Birds Eye View

IAB’s Engage 2023: Turning AI from Fantasy into Reality

By Mohini Lakhani, Digital Account Director

The IAB UK’s flagship event was back at The Londoner last week, bringing together some of the industry’s brightest minds from a roster of 500 IAB accredited advertisers and agencies to focus on this year’s hot topic; Artificial Intelligence (AI). 

AI has no doubt exploded over the past couple of years, reshaping all forms of online interaction as we’ve known it. OpenAI’s release of ChatGPT in November 2022 was considered the main turning point in society’s widespread adoption of large language models (LLMs), reaching 100m monthly users in just 2 months vs. TikTok’s 9. This, alongside tech giants’ pivot to integration of AI into their core product offerings, unsurprisingly formed primary talking points of the morning.  

The event summarised the progress of AI well, from what used to be depicted as fantasy in classic sci-fi movies, through to the reality of where we’ve gotten to today, and the considerations and implications for digital advertising. This gave significant food for thought on what we can expect to see developing over the next few years.  

Summarising our six key takeaways: 

1. We are in a current state of progression from Analytical to Generative AI. 

AI is not anything new, it’s just come to prominence in mass media in recent times. Analytical AI has been around for years, for example, Uber’s tech predicting when your driver will arrive at your pick-up point. However, we’re now seeing a shift towards Generative AI – the ability for AI to discover patterns from analysing existing datasets to produce new content (e.g., images, videos, text, and even music). David Beresford, Strategist at Contagious, explained that we are on the brink of a Cambrian Explosion with Generative AI, and that it will soon come to shape our everyday lives. 

 2. Think me plus AI, not me versus AI.  

There is constant worry reported in the media that AI is due to make various jobs obsolete due to it making work typically produced by humans, quicker, better, and more efficient. Rather, the reality is that it’s here to assist and automate. You cannot have AI without humans to input the data to train it, so we will remain the core drivers and steer the direction of any developments. On the debate of whether AI should be considered a tool or a partner, Microsoft’s James Murray said why couldn’t it be both? 

3. Generative AI is supercharging creative innovation. 

There is a democratisation of creativity and storytelling with AI, with image classification tech like Midjourney pushing the boundaries of what’s possible, to new heights. It allows individuals to maximise their creative thinking whilst applying a data-driven approach to it. As the IAB’s CMO, James Chandler said, it is only impossible until someone (or something) does it. 

4. From a regulatory perspective, the UK isn’t legislating any further. 

The UK government’s stance on AI is positively, pro-innovation. No further plans to legislate AI through new political mandates allows for free reign with AI, as Wiggin LLP’s Isabel Davies alluded to. However, marketers must do their full due diligence when enlisting AI partners to work with, to not only ensure full compliance with existing legal positionings, but that this is also approaches through both a sustainable and responsible lens. 

 5. Take personal responsibility and proceed with ethical consciousness. 

With the glitz and glamour brought by AI, it is easy for ethics to take a backseat. Tech futurist Adah Parris said that as current AI tech is built on legacy processes (approximately 20-30 years old), there has been years of bias built into this, so outputs should be taken with a pinch of salt. Generative AI in particular has brought about a new wave of mistrust amongst users, so increased transparency is a must. 

6. Integrate AI into existing workstreams but put safeguards in place. 

Advertisers who are choosing to embrace AI are naturally reaping the benefits of this (largely resource and efficiency-wise), and those that are taking a more careful and concerted approach will continue to stagnate and fall behind competitors. OMG’s Head of Futures, Phil Rowley, emphasised that advertisers must be willing to test integration of at small scale, however, it shouldn’t overhaul all existing operations given its infancy. 

As always, the IAB put on a thought-provoking event with much for the attendees to take away. We are already seeing the widespread impacts of AI on our media planning and buying media processes at The Kite Factory. As we see tech continuing to develop in this space, we’ll be working closely with clients to bring this to the forefront of our 70:20:10 planning approach, to stay ahead of the innovation curve.