason Woliner, that was shot in Austin, Texas, this fall. Participants were, indeed, questioned on camera about their vegan lifestyle and offered a cheesesteak that contained no animal protein.
Working in real time to distort the reviews and reactions, creatives came up with the PSA’s deep fakes, which included one man saying “I might be addicted to meat at this point—it’s so good,” and a woman adding, “I could never go back to being a vegan.”
“We didn’t spend months—it took about 20 minutes,” Tombras said, noting that the reveal to the focus group elicited a textbook perfect response for a commercial. “The hope was to get a rise out of them, and it worked—they were surprised, then angry.”
Ultimately, once the ruse was explained, the participants agreed that the message should be widely disseminated.
“So many people are quick to believe what they see and hear off the bat without doing any research to where this could literally start wars,” one woman said.
Another brought up the political race on the horizon: “I think in this next election cycle, it’s going to be insane what we’re up against.”
‘Emotional roller coaster’ Forging an initial path with its Twitter account, with profound and empathetic posts from then-agency Allebach Communications, Steak-umm gained a cult social following. Many marketing professionals hopped on the bandwagon.
With the latest effort, Steak-umm is leaning into the “down-to-earth voice” it honed during the pandemic, striking a “thoughtful balance between absurdity, observational humor and what we’ve come to, unfortunately, recognize as the current state of the internet,” according to Deb Gabor, founder and CEO of Sol Marketing.
There’s a risk “any time a brand makes a bold statement,” Gabor said, noting that  the concept is “100% on-brand.”
“I was entertained by the video, and it took me on an emotional roller coaster ride,” Gabor said. “Kudos, Steak-umm—you’re a frozen flat meat, but you gave me the feels. The feels we’re talking about here is sheer terror.”
Steak-umm takes its self-appointed role as a disinformation watchdog seriously, though still injecting its ads and social presence with a light-hearted tone. Tombras, which won the account in early 2022, intends to broaden the brand’s demo beyond the loyalist group of largely 25- to 45-year-old men.
“We’re trying to communicate with future generations, outside our core,” Scannapieco said. 
Steam-umm will continue to carefully “pick our moments to enter the discussion” while “taking the message more upper funnel and omnichannel,” per Tombras.
“DeepSteaks” will be distributed in its full length on Twitter, now known as X, TikTok, Instagram and other social channels.

{Categories} _Category: Applications,*ALL*{/Categories}
{Author}T.L. Stanley{/Author}
{Keywords}Food Industry News,Plant-Based Products{/Keywords}

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