Though famous Brazilian singer Elis Regina Carvalho Costa (known professionally as Elis Regina) passed away in 1982, she lives on via artificial intelligence in Volkswagen’s new advertisement commemorating the company’s 70 years in Brazil. In the ad, she shares a duet with her daughter, Maria Rita, who is also a popular singer. Though Rita is very much still alive and physically present in the ad, the depiction of her mother is the product of a body double with a recreation of Regina’s face digitally grafted on top.
Some appear to appreciate the nostalgic callback to the deceased singer, such as the First Lady of Brazil, Rosângela Lula da Silva. She reacted on Twitter, saying “7 a.m. here in Argentina and I’m just crying,” followed by several crying emojis.
However, not everyone was happy with the advertisement. Given that Regina was against Brazil’s 1964-85 military government and Volkswagen collaborated with that very same regime, many on social media sounded off to highlight the ethical quandaries of using AI to artificially resuscitate a deceased singer for the purposes of a company she had political differences with.
“Volkswagen, which supported the military dictatorship… did not understand the song ‘Como Nosso País’ and attacked the image of composer Belchior and singer Elis Regina, who were always against the dictatorship,” said one Twitter user, referencing the song used in the ad.
Others disliked the “uncanny” nature of the singer’s AI-fueled depiction.
Despite backlash from some, others shared the First Lady of Brazil’s opinion, feeling that it was a stirring and impactful ad.
In a statement provided to The Guardian, Volkswagen said, “The idea… was to use artificial intelligence to create a unique moment that reunited… one of the greatest singers in the history of Brazilian music and her daughter Maria Rita, a contemporary icon.”
The company also stated that they had the blessing of the singer’s family in producing the commercial. In The Guardian’s report, music producer João Marcello Bôscoli, the eldest son of Elis Regina, gave vocal support for the advertisement.
Motivated by consumer complaints, Brazilian advertising watchdog Conar has launched an investigation to determine if Volkswagen bringing back a deceased individual via AI for an onscreen appearance constitutes a breach of ethics. The investigation also raises the question of whether the ad could create public confusion regarding fact versus fiction.
Representatives for Conar and Volkswagen did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s requests for comment.
Watch the advertisement in the video above.