GenAI: How and when do we tell consumers?

Consumers want to know when brands have used GenAI, but how, and when, are we going to tell them?, asks IHALC’s Patrick Burgoyne

In recent research from Getty Images almost 90% of consumers globally said they wanted to know whether an image used in an ad campaign has been created using AI. This mirrors our own research in IHALC’s AI Survey where in-house agency leaders expressed a strong desire to be transparent with consumers over the use of GenAI.

But how is this going to happen?

I can see two issues here. Firstly, what do we mean by an ‘image created using AI’?

So-called AI tools are currently being used for tasks that are really automation – image editing, reformatting and so on. One way or another – first in the darkroom and then on the computer – we’ve been doing this for decades. We’ve been cleaning up backgrounds, adjusting contrast, removing a stray hair or, in the case of car ads, inserting CG renders of cars into location shots. If AI-capable tools are now to be used for such tasks, will we be telling consumers about it? Would they care?

It seems highly likely that almost all advertising images will in future be created with some help from AI-enabled tools, even if they play a very minor role in the final work. So what will be the qualifying criteria for images that need to be flagged?

Secondly, assuming we are going to be transparent about GenAI use, how will it be communicated in an effective, practical way?

Yes, you can use metadata, as the Content Authenticity Initiative (link in comments) proposes, but should we be putting the onus on consumers to check the images they are seeing? I can imagine regulators pushing for some kind of labelling system, (TikTok has been trialling one for creators) But I would understand the reluctance of brands to do this explicitly while AI is still a scary new thing.

It’s perfectly reasonable to want to know if a model in an ad is entirely AI-generated, but great creative advertising requires artistry and craft. And a little magic. How far are we going to pull back that curtain?

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