AdTech Leaders Navigate Ethical Frontiers for Generative AI

AdTech Leaders Navigate Ethical Frontiers for Generative AI

Share this:

Generative AI has had a breakout year in 2023, but as more adtech companies adopt the technology to optimize campaigns, analyze behavior, and personalize both online and offline experiences, consumers are pushing back.

According to a survey by Salesforce, there’s a growing distrust of AI and companies that use it. The race to build out generative AI as quickly as possible is leading to a trust gap with consumers, and although the majority say they’re open to the use of AI for better experiences, a large share of consumers still don’t trust companies, or their executives, to use AI in an ethical way.

The strong potential that AI holds for adtech is raising important ethical concerns around addressing bias, understanding limitations, and respecting creative professionals’ work.

“While AI promises increased efficiency and accuracy, it can inadvertently reinforce and amplify existing biases. AI algorithms that operate on reinforcement learning principles may unintentionally perpetuate racial, gender, or other biases in the data they are trained on. If the data used to train AI models is skewed, the resulting outputs will reflect those biases and limitations,” says Anjali Yakkundi, vice president of product marketing at Movable Ink, a firm that empowers marketers with scalable, omnichannel personalization.

Overseeing Movable Ink’s product marketing and strategy teams, Yakkundi has a unique perspective on the concerns and looming challenges connected with the use of AI in the martech spaces. Movable Ink works with brands to activate data into personalized content, which is then used in email, mobile, and other digital engagement channels. Yakkundi says it’s important that leaders take the concerns that consumers are voicing and consider what they can do to adopt more responsible and inclusive AI practices at their organizations.

“As marketers, we’re at an inflection point. The campaign process we’ve been tied to for decades no longer serves us. AI has put a spotlight on how inefficiently we’ve been operating and the availability of technologies and tools that can significantly enhance the experience—for the marketer and the consumer,” Yakkundi says. “The rise of AI has given marketers access to advanced tools and capabilities to analyze consumer behavior, optimize campaigns, and personalize experiences in a way that was either extremely laborious or simply impossible in the past. It also enables marketers to ensure the right content gets in front of the right customer at the right time.” 

The results that firms are seeing by integrating generative AI are impressive, but without the right ethical lens, Yakkundi worries that brands could be opening themselves up to some undesirable scenarios. For example, if an AI martech product is inadvertently amplifying existing biases, then a brand risks tarnishing its reputation and deteriorating the customer experience.

“Brands have spent too much time and energy building their reputation; to have that credibility tarnished overnight is not a risk any brand—especially a marketer who is charged with representing the best of the brand—is willing to take,” Yakkundi says.

Yakkundi believes marketers have an obligation to their audience to ensure that their campaigns are as diverse as they are. If a marketer overlooks a seemingly “small” bias, it’s amplified when they release it out into the world.

“Marketers must critically examine their training data, identify potential biases, and implement mechanisms to correct or mitigate them. Augmenting training data with diverse and inclusive datasets can help address these challenges. Additionally, marketers should look to mitigate bias in their AI systems via solutions that consider review processes and allow for AI overrides with set rules,” Yakkundi says. “This is where marketers need to look at their martech vendors with a close eye. Is your vendor just jumping on the bandwagon and adding AI that isn’t well thought out? Or is your vendor committed to developing and maintaining AI solutions that reduce bias risk?”

With surveys showing that up to 40% of C-suite executives plan to increase their investments in generative AI, it’s not an exaggeration to say that ethics in the industry need to become a topline priority for brands.

“Consumers are increasingly concerned about the ethical implications of advanced technology, including racial biases. The companies that prioritize responsible AI practices and build out diverse teams that bring different viewpoints and experiences can identify and rectify biases—giving them a significant advantage in the market,” Yakkundi says. “This ensures AI systems and creations are more inclusive and respectful of various demographics, earning consumer trust and loyalty.”

Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.