Yes, it’s been going on for a long time, but they’re getting better at it. And note what it takes to get into this game (hint: it’s not being shown on YouTube): Scene 1, Double Take 2 — pdf
Advertisers have been using digital manipulation to put products into old movie stars’ hands for years. Despite an outcry from old-movie buffs and his own daughter, the late Fred Astaire danced with a Dirt Devil vacuum cleaner in the mid-’90s. In 1996, John Wayne returned from the dead to appear in a Coors Light spot. In 2005, Volkswagen’s British ad agency used some digital prestidigitation to turn Gene Kelly’s street dance in “Singin’ in the Rain” into a funky pop-and-lock routine.
DirecTV’s ads, which began last year, create an even more impressive illusion: that an iconic movie or TV character is momentarily stepping out of a scene and speaking directly to viewers. The company calls the ad series its “Fourth Wall” campaign because it plays off the old theatrical idea that a performer who addresses the audience is breaking through the theater’s imaginary fourth wall.
DirectTV’s ads are all using living actors, so they get to set their own prices. I expect it’s going to be the dead actors and the inheritors of their rights to publicity that are going to give us some interesting fights over this in the future. Gene Kelly’s Singin’ in the Rain remix for Volkswagen comes to mind, for example.