Advertising Association Looks to Shape UK Policy with AI Taskforce

Dan Meier 26 September, 2023 

The Advertising Association has formed an AI Taskforce, the UK trade body announced this morning. The group will bring together senior representatives from across its membership, in order to build a coordinated policy approach to the deployment of artificial intelligence in advertising.

The Advertising Association said the move recognises the need to establish ethical safeguards, develop industry guidelines and work with the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) to ensure the use of AI in advertising campaigns is “transparent and legal, decent, honest, and truthful.”

At the same time, the Taskforce will look to position the UK as “the best place to develop and champion AI” in order to remain a “world-leading hub” for advertising and marketing. It also seeks to explore the benefits AI can bring to the industry and the wider UK economy. 

The Taskforce will meet for the first time this week, and then on a quarterly basis, for a minimum 12 months. It will be co-chaired by representatives from Google and the media agency VCCP, in their capacity as Advertising Association members.

“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,” said Alex Dalman, Managing Partner and Head of Social & Innovation at VCCP London. “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.”

Uncharted territory

The announcement comes at a critical time for the industry. Advertising companies and AI practitioners are calling for regulatory guardrails to guide their adoption of the technology, which is accelerating into largely uncharted territory.

Last week the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) proposed key principles for deploying foundation models (FM), including making companies accountable for the outputs these models produce, and prohibiting anti-competitive self-preferencing.

And the Advertising Association said it intends to help the government form relevant policies at this crucial stage. “This is where potentially there is a strong role for the Taskforce to recommend policy that facilitates the development of AI in advertising and marketing, help government develop the right narratives, and finally curating a set of best use cases to show how AI has been deployed effectively,” Konrad Shek, Director of Policy Research at the Advertising Association, told VideoWeek.

The challenge for the new AI Taskforce might be balancing its ethical imperative with the aim of championing the UK for AI developers, when there are some in the industry who view regulation as barriers to doing business. But as environmental, social, and governance (ESG) frameworks have shown, limiting the risk of regulatory intervention makes a company a more attractive investment. And the Advertising Association’s sustainability initiative, Ad Net Zero, has gathered steam since launching in 2020, counting tech giants like Google and Meta among its signatories.

The establishment of our AI Taskforce comes at a critical time for AI and its use, not just in the UK but in advertising around the world,” said Advertising Association CEO Stephen Woodford. “The Taskforce will focus on the ethical usage of AI in advertising as well as helping develop the UK’s role globally for AI’s influence on marketing and advertising innovation. This Taskforce draws from the strengths of our AA and Front Foot membership to include the best mix of senior technical, policy and legal experts across the advertiser, agency, platform, and media community.”

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