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Authenticity: Keepin’ It Real in 2024

Everyone’s suddenly talking the talk about being authentic. But if you don’t walk the walk, your customers will notice…and they talk too.


Happy New Year!

Over the holidays, I did a bunch of reading – particularly lots of business articles.

It quickly became evident that somebody had sent out the memo pushing the first big buzzword of 2024:  AUTHENTICITY.

Where 2023 was all about “AI,” this year analysts and pundits are suddenly shifting focus to herald “authenticity” as Priority #1 – perhaps as a counter to all last year’s nonstop AI and ChatGPT talk.

The word’s overuse is already spreading like a bad rash. “2024 will be the year of authenticity,” one writer trumpets. Another quote: “What everyone will be looking for in 2024 is something real.” Yet another: “Authenticity will be the name of the game, especially as AI becomes a more commonly used tool.” Someone else declares “authenticity is stealing the spotlight, with audiences craving real, relatable content.”

I read pleas for greater authenticity in social media marketing and video productions. I spotted pieces urging customer service operations to staff up with actual live agents instead of AI bots, to personally connect with people and forge authentic bonds. The authenticity theme litters trade publications and has crept into the lexicon of major corporations and brand management.

Yet if you want some seriously hardcore schooling on authenticity, you’ll need to look where I did, far beyond the media chatter or the carefully sanitized PR wordsmithing inside corporate America.

I spent a great deal of time on the website Reddit. If you haven’t been there, trust me: the comments don’t get more refreshingly raw and unfiltered than in a Reddit thread.

It was on Reddit where I found a raging debate that for my money is perhaps the most blunt and honest discussion of authenticity to be found anywhere.

It’s led not by “marcom” pros, journalists, or C-suite execs, but by ordinary video game enthusiasts – “gamers.” The debate is over a newly released video game called “The Finals” which exclusively uses AI voiceovers and NOT real voice actors.

To say that move has generated considerable backlash would be an understatement.

To be fair, the debate seems evenly split between those who hate the AI voices and those who either don’t mind them or didn’t even notice they were artificial. As a bonus, the thread features a spirited and sophisticated discussion over the ethics and business implications of using AI that rivals even the smartest dialogues within the professional voiceover community.

But the most fun reading is the visceral, no-holds-barred reactions of gamers to the game developer’s decision to bypass the authentic sound of real human beings and instead to go with subpar AI voiceovers.

Here are several actual comments, from mildest to most profane:

“Some of the voice lines have an awkward cadence…”

“I noticed it within the first minutes of playing lol, their voice inflection is so wrong it’s painfully obvious.”

“The overall quality is pretty bad. I could tell from the get-go something was off and just ended up muting it after couple hours. A decent VA…would considerably improve the experience.”

“This is so lame, I look at BG3 and that is precisely the hand-crafted approach I want in my games, the voice actors are one of the biggest highlights of the games.”

“I still just find it hard to swallow that an aesthetic or gameplay choice warranted the need of commentators but not real human voice commentary. Just seems like they’re cutting corners.”

“AI literally cannot do the kind of energy a real sports announcer would… I haven’t seen anyone pull that off with AI tech; the delivery is always going to seem flat even if they fix everything else.”

“If you’re not willing to spend money on quality assets, why should the audience be willing to spend time on your game?”

“Is it really hard to understand that some people prefer to consume art and entertainment that’s created by actual humans who leave their mark on the work? We want creative people to be leaving a piece of themselves in their performances and art…”

“Bad voice acting by real people is one thing, but knowing the only effort they put into their voices was typing some words…only to STILL get stilted, lackluster delivery just sucks on a different level.”

“Two professional VAs could have hammered this shit out in a week, and the game would be better for it.”

“I dunno, I heard something was off pretty much immediately. The intonation is totally f***ed in almost every single voice line.”

“Nah, the AI voices are annoying as f**k, just don’t use them at all if they’re gonna sound like that.”

“The reason I want real actors is so that there’s personality behind the f***ing voice. Something that isn’t just a monotone voice but somebody who saw a script and put some f***ing soul behind it.”

Did you catch all that? Cadence. Inflection. Intonation. Energy. Soul.


And this is just from the gaming community. I suspect there’s a lesson here for any business where the perception of authenticity or personalized service is a critical part of your value proposition, especially when it might be tempting (read: cheaper, more efficient, easier) to substitute AI for the human element. Just because you can doesn’t always mean you should.

Would you welcome feedback that your work product cuts corners? That it’s awkward? Lackluster?  “Annoying as f**k?” That you’ve alienated your customers or clients?

If 2024 is in fact “the year of authenticity” and our new mission is the pursuit of all things authentic, then I’d like to make a humble suggestion.

As they might say on Reddit: use a real f***ing human.