A&M leaders seek formation of guidelines for ethical usage of AI

With the increasing misuse of AI in advertising, experts in the marketing and advertising sectors advocate for self-regulation within the industry before government intervention and the establishment of official rules

Akansha Srivastava
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Delhi: The Indian government is set to unveil a draft regulatory framework for artificial intelligence (AI) by June or July this year. However, in the branding world, the lack of clear guidelines has led to the misuse of AI, both knowingly and unknowingly.

For instance, SBI recently posted an AI-generated image resembling Pandit Ravi Shankar but playing the guitar instead of the sitar, which it eventually took down after a backlash. Similarly, BestMediaInfo’s recent story highlighted the risks of using GenAI faces in brand creatives, citing's use of an image resembling a model from ImagesBazaar without permission.

Recently, Bollywood actor Aamir Khan took legal action against Congress for circulating a fake political advertisement featuring a deep-fake video of him endorsing the party. 

These incidents are not isolated, as brands like upGrad and Zomato have faced challenges for using GenAI-generated images without consent in the past, such as depicting figures like Sundar Pichai and Lionel Messi in their advertisements.

Piali Dasgupta, former Senior Vice President of Marketing at Columbia Pacific Communities, remarked, "Incidents like these occur due to our overdependency on AI. While we can leverage its assistance to optimise work and scale production and content, it should be done with discretion."

With the increasing misuse of AI in advertising, experts in the marketing and advertising sectors advocate for self-regulation within the industry before government intervention and the establishment of official rules.

Moumita Pal, Head of Creative at Enormous, believes that there should be guidelines regarding the extent of AI usage in advertising. "Brands and agency personnel collaborate to build brands, not AI. Pepsi wouldn’t be Pepsi if an agency hadn’t created 'Dil Maange More' for it. While AI may mature over time, fully trusting it currently is immature. Therefore, it feels unfair to lack regulations. There should be rules, limits, and a point at which AI stops and human creativity must take over. There shouldn’t be censorship, but some amount of filter."

Dasgupta echoed Pal’s sentiments, stating, “We ourselves are adapting to this new reality, and it's a learning process for all of us. Having set guidelines would make things much easier and clearer.”

However, according to Varun Khiatani, Strategy at Talented, limiting the extent of GenAI's use is not the solution, particularly in the face of a global race to harness AI capabilities. “Instead, regulation should focus on ethical use, transparency, and ensuring that AI serves as a tool for enhancement, not deception,” he commented. 

Pal also emphasised that it's wise to self-regulate the usage of AI in advertising and marketing before government intervention occurs. “With established rules in place, individuals will not be misled. Currently, if one brand misuses it, other brands utilising it responsibly may face repercussions," Pal added.

While Babita Baruah, CEO of VML India, too acknowledges the importance of AI usage regulations in the industry, she advocates for them to be made under the government’s guidelines. She said, “Yes, but we still need to adhere to government guidance and regulatory frameworks. Without them, I’m not confident that we would have enough understanding to adequately protect our clients and businesses.”

However, Dasgupta believes that while a self-regulatory mechanism is necessary, it's challenging to formulate. “The nature of work within the industry is complex, and it will take time before we collectively come up with guidelines.”

As GenAI technologies advance and their applications broaden, impacting various industries and professions, Talented’s Khiatani too emphasised that basic regulatory measures become essential. Although he suggested, “A fundamental step would be mandating a 'Generated with AI' disclaimer on all AI-generated content, ensuring transparency and informed consumption.” 

Pal suggested that while AI regulations can stem from AAAI, IAA, ASCI, or IAMAI, they need to have a separate department looking into them completely. Having said that, she feels that the most appropriate body to look into this is ASCI.

According to Deepak Verma, COO at ImagesBazaar, IAMAI should establish guardrails to restrict the usage of AI in marketing to a certain extent. "This is primarily a digital issue, so it should fall under IAMAI," he said.

Gaurav Mehta, former CMO at Noise, emphasised that whoever takes on the task of self-regulation in the advertising and marketing industry should prioritise thorough education on AI usage before establishing appropriate guidelines and restrictions.

"There are many legal implications that people don't fully grasp. If you're unaware of what you're violating, you might inadvertently cross the line," he said.

Adityan Kayalakal, Head of Marketing at Veera, a mobile-only browser brand, believes that guidelines will not just help brands protect IPs but also propagate responsible usage of AI. 

“Whatever is framed, it has to be a combination of laws and scrutiny,” he said. 

When asked whether guidelines suffice or if the industry requires enforceable rules, Mehta stated that simply outlining the dos and don'ts is adequate. For instance, ASCI often reprimands brands when they exceed the boundaries.

Even Dasgupta said that if brands are found flouting AI guidelines in marketing, they can be immediately called out. 

However, Mehta suggested that whichever organisation takes charge of this matter should also include legal representation. "With the emergence of new IT laws and cyber laws, regulations in this area can never remain static, at least in the foreseeable future," he explained. "Therefore, alongside marketers, the entity overseeing AI in our industry should also have legal expertise to assist in creating the appropriate framework."

Kayalakal emphasised the importance of having technology trace back the origin of AI video or image, particularly in commercial use. "That's the only way, especially when it comes to commercial applications," he commented.

"I have a feeling this will be essential in non-commercial use as well, simply due to the potential for misuse with AI," he added.

Last year, the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) and Khaitan & Co., a full-service law firm, jointly released a whitepaper on generative artificial intelligence (AI), highlighting the opportunities, risks, and legal considerations around its use in advertising.

Some of the best practices outlined in the whitepaper to mitigate risks associated with generative AI were: 

  1. Review the AI platform’s terms of use and licencing compliance to reduce liability risks. 
  2. Obtain the necessary authorisations and licenses for uploaded materials, including copyrighted and trademarked content. 
  3. Avoid prohibited input prompts and carefully check the output for prohibited content before commercial use. 
  4. Mitigate liability risks by implementing robust content review processes, establishing guidelines, and including AI disclaimers in marketing materials. 
  5. Safeguard confidential information and ensure data privacy by enforcing nondisclosure agreements and implementing robust security measures. 
  6. Upskill human labour in editorial oversight and compliance to avoid employee displacement.

Dhruv Sachdeva, Founder of Humour Me, a Delhi-based ad agency, likened AI to the next nuclear power and emphasised the urgent need for regulation. He highlighted that global regulations are necessary, as AI's misuse extends beyond the advertising and marketing industry.

"This is the most significant advancement in human history, with profound implications for our lives. Without regulations, misuse of AI will persist," he stated.

Sachdeva expressed concern that significant regulatory action may only occur after a catastrophic event involving AI. "Until then, we may witness several smaller problems emerge, as the genie is already out of the bottle," he concluded.