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Getting too personal? What generative AI could mean for advertising

Is generative AI an opportunity for the advertising industry?
Is generative AI an opportunity for the advertising industry? Copyright Canva
Copyright Canva
By Damon Embling
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Generative AI is seen as a huge opportunity for advertisers to get up close and personal with consumers like never before. But where’s the line in the battle for business?


Hyper-personalisation is a buzzword in industries like travel and tourism right now, targeting customers with content that taps into their specific interests and desires, in the hopes of convincing them to buy a product or service.

That’s why there’s lots of excitement around the dawn of generative artificial intelligence (AI), emerging tech that’s set to take the trend into a whole new dimension.

"I think the opportunity is in moving to the next level in terms of creating advertising content that really, really engages customers," Tom Singlehurst, Head of European Media Equity Research at Citigroup, told Euronews Next at the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity, on the French Riviera.

"Content generation is one thing, but I think it’s content optimisation that gets really interesting. I think we love to think we can put a prompt into ChatGPT and come up with a whole advertising campaign, but the reality is creating the campaign was never really an issue," he continued.

Tweaking content 'on the fly'

Singlehurst describes generative AI as having the potential of being a "very significant" disruptor.

He recently compiled a report looking at how the rise of AI and machine learning could be mapped across the media and Internet space, highlighting the risks and opportunities.

"The exciting thing about this is that this technology can be used to tweak content on the fly. So, it's more personalised, more contextual. And in that context, it can stand out and be more effective. People down here in Cannes are more adept to see it as an opportunity than a risk".

Getting consumers on board

But in a world where some consumers are growing weary of being bombarded with advertising content on different platforms, alongside data and privacy concerns, does generative AI risk alienating, rather than engaging audiences?

"The consumer is increasingly aware that their attention is being sold and therefore, whenever there's an opportunity to avoid being advertised to, more often than not they will take that opportunity, ad blocking software, or just putting the audio on silent on a live TV stream, whatever it is," explained Singlehurst.

"But if the content makes sense, if the creative makes sense in the context of the experience they're having and it's tweaked to what they're going to be interested in, that's incredibly exciting".

'Prone to hallucination'

Authorities across the globe are racing to rein in the deployment of artificial intelligence, aware of the benefits, but also the perils. The European Parliament recently endorsed the world’s first set of comprehensive rules for AI, as rapid advances in the likes of ChatGPT take hold.

Singlehurst admits there are a number of risks, as advertisers and marketers look at embedding it into their businesses.

"There is the fact that the technology itself isn't a finished product. It's prone to hallucination, it's prone to just getting things wrong. But then, more worryingly, it's prone to extend bias because, ultimately, it's a derivative technology, working off the data that it's been trained on," he explained.

"I suppose that's the point we make, which is generative AI tools can only be as good as the databases they're based on".

How far should regulation go?

So, where’s the line with consumers and how far should future regulation go when it comes to protecting them? Singlehurst singles out data consent and bias as areas requiring it but he also warns against new rules going too far.

"Europe has a track record of being quite regulatory in its approach. The danger is regulatory overreach and that it ends up constraining innovation," he said.

But he added: "If you think about some of the long-term uses of AI around making decisions around who gets insurance and who doesn't, if you don't understand how the algorithm is dealing with bias in the database, that's something that definitely needs regulatory oversight".

For more from this interview at the 2023 Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity, watch the video in the media player above.

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