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The double-edged sword of AI and what advertisers need to know

Jake Dubbins, Co-Founder of the Conscious Advertising Network, voices his concerns about the environmental and social impact of AI

Featured press: First published on Creative Brief

AI is (still) the topic on everyone’s lips. The advertising industry is obsessed with it. Why? Because the scale of opportunity is huge. Mckinsey predicts that it will add $4.4 trillion in profits a year, and that a whopping half of today’s work activities could be automated by 2030 to 2060.
There are huge upsides to AI. NGOs and small businesses that previously could not afford such creative power now have access to copywriting and image-generation tools. The absorption of enormous amounts of data and ability to quickly derive insights is also the Jonny 5 of strategy.

AI brings access and opportunity to neurodiverse people. Otter.ai is an amazing tool for those with dyslexia. My son is dyslexic; spell check and dictation on a computer opens up his confidence and creativity.

Oxford University has released CLARA, a tool that allows researchers to read thousands of internal fossil fuel documents. In the advertising industry, the ASA uses AI to assess more ads for greenwashing.

Where is privacy law? Where is the accountability?Jake Dubbins, co-founder of the Conscious Advertising Network and Media Bounty.

All this is amazing and will be massively useful to swathes of people. But let’s talk about the risks. The World Economic Forum’s Global Risk Report revealed that the top five risks over the next ten years are all related to climate collapse and misinformation.

Already, incendiary stories, images and videos designed to polarise have circulated social media. From fake accounts of offshore wind turbines killing whales, to engagement-bait AI-made cartoon images that intentionally stoke fears of marginalised communities. Deep-fake audios of Sadiq Khan and Keir Starmer have done the rounds, and this just scratches the surface of fake content used for political ends.

AI has an atrocious carbon footprint. If creating one image is the equivalent to fully charging your iPhone, imagine the impact of image generation at scale. Not to mention the use of increasingly scarce water to keep data centres cool.

And what of our rights to privacy and decency? In February, deep fake pornographic images of Taylor Swift went viral. One image had 47 million views on X before the company finally took it down. It also happened to Alexandra Ocasia Cortez. There is no consent here. Where is privacy law? Where is the accountability?

In the absence of regulation, some tech platforms are acting responsibly. Open AI and Google have not released voice AI products this year, due to the number of elections in 2024.

Advertisers need to decide whether they use Gen AI in their content. They must be transparent with their audience. Dove recently announced that it will not use AI in its ads, to align with its ‘Real Beauty’ platform. Brands will also have to take a position on this to ensure trust.

There is a tumbleweed of legislation and without it, we desperately need to ensure that the conscious use of AI is central to our industry’s future. Risk assessments need to be carried out for carbon impact. Ethics need to be baked in by design. Big tech must have public policies on AI and harmful content, robust enforcement of those policies, and transparent reporting. The stakes are too high.

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