Asked what changes taking place today could most reshape the advertising marketplace -- including the upfront -- five years from now, a panel of industry experts centered on trust, including the need to grapple with rapidly evolving technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), deepfakes and the spread of false information.
“I think there is going to be a trust upfront in the future,” Barry Lowenthal, former president of The Media Kitchen predicted on the “Upfront 2028-29” panel debate at MediaPost’s Outfront Forum Wednesday morning in New York City.
Citing this week’s recent example of a deepfake video that circulated online to create a false narrative following President Joe Biden’s reelection announcement, Lowenthal noted, “There were a lot of people who looked at that video and thought it was true.”
He predicted that rapid advances in AI technologies will only exacerbate that -- and that the ad industry would need to evolve to create a marketplace based on trusted sources of content and information.
“So we’re probably going to get to a place where we will have a trust upfront,” he said.
Other panelists concurred, noting that Madison Avenue has already moved forward to create similar upfront markets within an overarching upfront marketplace to deal with social and equity issues, and the trust upfront conceivably be a logical extension of that.
Asked how that kind of trust would be measured and turned into a tradable asset in the future, panelists posited an array of ideas, including metrics similar to fact-based ratings services such as NewsGuard, which currently is used by major agency holding companies, although Dani Benowitz, president of IPG Mediabrands’ Magna, questioned whether those new metrics would be outsourced to third-party suppliers or “created in-house” in a way similar to the data ethics frameworks some big agencies have already begun creating and operationalizing to deal with consumer privacy compliance.
“It might become a KPI moving forward in an AI-driven world where you don’t now if what you’re seeing is actually a fact or not,” Lowenthal suggested, comparing it to the way “attention” metrics currently are evolving into a marketplace KPI, or key performance indicator for media plans and buys.
Stagwell Chief Media Officer Deirdre McGlashan said new trust-verification metrics wouldn’t just be relegated to facts, the way companies like NewsGuard are applying them today, but to tangible media assets like “artwork, creativity [and] ownership of assets and information.”
“It used to be if you was a video it was definitely real. You saw a video,” she said, adding, “And now you look at it and you’re like, ‘Oh, that can be easily manipulated.’”
While the idea of a trust upfront powered by trust metrics might seem like a futuristic one, McGlashan noted that new technologies and protocols have already been put in place, but have not yet been adopted by the ad industry to deal with them -- including “ledger technology, like blockchain, because they can see the origination and where it goes.
“That might be something that we would all trust, but we just haven’t gotten there yet.”
Lowenthal likened the model to his own recent dabbling with crypto wallets for his personal NFT projects, noting: “Imagine if your wallet becomes your media plan?”
Stagwell’s McGlashen implied that one of the challenges of adopting such technology and protocols to the current advertising marketplace is that it has a long established infrastructure that would need to be overhauled.
“We would have to re-plumb our entire industry,” she noted.