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Advertising Association Artificial Intelligence AI

From policy to possibilities: the Advertising Association's AI taskforce explained


By Webb Wright, NY Reporter

September 26, 2023 | 6 min read

Kicking off this week and helmed by representatives from Google and ad agency VCCP, the group’s stated aim is to maximize the potential and mitigate the risk of AI within the UK advertising industry.


A wave of powerful new AI-powered technologies is beginning to wash over society. / Adobe Stock

The UK’s Advertising Association has announced the formation of a new taskforce which aims to map the landscape of opportunity and risk which AI poses to the UK’s advertising industry – and chart a course for that industry accordingly.

Launched at a historic moment in which rapid developments in the fields of AI and machine learning are producing both public excitement and fear almost in equal measure, the Association’s new AI taskforce is charged with the task of designing “a coordinated policy approach, in recognition of the rapid need to establish ethical safeguards … to ensure the use of AI in advertising campaigns is transparent and legal, decent, honest, and truthful,” according to a press release issued this morning.

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The new taskforce will be comprised of senior representatives from across the Advertising Association's member organizations. It will be co-chaired by representatives of Google and ad agency VCCP, both of which are members of the trade association’s Front Foot network, a coalition of leaders from within the UK advertising industry.

UK prime minister Rishi Sunak has been bullish on AI, unveiling plans to turn the country into an epicenter for developing the technology. The Advertising Association intends to double down on this national goal: “The taskforce can be a trusted advisor to the UK government by recommending policy, developing the right narratives and presenting best-in-class case studies,” says Konrad Shek, director of policy research at the Advertising Association and a member of the new taskforce. “We want to help the UK provide leadership for AI in advertising and marketing on the global stage as the advertising industry grapples with this new technology around the world.”

Captivated by the capabilities of new AI technology – especially generative AI tools like ChatGPT (for which new voice and image analysis features were unveiled yesterday), Dall-E 2, Midjourney and others – a growing number of big-name brands have begun to capitalize on the technology in recent months.

Volkswagen, for example, recently unveiled an ad that, controversially, used generative AI to create a deepfake version of Elis Regina, a beloved Brazilian singer who died in the early 80s. Last month, Disney reportedly launched an AI taskforce of its own, devoted to exploring the tech’s potential applications within the company (even while the Hollywood writers’ and actors' strikes – which are largely centered around the use of AI within the film and TV industries – continued to rage).

But as the excited chatter about AI has continued to mount, so too have concerns about the technology’s potential social and political impacts. Many generative AI models, for one thing, are trained using copyrighted materials, presenting a morass of legal questions that courts have only just begun to parse. And some experts – notably Geoffrey Hinton, a pioneer of neural networks and a former AI researcher for Google – have gone so far as to issue warnings about AI’s potential to effectively usher in the collapse of civilization.

“One of the key challenges in determining the risks of AI is understanding its full capabilities, for which we’re arguably still in the discovery phase,” Shek says.

The group held its first meeting yesterday, and it will meet again every six weeks throughout the next 12 months.

“We believe that AI can unlock tremendous potential in advertising and marketing, and that generative AI in particular will be an accelerator of human creativity and innovation – but we also believe that it must be used responsibly,” Alex Dalman, managing partner and head of social and innovation at VCCP London, said in a statement. “So, we’re very excited to be part of the AI taskforce where we can help to guide the industry through its latest transformation and participate in important conversations about policy, ethics, and societal impact while keeping a focus on the incredible opportunities that AI presents.”

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