IBM’s AI Fix to Advertising Bias Promises an Inclusive Future

Creating awareness is the first step to mitigating bias.



An AI fix to advertising bias? Is that even possible? On June 20, that is exactly IBM promised and leading companies promised to join hands to improve fairness in marketing campaigns. Companies like WPP, Delta Airlines, the 4A’s, Kellogg, and Mindshare, have decided to adopt the IBM Advertising Toolkit in a bid to remove bias from digital marketing.

The industry giants gathered at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity 2022 included agencies, brands, and other leaders who pledge to tackle bias in advertising. IBM’s research showed that it was possible to dial down the bias with the help of AI tools and resources. In 2021, IBM had launched a study to understand how bias can creep into campaigns and its effect on consumer trust. They used AI to understand how deep rooted the problem is and how an AI fix to advertising bias will help digital marketing campaigns. At the time the company admitted that more effort is needed to develop tools that will effectively weed out inherent biases and raise awareness about these issues.

IBM Advertising Toolkit

Studies have repeatedly shown that biases have been embedded in code and also in datasets that are used to train AI. Embedded biases are dangerous as they churn out results that reinforce the bias and create a troubling loop of expected feedback. Safiya Noble’s book Algorithms of Oppression highlights how Google’s algorithms, the rules that govern the world’s most popular search engine, are far from neutral and in fact reinforce societal racism and sexism. The technology itself is not to be blamed as it is developed by humans. Rather, it is extremely important to realize the core issue and to develop solutions that mitigate bias at the root.

The IBM Advertising Toolkit is an extension of the company’s Advertising Fairness Pledge that promises to collect facts and explore the impact of bias, and to promote advertising fairness. In a written statement, Bob Lord, IBM Senior Vice President of The Weather Company and Alliances mentioned, “While the risk of bias in advertising is well known, by making this commitment, these organizations are among the first in the industry to take action.” He applauded their efforts, adding, “together, we are agreeing to educate ourselves and our companies and ask other industry leaders to join us in helping to mitigate bias in advertising.”

Showing their seriousness in dealing with this deep rooted problem, IBM’s toolkit to combat bias called the Advertising Toolkit for AI Fairness 360 has been made available for free. According to the New York-headquartered company, it is “an open-source solution deploying 75 fairness metrics and 13 state-of-the-art algorithms to help identify and mitigate biases in discrete data sets.”  Organizations that will deploy the tool kit will be able to gain a better understanding of bias in advertisements and the makeup of their audiences.

Mark Read, CEO of WPP, one of the first companies to adopt IBM’s AI fix to advertising bias, shared that if it is “used correctly, data can help brands personalize consumer engagement and identify the most relevant touchpoints. However, we know that bias can exist in algorithms or technology, and that’s why we’re helping our clients to evaluate how and when to use data in a meaningful way that will benefit the customer experience.”

According to Salesforce’s 2022 State of the Connected Customer survey, nearly 62% of consumers surveyed reported they are concerned about bias in AI. In 2021, nearly $1 trillion was spent on digital advertising globally and the number will only increase from hereon. As digital marketing is aimed at specific audiences across the globe, marketers must take care to stay relevant and avoid offending potential clients. An inclusive campaign will help companies reach out to more audiences while validating their choices and helping connect consumers to relevant products.

Christy Gren
Christy Gren is an Industry Specialist Reporter at Industry Leaders Magazine she enjoys writing about Unicorns, Silicon Valley, Startups, Business Leaders and Innovators. Her articles provide an insight about the Power Players in the field of Technology, Auto, Manufacturing, and F&B.

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