The ad industry is facing a new crisis and this one could well be an existential one because it threatens the very foundation of all advertising: media.
The crisis is that, after years of disinformation, misinformation, bots, malware (and malvertising), an increasingly blurring line between what is genuine content and what is just posing as something to deceive, this new crisis threatens to undermine the very fabric of what brand marketers and consumers rely on — belief — especially as a new generation of advanced AI, precision data targeting and so-called “deepfakes,” throws just about everything we see into question.
As dystopian as that vision is, at least one innovative agency organization is seeking to get out in front of it and to see if some promising technology and human-powered startups can provide a solution.
“A lot has already been written about the social impact of misinformation on democracy that needs to be solved by the legislature, but there are things technology be doing to give our clients assurances that their investments are invested properly,” says Barry Lowenthal, CEO of The Media Kitchen, which is devoting its 13th annual Venture Capital Conference to “Media’s Believability Crisis.”
The conference, which will be held April 30 in New York City already is shaping up to be a promising one, including speakers who have launched or invested in startups that can identify and filter out deepfakes and score publishing content based on its veracity and authenticity so that advertisers and agencies have a new way to ensure “brand safety,” meaning their ads are placed in genuine and believable environments.
Lowenthal says the goal is to identify and draw attention to promising solutions for brand marketers, but a secondary benefit, he says, will ensure that the economic impact goes toward supporting and underwriting real information, especially the kind of news brands that help keep democracy informed.
“The goal is to come up with a way to use technology to identify media on a pre-bid basis,” he explains, adding, “It’s just like having a whitelist and a blacklist of sites programmatically, but this one will be able to use believability data to whitelist sites our clients want to be on.”
In the old days, Lowenthal said it was simple enough to use the context of an editorial brand — say Vogue for fashionistas or Sports Illustrated for sports enthusiasts — as a filter for truthfulness and authenticity. Now, he says, that needs to be augmented by technology.