Bias in Tech Advertising

Bias in Tech Advertising

Are you surprised? If you, like me, probably have been on the receiving end of more bias-laden ads than you ever cared to receive but you also probably sent more than a few yourself. Still, IBM appears to be serious about this issue. 

IBM first announced this initiative at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity 2022. It brought together agencies, brands, and others while commiting organizations like IBM, Delta Air Lines, WPP, Mindshare, 4A’s, IAB and the Ad Council.

In addition, Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity 2022, brought together agencies, brands, and other leaders to generate awareness and take action towards mitigating bias in advertising technology. The committing organizations, as noted above: IBM, Delta Air Lines, WPP, Mindshare, 4A’s, IAB and the Ad Council.

This action is the most recent effort by IBM to drive education and awareness around the impact of bias in advertising technology. In 2021, the company launched a research initiative to explore the hypothesis that bias can exist in ad technology, which initial findings subsequently confirmed. Was anyone surprised?

Toward that effort, IBM also announced the release of its gratis  ( think that means free)  Advertising Toolkit for AI Fairness 360, an open-source solution deploying 75 fairness metrics and 13 state-of-the-art algorithms to help identify and mitigate biases in discrete data sets. 

“Through WPP’s GroupM,” the IBM spokesman contininued, “we eveloped the Data Ethics Compass to help clients navigate the challenges of using datasets, while IBM’s new Advertising Toolkit for AI Fairness 360 will help us to better understand the potential impact of bias. Consumers rightly expect brands to use their information in a fair way and for the industry to tackle data bias collectively, which can ultimately result in increased engagement and commercial outcomes.”

A little bias may be unintentional but still it is important to customers. According to Salesforce’s 2022 State of the Connected Customer survey, nearly 62 percent of consumers surveyed reported they are concerned about bias in AI, up from just 54 percent two years prior, emphasizing the imperative for brands and agencies to better understand its impacts.

“As technology and data prevalence accelerates, the risk for bias in advertising compounds. It is our duty to address this head-on,” said Adam Gerhart, Global CEO of Mindshare. “We believe the industry needs to take clear and intentional action, which is why we are committing to leverage the Advertising Toolkit for AI Fairness 360.”

Nearly $1 trillion was spent on digital advertising globally in 2021, much of which flows through programmatic engines that segment and target specific audiences, sometimes missing large consumer groups in the process. Without ignoring increasing consumer demands for transparency in how their data is used, marketers must also look for new ways to remain effective. And, of course, mitigate any inherent bias. It is a tough balancing act.

“As a global brand, we know that every decision we make, whether it’s about a supplier, an employee, or an ad campaign is a reflection of our values and the change we want to see in the world,” said Emmakate Young, Delta’s Managing Director of Brand Marketing. “We’ve long been focused on inclusive representation in our campaign creative. This effort allows us to go a step further to bring more inclusive representation to our campaign delivery.” All DancingDinosaur, which, admittedly, has written its share of deceptive copy can say is “Good luck.”

Alan Radding is DancingDinosaur, a veteran information technology analyst, writer, and ghostwriter. Follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter.

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