IBM Teams With Big Brands/Agencies To Mitigate Bias In Ad Tech

IBM Advertising launched an initiative on Monday as part of the Cannes Lions festival. It brings together agencies, brands, and other leaders to generate awareness and take action toward mitigating bias in advertising and marketing technologies.

As part of the initiative, IBM released "Advertising Toolkit for AI Fairness 360," an open-source technology that leverages artificial intelligence (AI) to find and mitigate biases in discrete data sets. The group also launched a microsite to inform the industry and consumers as to what's being done to stop bias.

“The industry is reinventing itself because changes taking place in privacy, cookies and identifiers,” said Sheri Bachstein, CEO of The Weather Company and GM of IBM Watson Advertising. “While we reinvent ourselves, lets mitigate the bias as much as we can.”

Some of the biggest names in the industry signed on to take the Advertising Fairness Pledge, including WPP, Delta Air Lines, The Ad Council, Mindshare, 4As, and others. The industry call to action addresses the systemic problem that is bias.

In 2021, IBM launched a research initiative to explore the hypothesis that bias can exist in ad technology, which initial findings confirmed. The research showed that 75 metrics can manifest as bias in a campaign. The toolkit historically was used to analyze content for fairness in industries like lending and insurance.

The research also showed that mitigating bias in ad technology was possible using AI tools and resources in marketing processes. More industry participation and data collection are needed to better understand the potential impact of bias on these campaigns, but several industry leaders are demonstrating early activism by raising awareness and taking action through IBM’s Advertising Fairness Pledge.

The toolkit, which shows how to run the test and what to look for, has 13 algorithms that mitigate bias depending on where it shows up in the campaign. The toolkit suggests using specific algorithms to help mitigate the bias found in the metrics. Sheri said it makes the media dollars spent more effective.

Nearly $1 trillion was spent on digital advertising globally in 2021, much of it flows through programmatic technology that segment and target specific audiences, sometimes missing large consumer groups. With increasing consumer demand for transparency in how their data is used, marketers will need to become more aware.

“It’s unintentional, but it is there,” Bachstein said.

She said that it is typically a result of human assumptions and judgments encoded into algorithms that can result in unfair targeting, exclusion of certain groups, and marketing campaign failures.

“Bias seeps into advertising because it’s created by humans,” she said. “The technology scales it to every part of advertising.”

According to Salesforce’s 2022 State of the Connected Customer survey, nearly 62% of consumers surveyed reported they are concerned about bias in AI, up from just 54% two years prior.

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