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Artificial Intelligence Brand Strategy Work & Wellbeing

Wunderman Thompson using AI to review marketing assets for inclusive representation


By Sam Bradley, Journalist

September 23, 2021 | 6 min read

Brands, agencies and consumers all want advertising to be more inclusive in its representation of society – a problem the industry has repeatedly failed to solve. Wunderman Thompson explain what’s behind its latest solution – an AI tool called WPP Open Brand Guardian.

ai review of creative work

Wunderman Thompson’s Brand Guardian software helps review creative assets before they’re finalized

Advertising creative that falls short of modern consumers’ demands for inclusive, diverse marketing risks bringing opprobrium down upon brands and reputational damage to the agencies behind the work. But the sheer amount of marketing assets produced by creative agencies for advertisers today make evaluating a body of creative work a time-consuming process.

Wunderman Thompson has been touting a new solution to that problem: an in-house AI tool, Brand Guardian, which it hopes can nudge the network’s creatives – and its clients – toward more representative, inclusive creative output.

According to the agency, it promises ”total content quality assurance at scale” and a way to make certain that ”your content and assets will be liquid, consistent, compliant and inclusive”.

Ezinne Okoro, global chief inclusion, equity and diversity officer at Wunderman Thompson, says Brand Guardian makes reviewing marketing assets at scale possible: ”What Brand Guardian does is help you see ... what level of representation you have. It calls issues out before something is finalized. That [flagging] is happening today, but in a very manual way; this automates it, flags it so you can have the conversation.”

The AI tool has already been piloted by WPP sister agencies Hogarth and VMLY&R Commerce – a response to the strength of client demand, and to the efficiencies the tool enables (Wunderman Thompson claims teams can create assets ”20% faster”).

According to Okoro, inclusivity is a key demand from Wunderman Thompson clients. And while ”some of it is definitely driven by the bottom line ... I also think that there are people that just want to do good, and they want to produce innovative, creative best-in-class type of work”.

”Every single company or industry organization has some sort of diversity and inclusion initiative now. This tool can help support that, especially if you think about the increased demands coming from the consumer population. People are shopping more now with a consciousness of diversity sustainability. So, how do you continue to put the best foot forward, while minimizing risk so that you don’t just become another headline?”

How does the software work?

Mateusz Chrominski, Wunderman Thompson Technology’s director of software products, explains the process: ”We use AI to assess two things. Firstly, the accessibility of the assets produced – whether the banner or an image is readable to people with visual impairments, so it can be viewed just as it has been designed.

”Secondly, we also look at the people portrayed on the assets, so we can assess people’s gender, age and ethnicity, to who we’re using to represent a brand.”

Chrominski notes: ”It’s not only about diversity and accessibility ... we think about this platform from a quality standpoint. The reason we have realized this innovation is to ensure that the marketing assets produced within WPP’s agencies are of top quality; of course, inclusivity is an immense part of that process, it’s a critical component.

”The long-term view is to have Brand Guardian hired for every single marketing department, for every single creative team.”

Can an AI fix human error?

Though part of Brand Guardian’s remit is risk avoidance, the use of AI solutions to neutralize human bias does carry its own risk. There have been many reports of corporate AIs that have created to reduce bias actually introducing further bias into internal processes. Amazon, for example, entrusted an AI program to judge job applications for years, in the hope of making their selection processes fairer – before realizing belatedly that it was discriminating against female applicants.

Existing creative review practices, Chrominski says, are not immune from prejudice. And judging whether an ad is inclusive – or not – is a subjective process. ”People will have different opinions, people perceive the same material in a different manner ... if you ask 10 people to analyze an asset, I’m sure they will be massively off, with very little overlap.”

Brand Guardian can help read through assets at scale, speeding up the review process, but it doesn’t cast final judgments. He hopes that adding Brand Guardian to the toolkit of WPP agencies will give them one more method of counteracting any incipient bias. ”It’s basically another team member,” he says.

Okoro concludes: ”AI is everywhere we look today. We’re using it to equip creators and marketers to understand their work and have more assurance in what they’re delivering, as well as minimizing risk.”

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